A while back I shared about my goals for my winter garden. I’m thinking we are well past due for an update. I had big plans to grow all sorts of cold hardy plants through our mild fall/winter months. We built these awesome raised beds that were fenced to keep the chickens at bay and then I loaded them up with the plantings. Everything sprouted and started to flourish, and then, Mother Nature threw a curve ball I was unprepared for. Seems we now live in the land of frost. That first, nasty “cold spell” that swept across the nation, the one they called the Polar Vortex, yeah well it started in California first and though we didn’t see anything NEAR what the majority of the nation saw, my poor backyard garden sure took a hard hit from daily heavy frosts.
We tried, in vain, to protect the thriving potato plants, tender peas and young onions to no avail. The frost took out the potato plants one by one, leaving black and withered plants in it’s path. Most of the pea plants turned brown and shriveled, though a few hold outs have managed to hang on, I can hardly collect a cups worth of peas a week for our consumption. The onions came up but it was even too cold for them to do much more than become bigger bulbs for the next growing season, they were pretty scraggly and pathetic. Not even worth using as green onions.
As if the frost wasn’t enough, genius that I am failed to take into account the giant avocado tree to the south of the garden when mapping out the garden placement. With fall and winter comes a dip to the south for the sun, which leaves one planter nearly in full shade throughout the day, this planter was planted with the beets, celery, spinach and mustard. The only thing that thrived? The mustard, and boy was it beautiful.
The kicker? Well that would be the determination of the flock to be in the 3 large planter beds. We now have 3 levels of protection that only just keep the girls out. Of course we are now aided in that they get all of the grass area of the backyard to free-range in from sun up to sun down as there are no longer concerns of a daytime dog attack. Since losing Bronson, I have been bringing Foxy Roxy to work with me so the flock can enjoy the full portion of the backyard. With their attentions turned toward my herb plantings, the lawn and bug hunting, my tender garden seems to be less of a temptation now.
Don’t get me wrong, my first attempt at a fall/winter garden at our new place was not a complete flop. Things that have worked out? Well the parsley, bok choy, turnips, radishes, a few peas, kale and Swiss chard are all doing well enough that we have used them in recipes, salads and for rabbit food for House Bun. In fact, the garden is now supporting the vegetable needs of our Bun 100%, so that is one goal met that I am quite pleased about.
The lettuces have all done remarkably well. The aforementioned mustard as well as the arugula have grown like weeds. The mustard was planted primarily as fodder for the bun but grew more than even he could eat. I have since pulled the majority of it in order to start planting for my spring garden.
The arugula has grown like mad. The chickens do a wonderful job of side trimming through the fencing, maintaining a neat, 1-inch border around the pallet, the rabbit has been fed arugula till he has finally begun to turn his nose up at it, we have had it in salads and wilted with Portobello mushrooms (delish!) and still find the need to pick handfuls to share with the flock.
We were able to harvest a handful of potatoes and saved a few of the smaller ones for replanting next month.
What has continued to produce have been the grocery store plantings of green onions. We have several pots going and have trimmed from them several times throughout the past few months. The article I had read about growing from kitchen scraps did mention you could get 3 or 4 good returns before having to start over. As you can see, that is proving true, after each cutting they have grown back progressively thinner, they are now at about chive status
The celery had been doing well, until I forgot to water it. I have recently started another one, mostly to see if I can actually do it, I am also attempting to grow celery from seed.
I have once again started my seeds for spring planting. I use our empty egg shells for seed starters as The Hubby is against the idea of feeding them back to the flock as their calcium supplement. We agree to disagree on this subject and I conceded to him on this matter. Besides, don’t the shells make for pretty seed starters? So it’s all good.
This time I researched planting times for my particular area and am following the Farmer’s Almanac for seed starting and setting out this time around. This means different seeds are started at different times. Same goes for setting the plants out.
Here is my guideline typed up.
With this in mind I have drawn up a new plan for the garden and have also decided to try growing a 3 Sisters Garden of corn, pole beans and watermelon (or pumpkins, I have yet to decide) in an otherwise unused corner. I did have a pallet composter sort of set up that I let the chickens scratch in but never really paid much attention as I have a tumbling composter making the “good stuff”.
I have already gone out, spread the contents of the pallet composter around and dug it all in. I didn’t work too hard as I have a flock of eager helpers and a deadline of mid March. Plenty of time for the girls to scratch and fertilize the area. I did this about a month ago and have just turned the area again with a fresh batch of chicken coop and House Bun litter cleanings added in to help enrich the long neglected corner. The plan now is to section off a small run area for the grow out pen for the incoming pullets. I also plan to fence off the entire planting area this weekend to keep the flock out from here on out. I will turn the soil one more time before planting in mid-March. After the pullets are integrated into the flock toward the end of March we will remove the temp pen and plant that area as well, hopefully giving us a nice little successive growing of corn and beans.
I wonder how bad of an attack the gophers will wage. I am toying with the idea of making some hardware cloth “baskets” to bury and plant in as protection but hardware cloth is expensive stuff and it is a large planting area. I ma just have to take a gamble and see how it goes. I’ll keep you posted.