On January gardening

It was another sunny day yesterday, which prompted me to spend my lunch hour in the greenhouses.

Normally, the greenhouses require zero active gardening attention between December and February.  This is a time of harvests only; it’s rather freeing, I must say.  But December through February, in this hemisphere, are when a gardener misses gardening most!  Luckily, I am a succession-planting fool.  I’m not “required” to garden, but garden I do.

Cute little babies!  YES, things grow through the winter, albeit very very slowly.

I threw down a whole bunch of Red Sails seeds on a 1’x3′ patch in one bed in November.  I was putting seeds away, and noticed that a mouse had decided to make her nest in the paper bag where I was drying this particular lettuce’s seeds…it was quite pee-filled and disgusting.  No way I could’ve saved those seeds.  So I tipped out the bag to let the baby mice “escape” to the waiting jaws of Penny, Little Edie and a few chickens (hey: it’s recycling) and then I stomped on and shook out the remaining seeds and fluff into this bed.  They’d be fine to transplant in January, I thought, and I was right.

Each lettuce bed has a few holes where the resident plants died due to the cold or an overzealous harvest.  I plant two baby lettuce plants per hole.  They’ll be in shock for a bit but they’ll start puffing up when their neighbors wind down.  I expect to eat lettuce out of the greenhouses until late April, just about the time when I transplant little lettuce seedlings and plant lettuce seeds out of doors.  Mangia!

And then, it’s harvest time:  July-seeded Scarlet Keeper:  insane size, but…look at the one to the right center!  “What did you have for dinner last night?”  “A carrot.”

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10 responses to “On January gardening

  1. WOW! Now THAT’s a carrot! And I thought I had some big ones this fall!

  2. In fact, that carrot is worthy of the FarSide cartoon of early vegetarians coming back from the hunt!

  3. totally agree on keeping planting. One of my nest post is going to be on how well those lettuce seedlings are doing in the hoophouse. They just want to grow. And then in about 10 days, I should really start to see a big difference as the days are going to be more than 10 hours… yeah!

  4. Funny, Ellen. I wasn’t aware that carrots could get that big. I sure hope I don’t have nightmares tonight.

  5. Here on Cape Cod with a bitter December that brought a 2′ (yes, foot) snowfall and an even colder January, we just had enough warming that I could pull back the row cover I hastily placed on my spinach, cilantro, kale, and lettuces in late November. This is the row cover I hastily draped over the poor plants when a frost loomed and covered with a few 5′ wooden stakes just to keep it from blowing off. Yes, I’m so ashamed to say how poorly I treated these lovely little plants. I’ve been sneaking cilantro and noticed how sad the lettuces on the edge looked, so assumed that they were goners. To my surprise, I found a beautiful (if slightly flattened) crop of lettuces and spinach that made a tasty salad for four (with plenty more to be harvested over the next weeks). Those greens were the best I’ve had (dressed simply with balsamic and olive oil). I heartily resolve to get a better system in place for next year. Yea for winter harvesting!

  6. That’s sure a big carrot. About the size of the ones I pulled late last summer. I think I let them grow too long. They seemed to be in two parts: a central core stem that didn’t taste good, kind of woody. Then the flesh out from the core that tasted good, my wife really likes them. This year I will have two plantings, early and late and I’ll pick them sooner than last year. Happy garden puttering!

  7. Wow! That is some carrot! I tried succession planting last year a bit – utter failure. How do you time it?

    • Sorry, my last reply didn’t go through properly I think. I was saying that this is a huge carrot! And do you have tips on succession planting? I tried last year a bit and it was a complete failure.

  8. Ellen, hwah, you’re right: I can picture them dragging it back to the cave by the droopy hair-like leaves. Indeed, it was a big ‘un! And so sweet due to the cold.

    Sylvie, isn’t that funny how they just “want” to grow? I took up the cover on a bed that only has garlic in it and I saw about 10 little lettuce seedings, tiny little things, luckily of one of my favorite lettuces (a spotted one). It’s absolutely true that you just can’t have any bare dirt: that’s what I consider succession planting!

    Goodness Paula I hope you didn’t have nightmares either.

    Andrea, what a delightful story!!! And indeed it shows you how a little work this fall will keep you happy next winter. But why wait. You know what? Why don’t you plant a small row of lettuce seeds in there today? Lettuce and spinach love it cold and this would mean you’ll have a continuation of your salad in the end of April. I do swear the cold brings out the best in these things. Something about “the will to live” or what have you: they’re so crisp and not bitter.

    Dennis I know what you mean. I think it’s a combo of 2 things for those woody stems: one, hot weather, and two, lack of moisture…I had the same thing happen with a clay-tolerant variety of carrots (Danvers Half Long in case you’re curious) and they were yuck: pithy, thick cores. These guys, well, you can’t distinguish inner from outer; all about the same color and texture, not pithy. And happy puttering right back at you: it’s fun, even so much variety in one silly crop.

    MC, yeah, hah, I don’t really time things so much as I have this “no bare earth” policy. SO the carrots I planted in July knowing full well they’d get huge and just sit there until I picked them in the dead of winter. I have smaller ones too; in fact, I have about a bed (3×6’) of carrots all told to keep me through the winter. Carrots are important! So I pick the outdoor ones first. The only thing to really check for is if a plant is biennial or not. If it is, don’t plant them in winter is the rule as once spring comes they’ll just go to seed (carrots, brassicas): the one exception is some lettuces, which just simply prefer it cold and will shoot into flower once it gets warm. Hope that helps! There are lots of books out there about timing it all.

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