Cold-Hardy Vegetables Can Take A Chill

I’m so excited for spring, it’s ridiculous. This morning for the first time in months, I see patches of grass finally poking through the snow cover on our front lawn. Our garden started the week buried under 3 feet of snow or more and inches of ice had to be chipped away to free one of the two ways into the garden. But once I was in, I made quick work to free to the other entrance and let the dogs come into the garden for the first time in four months. I then turned my attention to the raised beds and carefully removed the snow from the top of the cold frames, then shoveled as much snow off the raised beds as best I could, only to be thwarted by 2 inches of ice under all the snow.

The temps slowly rose throughout the week, allowing us to see 40°s more often than 20°s and teens now. The last snow fall delivered 8 inches only 8 days ago and a quick look at my notes from last spring show it snowed as late as mid-April 34 inches with an ice crust. Spring in New England, particularly central New Hampshire at 1460ft can take on its on ecosystem which after 3 winter and 2 growing seasons I am just starting to learn. It may snow up here in the next month, but after 130 inches (the amount we have received since October 2018, we can handle a few more stragglers.

our garden as of March 30, 2019

Plants can be greatly affected by the weather, particularly spring’s harsh late frosts and wide temperature swings from the lingering cold nights to a late day warm up.  It’s not unusual to start a morning in the low 40°s and end up in the low 70°s which is why it helps to know which plants thrive in this weather.  There are plenty of vegetables which can be planted in the early part of spring – even as early as mid-March depending upon what zone you live in. When I lived in zone 6b in Connecticut, I was able to usually start my cold crops around St. Patrick’s Day; however up here in zone 5a-b (our property seems to be in both zones and I’m not exactly sure where the garden is) I am discovering that the garden is on a new timetable.

Peas, carrots and lettuce are always my first seeds that I directly sow into the garden. They are simple and easy to grow – at least the peas and lettuce. Carrots can be tricky for some depending on the soil and whether your using a raised bed or in-ground. I have had fantastic success ever since I coupled them with marigolds. Marigolds are a fantastic companion plant, working on a soil level emitting an enzyme which deters root eating nematodes, as well as above the surface in attracting pollinators to the garden. Marigolds can be planted in late spring so if you are looking to add some flowers for instant color in your garden – look to pansies. Don’t be fouled by the name – pansies can take a frost. Snapdragons are also a great early bloom which doesn’t mind the cold mornings.

Here’s a list of cold-hardy crops which are great starters for your spring garden and the temperatures needed for their seed germination. The cold-hardy plants work best in the spring and the fall. Happy spring gardening!

Cold Hardy Veggies Soil Temp°
required for germination
Beets 50°-70°
Broccoli 55°-75°
Brussels sprouts 55°-75°
Cabbage 55°-75°
Cauliflower 55°-75°
Carrots 45°-85°
Chinese cabbage 45°-75°
Fava beans 45°-65°
Kale 55°-75°
Kohlrabi 55°-75°
Leeks 50°-85°
Lettuce 40°-80°
Mustards 40°-75°
Onions 50°-75°
Parsnips 55°-75°
Peas 45°-75°
Parsley 50°-75°
Radishes 45°-80°
Rutabaga 55°-75°
Spinach 45°-75°
Swiss chard 50°-75°
Turnip 55°-75°

Kids are back in school – time to seed the garden for fall!

A recent August harvest of potatoes, cucumbers, squash and beans

It’s August and the garden is abundant with tomatoes ripening; beans dangling off their vines and peppers appearing in various shades. It’s been a summer season so far filled with cool wet days and nights followed by beautiful dry days that were so comfortable to work outside. Only in the last few weeks did the heat and humidity start setting, now finally the hot peppers are red!  But we still are experiencing the cooler nights, open your windows weather.        

Some things in the garden have run their course and I need to start cleaning out those beds to ready them for seeding; there is still so many quick crops that can be enjoyed even this late into the season. However, I plan on using more low hoops this winter to protect the overwintering vegetables. If the Farmer’s Almanac is correct and we have the snows like we had last winter, we need to prepare ahead of time. This morning at 7:30a.m., the air temp is 60 degrees and soil temperature is at 70 degrees.  When we prepare a bed for receding or replanting, we remove as much debris as we can without disturbing other plants that may still be around producing vegetables. Right before replanting or seeding we will add more compost to the bed to replenish the depleted nutrients. 
Currently I have a 10 to 12 foot-long acorn squash that needs to be removed from its garden bed. It’s late 8 foot long bed but acorn squash need to take plenty of space up in the garden. It’s leaves are gigantic in comparison to other leads in the standard garden. We only recommend growing acorn squash if you have space for this plant to spread out. Pumpkins are the same way – gorgeous giant  plants with huge huge leaves.  The family which contains squash, cucumbers and pumpkins have that some of the biggest leaves and produce, for that matter, of any vegetable family. A topic to explore further in the future. Right now I’d like to focus on the fresh start that seeding and planting can provide families this time of year.

Carrots just beginning to sprout

August is a time when families look at the new fresh slate before them, the new school year. A new start for many,  you can view your garden bed much the same way.  If you don’t have a garden yet now is a great time to start one; as a matter fact we just planted and installed a new fall garden this past week. We planted the garden with broccoli and spinach starts and some marigolds. We also seeded the garden with lettuce, carrots and peas for our client’s enjoyment through the fall.   If you already have a garden going, there is plenty of time to add to it.  If you’re not rotating the plant families in your existing garden, now is as good a time as any to start. Perhaps you’re still enjoying a delicious tomato plants and are thinking there’s no way I can add anything more to this craziness. We keep the craziness that bag this time year by pruning back the leaves that are dying or simply unproductng they don’t produce any fruit. By doing this the plants are nicely trimmed, the energy of the plant is directed to the fruit and air is able to go through allowing the plant to breathe. We use companion plantings in our garden, so there are some marigolds below and a basil plant but there is still plenty of room to seed for cooler crops like lettuce or spinach in the spaces below.

before the snow

There are plenty of different vegetables you can continue to enjoy this time of year by doing a late summer seeding.  Carrots are wonderful to seed this time of year either to enjoy as baby carrots in the fall or to overwinter. Frost helps increase the natural sugars making them even sweeter. Radishes arugula and Asian greens are all quick growing crops that can be soon this time of year. There are 25 days until the first day of autumn and 63 days until Halloween plenty of time to keep growing wonderful, delicious, fresh vegetables. In the past we have had plenty of years where we don’t get a frost until mid-November, and working and I have been able to enjoy fresh greens growing in containers around our patio until mid January when this is finally fell. Last year we used a small low hoop on one of our beds and nothing on another that we had planted. We planted brassicas which like the cooler temps in the low hoop; the other bed which we left exposed had onions and garlic carrots and some lettuce. If you remember the winter 2015 was incredibly snowy here in the Northeast; our area of Connecticut we had 60+ inches of snow. This new began to fall around the second week of January I remember clearly his we just picked up a new tractor on January 6 and it took Mark a good week and a half to put the snow-thrower on it. The snow and finally melted by the middle of March definitely most of what was gone in the raise beds were set free by the third week of March. My notes show I was seeding snap pea on March 6.

Fall is also the time to plant bulbs- most people associate this with planting tulips and daffodils hyacinths and the like; however, this is also the time to put garlic which is in the alliums family. It’s also a great time to put shallots and onions starts. Super easy to grow and it’s psychologically nice knowing that when you stare out the blanket of snow that you know some sort of tasty magic is going on underneath.  Cooking with homegrown shallots and garlic – yum.

I was reminded this week, after visiting two clients gardens the other day, of the importance of water to life. Both of these clients have had watering issues this season; the first having forgotten to hook up their hose earlier in the spring the other thinking their irrigation spray head near the garden is watering at sufficiently. It’s not. The former finally got their soaker hose hooked up and the garden is looking so much healthier, seeds germinating, plants growing stronger and healthy. The latter garden has been doing well but more seeds belts germinate and areas of the bed that I believe is not receiving sufficient enough water. We recommend the spray head be switched to a drip irrigation line for the garden. It’s a much more efficient and effective way to water your garden. I look forward to the next few months we have left of our garden. We see so many people close up their garden once the tomato plants are done producing. We close up the beds as the vegetables end their course and keep some of the beds going throughout the fall and winter months. This way we can enjoy fresh homegrown vegetables throughout the fall and even into the start of the winter season.
Why not? If you can grow your own, it’s worth it.
 

Suggested varieties for fall quick growing cooler crop:

Carrots 
Yaya, 60 day
Mokum, 56 day
Paris market – 50 today
Sugarsnax 68 day
Peas
Dwarf gray sugar snow
Oregon sugar pod two
Mammoth melting snow 
Spinach
Palco 38 day – reliable quick crops seed to plate
Regiment 37 Day – speedy crops of flavorful greens
Tyee 45 day – great Four seasons spinach
Arugula 30 day
Lettuce
Sylvesta 50 day
Bibb 43 day
Merlot 55 day
Radish
Sora 26 day
Cherry bell – 20 day top-quality
Onion
Ramrod 55 day
Evergreen hearty white bunching
Beets
Golden Burpee 56 day
Boldor 51 day
Albino 50 day      

August/September – Where did the summer go?

It’s difficult to imagine that Labor Day weekend has already come and gone.  I have been negligent in writing a monthly blog entry this summer.  Once again the busy season whirled by us – selling gardens; installing gardens; going to events; talking to people about their gardens; helping people maintain their gardens.  The company’s second growing season has kept us on our toes from March all the way through until the last days of August. September’s arrival has us preparing for our next event at Live Green CT coming up September 13-14th. and we are working on a presentation about the health benefits of having a small vegetable garden which we will present at the season opening meeting of the National Charity League.

Most of August I spent time in our clients’ and our own garden pruning back the tomato plants – particularly the wildly big cherry tomatoes we planted this year. There are many gardeners oIMG_1129ut there who don’t prune their tomato plants at all. There is an old gardener’s adage: if you do prune you will have less but larger fruit, than if you don’t prune your plants. Towards the end of the summer, I like to prune our indeterminate plants because I believe that by pruning the unnecessary leaves the plants energy is diverted into the fruit and flowers instead of the foliage.  I also like to make sure the plant has plenty of airflow circulation to prevent disease from building up by clipping back the branches filled with leaves, which tend to catch the wind.  I have some plants in containers which if I don’t trim them the leaves get so clustered together that it catches the wind and on a gusty day I have found my container on it’s side!  A clear sign I needed to prune back the foliage so the air could cut through the branches giving plant healthy airflow.

Many times, early in the morning, as I am watching the dogs trot through the backyard I have considered that I should go over to my computer and write an entry about all the things we have been doing. But instead, I would head out to our garden with my camera and coffee in hand and try to capture beauty of the garden in the morning.  The cooler temperatures this season more often than not have forced me to put a robe on which did nothing for my bare feet on the cold grass from the wet morning dew.  I think we only had 3 or 4 days where the mercury rose to 90 degrees of above this summer. We have had to be patient waiting for the peppers to fully ripen to the various shades of red, orange and purple; I believe it takes a little more heat in order for them to fully flourish.  This Labor Day weekend was hot and steamy and it has continued to remain humid.  Hopefully the peppers will appreciate this little spell of hot weather.

Last week I felt the urgency to get my fall/winter garden seeded. With the way time flies the frosts of winter could be here before we know what hit us.  Particularly if the threat of the polar vortex making a possible early appearance in September topped with El Nino winter not too far behind.  About a month ago we put in another new raised bed, a beautiful cedar 4′ x 8′ raised bed from our friends down in North Carolina.  I had to drag out the dog fence so the pack wouldn’t run around and mess it up like they had after the fresh compost was added days earlier.  I seeded a bunch of cole crops: arugula, kale, broccoli, cauliflower along with some carrots and onions. The carrots I selected for this garden were Autumn King, Giants of Colmar, Paris Market and Meridia. In our Maine Kitchen Garden bed between the tomato and pepper plants there was a bunch of space so I seeded Harris Model Parsnips, a few varieties of lettuce: Winter Density, Winter Brown and Marvel of 4 Seasons; as well as a couple of varieties of spinach: Palco and Winter Giant.  I look forward to the promise of what this autumn/winter garden could possibly provide my family. Just think of the salads, soups, sauces and sides we could enjoy!

IMG_1627So far we have managed to can 9 quarts of tomato sauce for the winter and with the looks of things in the garden we will be able to do a lot more canning before the season is through.  We filmed a video about canning which I need to edit first but once it’s ready to go I will do a whole blog entry dedicated to canning. Smells trigger memories and standing over a simmering pot of tomato sauce can transport me back in to the garden with all its colors and fragrance even on the bleakest of winter days.  Every time we crack open a jar of our homegrown homemade sauce that we canned, we recapture tiny moments of summer which flew by all too fast at the time.