There is not much left in the vegetable garden especially after temperatures dropped below 20º F. I didn’t have time to cover the plants outside the cold frame: Mizuna, Broccoli Raab, Scallion, and Mustard Green. But they perked up a little bit once the temperature climbed above 50º F. Heavy snow is predicted for today so I harvested some Mizuna and Swiss Chard and steamed them with fresh tuna yesterday before they got buried under the snow.
This winter will be the second year we put up a cold frame. Last year was our experiment in growing vegetables in winter under a cold frame without extra help from a heater. We started the whole process very late last year and the winter was extreme, but we still had salad when it was freezing outside. The frame nearly collapsed from heavy snow piled on it but it was very encouraging to be able to have fresh greens from our own garden in March. We have assembled everything early this year. We also added supporting bars to the hoops so we won’t have to hold our breath during a heavy snow fall.
I’ve sown Chinese Broccoli, Kale, Swiss chard, Chinese celery and Arugula in this plot in early September. They’re growing quite nicely. Mustard Green ‘Dragon Tongue’ sprouting up from fresh compost I added to the plot is a pleasant surprise. Pac Choi seeds sown weeks ago also sprouted but turned out to be Mizuna instead. This mislabeled seed package has become my problem lately since I frequently forget to label the seed pod packs when drying them. Unfortunately they all tend to look alike. Too late to sow another Pac Choi in there for this winter; they wouldn’t sprout until next spring.
Slugs have eaten all lettuce seedlings. My second batch will have to be in the house as baby greens instead of full grown lettuce. I put a beer filled container in there but only two slugs took the bait. I think they only go for fresh beer, not the one that their comrades have already drowned in. I picked off a few more fat slugs yesterday and don’t know when my next chance to check inside the frame will be, hopefully it will be cold enough to slow their metabolism down.
Now the slugs have moved on to devouring the Mustard green ‘Dragon tongue’ seedlings (above image). Surprisingly enough they won’t touch the Edible Chrysanthemum sowed since spring. It’s a vegetable worth growing because I can sow it once in spring and keep harvesting it until late fall. I cut them again yesterday but left enough stems to see how they will weather this winter in the cold frame.
Snow is coming down today and expected to be around a foot by its end. Hopefully I can make a path to the cold frame and pick some salad tomorrow.
Great references for growing winter vegetables:
Four-Season Harvest: Organic vegetables from your home garden all year long by Eliot Coleman
Salad Leaves For All Seasons: Organic growing from pot to plot by Charles Dowding
I’ve been thinking of growing Edible Chrysanthemum for years but have never gotten around to it until this year. Either it was too early or too late in the growing season to sow the seeds, or I ran out of space. This spring was too cold to grow a lot of leafy vegetables so I decided to sow chrysanthemum since it loves cool weather. One package was a couple of years old (the oval leaf) but has sprouted anyway albeit a bit slowly. The freshly purchased this year (serrated-leaf) sprouted up really fast though.
Edible Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum coronarium) aka Tang Ho (Chinese), Shungiku (Japanese), Tang Oh (Thai), Kelsang (Tibetan) is an edible green that can be eaten raw or cooked. It tastes similar to spinach but has a stronger flavor. The most common uses are in soup, stir-fry and in salad. I don’t really know how many varieties there are in total but I grow two different kinds; the smooth oval leaf and the serrated-leaf. The taste is not much different between them.
It can be direct sown in the ground once the frost has passed. I sow them in rows like spinach and thin them when they get around 1.5 inches tall and use them in salads. The whole plant can be pulled out or just cut above the leaf node and it will grow back between the leaves. When the temperature gets too hot, I cover them with a net to filter out some of the sunlight to prolong their life span. As much as they don’t like hot weather, covering them with a net really helps. I also let some of them flower for the bees and to provide seeds for next year.
I no longer have to go to Chinatown to get an expensive, wilted bunch when I have a craving for them. But I will have to pull them out once their flowers have matured and sow another set for a fall harvest.
Edible chrysanthemum are as easy to grow as other greens and their flowers are pretty too.
It’s mid-June but some night’s the temperature still drops to the mid 50º F and with a cool wind blowing during the day, it feels more like late winter than late spring. Roses love this weather, a combination of cool dry days with some rain in between. Except when the rain pours down so hard that everything droops and petals are knocked to the ground.
Not much else wants to grow in the vegetable garden either. Tomato, chili peppers, beans, bitter melon and basil grow at a slower pace. The good thing is there are no black spots or mildew in sight, even with heavy rain. I guess it has been too cold for these tiny life forms to grow.
Cooler weather, however, is good for the leafy greens like lettuce, pac choi, mustard green, arugula, edible chrysanthemum, and broccoli. They retain their sweetness longer and are not quick to bolt. I still cover them with a net to block out the midday sun. Herbs love this weather too. I couldn’t cut them fast enough. July may be different so I’m taking advantage by picking greens and herbs when I still can.