Friday, April 1, 2016

Winter to Spring Progress Report

The Winter Garden is quickly winding down and I've been busy getting the spring plantings started and into the garden so I thought I would do an update post to show the progress.

Bed #1. This is where most of the overwintering brassicas were growing. I got good harvests of broccoli, brokali, and brussels sprouts through the winter. I also had Romanesco broccoli and cauliflower in this bed, both of which grew well but produced their lovely heads while I was away on vacation. Here's what's left of the winter veggies. The brussels sprouts have yielded the last of their sprouts and what's left on the plants is laced with aphids, all that remains is to remove the plants. Off to the left is the Spigariello Riccia broccoli which I've allowed to bloom to provide food for bees and good bugs, but it needs to go now because it is quickly being overwhelmed by aphids.

The only productive winter veggies remaining in this bed is a bit of Romanesca da Taglio frisee, soon to go because it is bolting, and some Italian Silver Rib and Peppermint Stick chards.

I've cleared out the rest of the bed and sown spring salad veggies under the protection of a couple of tunnels. One tunnel is planted with lettuce, including Gulley's Favorite butterhead, Joker crisphead, and Red Butter romaine.

Beyond the lettuce is Tokyo Bekana, a loose headed napa cabbage, Gai Lan, and Speedy arugula.

Beyond that are 7 varieties of radishes - Malaga, Petit Dejeuner, Pink Punch, Plum Purple, Pusa Gulabi, and Pusa Jamuni. I do like my radishes!

And beyond the radishes are Greek cress, Persian Broadleaf cress, Apollo arugula, and Buck's Horn plantain.

And the other tunnel has Palla Rossa radicchio.

And newly emerging salad type turnips, including Mikado, Round Red, and Scarlet Ohno Revival. Barely visible beyond the turnips are carrots, a colorful mix of Bolero, Nelson, Purple Sun, Pusa Asita Black, Pusa Rudhira Red, and Rotild.

And there's just enough room left between the turnips and the radicchio to sow some beets.

Bed #2 is where the tomatoes and peppers will be growing this year. I've been preparing it by growing a cover crop of mostly mustard and peas which I dug in just the other day.

Cover crop ready to cut.

Cut down and ready to dig in.

Turned into the soil.
After turning the cover crop into the soil I broke up the clods, scattered finished compost over the soil and covered it all with cardboard. Now I'll let the worms take over, munching the greens and compost and incorporating the nutrients through the soil.

I aim to have tomato and pepper seedlings ready to plant out by the end of May at which time I'll dig in slow release natural fertilizers.

Bed #3 was the solanum bed last year. Once I cut the tomatoes down I sowed favas in their place and used the trellis that supported the tomatoes to support the beans and a mesh cover to protect the plants from the birds.

I'm growing two varieties this year, my old favorite Extra Precoce Violetto has been a reliable early producer.
Extra Precoce Violetto
Robin Hood is supposed to be early also. I grows on very compact plants, much shorter than the Extra Precoce Violetto which has plants that are shorter than most large podded fava varieties.

Robin Hood
On the other side of the bed I experimented with a winter sown crop of garbanzo beans (chickpeas) which turned out to be an almost 100% failure, only one seed germinated. So I just let a bunch of volunteers grow, mostly Monticello poppies and Golden Corn Salad and there's one purple Mizuna plant sticking out. I'm trying something else new this year, I set out 1/3 of the area with some Sabre shelling peas. The rest of the area will soon be devoted to bush beans. You can probably guess why I've got the peas covered with some mesh...

Bed #4. Most of this side was devoted to winter greens that were sown or set out in December and January, including Ethiopian Highland kale, Speedy arugula, Rishad cress, various radishes, Golden Corn salad, cilantro, and lettuces. Everything grew better than expected given the cold wet weather in December and January. I think that growing them under the protection of the mesh fabric, which was meant to keep the birds from feasting, also helped to protect them from the weather.

March 29
Most everything had been harvested or was bolting come the end of March so it was time to clear them out and get the bed transitioned to spring crops. The rotation that I've worked out for this bed is to eventually be mostly brassicas, celery and celeriac, and other greens. Here's the area ready for planting with spring brassicas.

March 30
These are some seedlings I sowed on March 7 that were just big enough to get into the garden. I would normally pot these up to separate larger containers but this time I decided to get them straight into the garden. I keep adding mesh covered tunnels to the garden to protect tender tasty greens and seedlings from the birds so I'm able to leave this tunnel in place to protect the young seedlings until they get large enough to stand up to some pecking.

Half of the seedlings are in the garden and the other half are in reserve just in case sowbugs or earwigs decide to do some snacking. From front to back there's Dazzling Blue kale, Little Jade napa cabbage, Pixie cabbage, and Amazing Taste cauliflower. There's still one head of Three Heart butterhead lettuce left at the far end of the tunnel. I also slipped seeds for more radishes along the outer drip line - some of the usual including Helios, Malaga, Pink Punch and one new addition of White Beauty. Along the edge of the bed are some new multiplier onions from Arizona called I'itoi. I got 10 bulbs last fall, which when they arrived were completely dessicated, but I planted them in pots anyway. Amazingly enough nearly all of them sprouted, but then some critter dug around in some of the pots, so I ended up with 5 plants. That's enough to get started though.

The area covered with lightweight agribon is where I've direct sown some Mizunarubasoi and Cape Greko mustard.

The Mizunarubasoi emerged quickly but the tiny seeded mustard has been slow to emerge so it's still covered up. The fabric really helps to keep the soil from drying out. I have to hand water the seedlings until they have at least a couple of true leaves since the water from the drip emitters doesn't keep the top layer of the soil moist enough. The fabric is light and water permeable so I can sprinkle water right through it.

Mizunarubasoi on left, Cape Greko Mustard on right
All set and ready to grow for spring.

March 30
Back in January I experimented with directly sowing broccoli into the garden under cloches. Here's the plants on the 16th of March, with a couple more plants sown about that time under the cloches beyond.

March 16
And here's the Batavia broccoli plants on the 30th with the two new Atlantis brokali plants sharing the protection of some tulle fabric. It's time to start a couple more broccoli seedlings to continue the succession.
March 30
The rest of that side of the bed is devoted to alliums. There's 8 varieties of bulbing onions, 7 of them new. I sure hope at least one of the new ones resists bolting and perhaps keeps well in storage. Beyond the onions are Zebrune shallots which last year proved themselves to be winners in the garden, the pantry, and the kitchen. And beyond that is garlic.

Rusty garlic disaster
I think it is time that I give up on growing garlic. It nearly always becomes totally infected with rust and I've not found an organic treatment for it. This season I started early treating them with both 70% Neem and Actinovate, both very effective organic fungicides, but to no avail. I keep removing the infected leaves and the plants have been treated a number of times, but it takes just days for the rust to reappear. I give up. I'll be pulling these soon and using what I can rescue to make some Green Garlic Crema that I'll freeze.

Rust infected garlic leaf
Next to the garlic disaster area is the very successful and productive overwintered spinach. It's coming to the end now, both varieties are bolting.

Overwintered Spinach
So that's it for the winter to spring garden transition. Now I need to get cracking on the summer veggies, it's time to start sowing tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant!


  1. You've been working very hard. The weather been good to you, not too wet lately? Neither too hot nor too cold? It is rather gorgeous down here. I'm putting out transplants today because it is cooler and they may stay moist for longer. How very exciting to see all this! Now I can watch the progress better instead of just seeing the end result on Harvest Monday. I think the worm composting with cardboard is a really great idea. I have aphids too on the cucumbers. First time ever. Usually it's leaf miners.

  2. It is so interesting to see your beds and the way you keep them busy producing! It's too bad about your garlic rust problems though. Thankfully I have never seen it here. I will be looking to see how the Mikado and Scarlet Ohno Revival turnips do for you. I have seed for both but I will grow them as a fall crop here. I am growing the Scarlet Ohno Revival as much for the tops as the bottoms, though both should be useful in the kitchen. And I'll second that the cardboard treatment is such a great idea. We use it for mulch, but I never thought about covering a cover crop like that.

  3. I LOVE seeing the setup for your beds, so amazing! You've put a lot of work into getting them organized well. I still have no hoops anywhere nor do I generally use row covers, but it's something I have on my to-do list.

    I've been reading yours and other gardening blogs for a few years now and I still find it weird to read about winter gardens ... must be nice to have that option with the warmer climate.

  4. Your garden looks wonderful - gearing up for a very bountiful season, I'm sure. Love the HUGE bed of alliums! Fingers crossed that one of those new varieties works out well for you. I have to laugh at the netting everywhere - it's a life-saver, isn't it? Every year it seems that I have to add netting to a few more beds. You're lucky that you don't have to net your onions as well (dang onion fly).

    When I kept my lettuce covered with netting and/or shade cloth, I also found that it stayed so much more pristine than when it was totally exposed to the elements. I want to continue doing that, but since it's not absolutely necessary, it often becomes more a matter of whim - do I feel like dealing with another cover or not.


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