Saturday, March 28, 2009


Gotta love Oklahoma weather...two weeks ago it was 84 degrees outside and beautiful. Today we're accumulating 3 inches of snow and counting. I spent a fair bit of time last night dragging out the frost blankets and a load of old sheets and towels to cover everything. I have tiny mesclun, spinach, radish, and lovage seedlings coming up, and the onions are setting in pretty well, too. Hope the weather doesn't derail too much. Hope the towels are sturdy enough and that the snow is insulative once the mercury starts to really drop (it's still above freezing, just snowing like mad!).

I don't have any pictures (b/c my husband took the camera with him to SXSW...I was jealous!) but last weekend I bought bird netting to stretch over some seedlings. The birds had done their best to clip and entirely pull up my kale and Swiss chard seedlings, and I'd meant to get bird netting last year but never got around to it was definitely time. It was fairly easy to stretch out, too. I stuck some sticks in the ground and draped the netting over it. I think it will probably be somewhat of a pain to pull back up, though. It's already looking like it's tangled. But if I get some plants out of the deal, I'm better off than I was last year with just a bit of money (my netting was $7.99 at Lowe's) and time invested.

The squirrels are also starting to be a problem (well, not today!). I have containers of spinach and radishes which they've already dug up (do they think they put nuts there?). I have a bunch of surviving seedlings, but they messed up a few. I also suspect the squirrels of snapping off the fava beans at soil level. The irony here is that they probably just take a nibble and throw the stalk down, because they're always laying nearby, barely eaten. That's frustrating. One year I lost an entire corn crop that way, but I think that was raccoons. I'll have to figure out a better squirrel deterrent this year...I'll keep thinking.

In the meantime, hope all of your gardens are growing well and that this snow doesn't screw up too much!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Why overwintered gardens in Oklahoma rock!

Largely, because of this:

These pictures were taken on March 6th! The purple shoots are from Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli from Baker Creek Seeds. It is specifically an overwintering type that can take cold. I planted the seeds around Sept 15. They grew to about 10 inches or so until winter hit and then kind of went dormant - too dark and cold. But whenever we had a mild sunny day, I know they were collecting the rays and packing them away. Then as soon as it turned mostly mild in late Feb, voila, it was a race to sprout!

This is the broccoli that I experimented with replanting the thinnings. It worked remarkably well event though I wasn't very sensitive with how I pulled out the plants I wanted to thin. Didn't seem to matter, though, except that the thinned plants are still a bit smaller than the ones I left standing.

Early Purple Sprouting is a sprouting type of broccoli, as opposed to a heading type. The broccoli we buy at the store is heading type - you get a large single flower cluster that can span six inches across or so (it's also undoubtedly a hybrid variety, grown in a monoculture green house, with loads of pesticides, but I digress...). Sprouting broccoli, on the other hand, makes many more, smaller flower clusters, sort of like the side shoots you might get after harvesting a head of broccoli. I'm also growing a heading type, Di Cicco broccoli from Seeds of Change, but they are still developing. It seems the "Early" in Early Purple Sprouting is quite accurate!

Last fall, when I started my overwintering garden, I was planning on it being a fall garden - but I planted too late! Rookie mistake... In any case, it's a happy accident this spring and something I'll likely continue. In addition to the broccoli, which will be the star due to the abundance of plants we have, I also have kale, spinach, miner's lettuce, cabbage, leeks, a few carrots, a few turnips, a few rutabagas, and a few kohlrabi, a ton of garlic, some fava beans, and a few random onions that never came up last spring. All of them are looking great and putting on serious growth.

How did we manage this nature-defying trick? Very simply: Frost blankets. Yes, that's it. I have two large frost blankets and then we also used a sheet, a tarp, and some containers so that everything got covered by something. At first I covered whenever it dropped below 32. This might have helped the plants acclimate, but I soon realized I didn't need to do this (when I forgot to cover and nothing died). After that realization I started covering if it was going to drop below 28 degrees. Yes, it meant we had to trudge out to the garden on a regular basis and arrange all of our sheets. Yes, it probably was an eyesore for the neighbors, but they're nice. And yes, we have relatively mild winters in Oklahoma. It did drop down to 9 degrees though, over Christmas. I'd decided just to leave everything covered while we were out of town and when we came back, after five days of being covered, everything looked a little tired but no worse for wear.

In sum, I highly recommend it and will do it again! Here's some of the fruits of the bounty...

They soon looked like this:

And then turned into a delicious winter root pasta e fagioli! Yum!

If you haven't gotten your lettuce and greens in, it's time! Carrots, onions, beets, broccoli, cabbage, get at it! I'm going to plant my butternut squash next weekend to see if I can get a repeat of last year's monster. We'll see...

Happy gardening!