Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Abundant Greens

The warm, sunny weather has rewarded us with an abundance of greens from the plants we overwintered in the coldframes. I picked about a pound of spinach the other day, and we have been eating all the lettuce and corn salad we can hold. We also have more Lacinato kale than we know what to do with, although I plan to freeze some to make Caldo Verde later on in the season.

Our experience with winter gardening in our three walk-in coldframes (each one is 6 by 8 feet) has yielded some lessons for next year's planning. Lesson number one: only a few plants will actually grow during the cold, short days between Thanksgiving and President's Day. Our best performers in this regard were cilantro, corn salad Vit and the Lacinato kale. Next year, we will make successive plantings of all of these. They can all be started in cell trays and transplanted. The corn salad germinated well even though it was planted in November in the cold frame. The cilantro, sown at the same time, November 8, 2011, did not germinate until last month, and now is about eight inches tall. We started the kale indoors in October and transplanted it to the cold frame in November.

Lacinato kale with lettuce plants in the coldframe
The lettuces we tried mostly sat there during the winter, but the ones that survived have now taken off and we have all the salads we care to eat. Lollo Rossa and Ashley were the best cultivars.

Wild arugula sown November 8, 2011 germinated, grew to about 2 inches in diameter, and sat there until the last few weeks, when it has rapidly reached harvestable size.

Dill and parsley, also sown in November, were both a complete disappointment. We had much better luck with parsley grown in the open raised beds. It remained green and was harvestable during all but the coldest weather. Cilantro outdoors also wintered over and is now growing like crazy again.

Scallions failed to grow during the winter. We started the cultivar Parade indoors and transplanted to the coldframe and under cloches in a raised bed. Neither planting has shown much growth until recently. I guess that is why the Chinese call them "spring onions." Short days apparently tell them to chill out.

With better planning, we hope to have green crops all next winter. Starting plants in September and October for overwintering in the coldframes will be key to our success. Our late start gave us little food during the winter, and more than we need now.

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