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!


Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

How do you cover with your frost blankets? Just throw them over or do you use something to keep them off the plants?

I can't believe you're planting Butternut Squash next week. I'm not ready!!

Lewru said...

Yeah, I just pulled them directly over the plants. It didn't seem to bother them at all except for maybe the time when they were covered for five days. Then stuff looked a little flattened, but it perked back up. Since we'll most likely be moving soon I didn't want to invest in raised beds with hoops...yet. :)

Lisa Sharp said...

I don't even have dirt in my garden yet. Spring really got here fast!

Also are you going to the OSN conference on Saturday?? If so please e-mail me-

I'm trying to see if some of the Oklahoma eco-bloggers want to go to Chipotle for lunch.

Lewru said...

I won't be there, but enjoy! I'm sure it will be another great conference.

risa said...

We like to bunch up our winter stuff in one bed and we throw plastic over it on below 25F nights, of which we had about ten this year, more than usual(Willamette Valley) Everything made it but the chard, which has just come back after playing dead for three months. We don't have that winter broccoli but our fall broccoli survived anyway, though not heading up, and the leaves are great.