Saturday, January 14, 2012

Garden update, mid-January 2012.

What can you grow in a garden in the middle of winter? If you live in a warm growing zone, the answer is quite a bit! Earlier this week, we had a massive rain storm and then a night where my area was right on the edge of a freeze zone. I went to check the garden out yesterday afternoon and it seems like everything is doing well. I'd planted some seeds last weekend that haven't sprouted yet, but that's to be expected because most cooler weather crops do take a little bit of time to get going.  I'll give them time before replanting or giving up.

Broccoli is making florets, this one has the biggest cluster so far, but the other plants have at least a little cluster of florets already.  If I can get enough for a stir-fry or even a pan of broccoli-rice casserole out of them, I'll be happy. Broccoli is a first for my garden this Winter, and it seems to be doing just fine in 5 gallon buckets and similar sized pots. 

This repurposed plastic utility tub has radish seedlings sprouting in it, the long thin "French Breakfast" variety. I need to get in there and pick out fallen leaves and do a bit of thinning now that they've gotten going. I planted some in Fall but didn't really thin them or take much care of them and still got enough for a few salads, so hopefully with more care these will do better.

Not plants, but still...something fun. I found this cute little gnome/fairy house at Hobby Lobby a couple of weeks ago when they first put out some Spring garden decor, and had to have it since it'd be perfect in a crook between the edges of the trunk of the oak tree in our yard. I found the tiny gnome stakes at WalMart the other night and they were the perfect size to go next to the gnome home.

There's a lot of stuff going on with these plant racks. The almost fern-y things up top are an herb called "Salad Burnet" that I bought in early Fall. They taste like a cross between lettuce and cucumber and the little leaves make a nice addition to salads and sandwiches. I need to get in there and pick out the dead sprigs, but all in all they're doing better than expected in the cold. The brown and pink ruffly plants are Red Sails lettuce, I've got 5 mature plants and 3 baby plants here. They're almost too pretty to pick, but I've been picking a couple leaves off of each plant here and there and they keep growing. The bright pink flowers are begonias from early Fall that are still going strong.

Here are some lettuce seedlings, from a pack of seeds I bought last Spring and then quickly learned that we can't grow lettuce here in Spring because it gets too hot too fast. I planted these really densely (just spread them out across the top of the soil in the pots) because I wanted plenty of baby green thinnings for a salad. Hopefully once thinned, they'll do well and I'll get a bit more of a harvest than I did last Spring. I only got one sad little bowl of leaves, but what I did get was enough to make a couple of THE best BLT sandwiches I have ever tasted.  I've got more lettuce seeds from that batch, and may try to get them going soon to see what they do as well.

That's pretty much it until the end of February for the garden. I may try planting some carrot seeds since I have a lot of them. I waited until March last year and that was too late. And I might try sprouting some of the tomato seeds I saved. I've read that you really need to start them indoors here under a bright light around the first of January (doesn't have to be a grow lamp, a flourescent even will do apparently). But I've also read that some people have had luck with starting them outside too up until the middle of January to get them big enough to go into the ground or big pots by the beginning of March. Might as well try, I have the seeds and the seed starting mix. I've only ever bought tomato starter plants at the nursery, so this will be an experiment.

I bought a few new varieties of seeds for Spring. Since the green beans did so well here in early Spring and again in Fall, I got some flat Italian style beans that grow on a bush plant instead of a vine to try along with them this time. Something different to try. I also got a Japanese variety of cucumber that is supposed to do well here too. They make long, thin cucumbers with few seeds, just like English style cucumbers. I did so well with the cukes in Spring and Fall I figured I might as well try these too. And then I got some seeds for a rare variety of melons that can be grown easily in large pots. They make a tiny melon about the size of a peach or apple, that is supposedly very mild and refreshing in flavor. Since the melons are so tiny, I can grow them like cucumbers on a simple trellis without having to worry about supporting fruit that can reach several pounds.

We're starting the first half of landscaping in the front yard with a big corner planting bed. We decided to make a taller raised section in the middle (and probably plant blueberries in it), and then on either side, have a pair of lower beds with a mix of veggies, herbs, and flowers. Not sure exactly what yet. First step is buying the landscaping bricks to build the bed itself, and the soil additives and mulches, along with special stuff for growing the blueberries in (if we go with blueberries).  I hope we do, because you can grow them quite well here if you put them in raised beds or big containers. I figure we can do the center section at the beginning of February, and then finish out the rest of that planting bed into the first of March. I have to budget for both the back yard garden and this new front planting area so we can't do it all at once. I'd wanted to get a tree going  in the front yard too, but unless I put one of the potted citrus in (the satsuma or orange) in the ground, that might have to wait until next year, budget willing. It all depends though. I'm still researching fruit trees for our area.

Lots of stuff to think about, and with the stores all starting to get their Spring merchandise in, and garden centers starting to restock for the coming season, lots of inspiration and ideas too!

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