Monday, October 08, 2007

Cold-weather crops

My photographer husband just shakes his head when he sees my overexposed and fuzzy photos. This is a bed planted mostly in September.

Now that I have the greenhouse frame up, let's see what's putting down roots in the beds. The greenhouse itself is 20' long by 16' wide. I (will) have eight raised beds in there, all 6' x 3'. There's also one big back bed that's currently part of the herb garden. I will be removing much the oregano, tarragon, lavenders and marjoram that are in the back bed now and hopefully espalier a hardy citrus tree up the back wall. My two fig trees will overwinter in there, too.

SO here is the running list of the first four beds. (Two beds need to be built yet, and the other two are currently growing late-season potatoes (Katahdins and Russets) that I will not evict until November.) You can see how I have packed things in...

Chickories in many stripes: I fell in love with these bitter things when I lived in Italy after college. As a family, they prefer the cold, so I've planted the following: 1. Radicchio: The bunching/heading varieties never work for me, so I have lots of the leafy Treviso type both out in the regular garden and now in the new greenhouse garden. 2. Rosso Italiano: This is a type of dandelion. Its red stems and green, bunching leaves will go well in both salads and in sautees/soups. 3. Catalonian asparagus chickory: This wild looking thing looks like a white pinecone; you eat it before the leaves get big (thus its resemblance to asparagus), cut up like celeriac. 4. I haven't planted it yet, but frisee is always a hit in the salad bowl.

Spinach: I'm growing three types. This is something I will succession plant, too; my first batch (planted early September) is getting eaten now. The three types are 1. Space Hybrid, 2. Tyee Hybrid, and 3. Winter Giant.

Lettuces: Where would the garden be without them? Two types are up and running (1. Grand Rapids and 2. Winter Marvel Bibb). I planted two rows of mesclun Sunday.

Other greenery: This is a wide-net category! Technically, I can use the beet greens and chard as salad fillings, but there are other strange types of cold-hardy greens that have been sown in these beds: 1. Arugula (two types), 2. Erba Stella minutina (a tall skinny leaf thing similar to that dandelion I mentioned earlier) 3. Two types of mache/corn salad. This latter thing will be spread into the potato beds when I harvest them, as mache, a tiny rosette of a plant, loves the cold. 4. Likewise, claytonia loves the cold and will be planted later in the potato beds.

Root crops: These have been in the beds since last spring. It takes them a while to get going. 1. Parsnips 2. Scorzonera 3. Salsify. In September, though, I also planted 4. Lutz leaf beet for both its leaves and its root.

Brassicas: I optimistically transferred 1. four seedlings of broccoli (Piracicabia and Calabrese) to the beds in August, but these are being decimated by those nasty green caterpillar worms. I squish them daily by hand (ick), but I am losing the battle. Sunday, I planted a row of 2. Red Russian kale for salad fixings, and I also planted 3. purple kohlrabi: it will be an early spring harvest.

Onion family: There is one stand of 1. leeks that I planted last spring. I also seeded 2. a hardy bunching scallion in late July. This is a perennial plant, so I am looking forward to eating it all winter. It's quite zesty now! The tightwad in me grabbed some mealy looking 3. shallots left over from last year's harvest: these things were dried up and quite unpromising, but, well, a week after planting them? They're now 2" tall. I'm not sure how they'll handle the cold, though. 4. Chives. These have been in the herb bed for years. I hope they like their extended season.

Herbs: I transfered into one bed some 1. chervil, 2. wild arugula, and 3. rosemary. Chervil and this kind of arugula are wild self-seeders, so I have to watch it. I forgot my other 3. rosemary plant last year, leaving it in the ground over the winter: it lived, so I figure maybe this new plant will fare better in the warm-ish greenhouse. 4. Six plants of Italian parsley was interplanted with the tomatoes last spring. Then there're all the other herbs I mentioned that I will need to partially evict for my trees.

Other things: Ruby Red Swiss chard. This is up and running.

The other four beds might hold more of the same, and I will also add one row of carrots, though I'm doubtful they'll like the greenhouse.

All this dreaming-turned-near-reality is due to reading Eliot Coleman's book a few years back. He bought some of Helen and Scott Nearings' land in Maine (they, the original back-to-the-landers) and has been experimenting ever since. Anyway, he's convinced me to dream big. So we'll see how it all goes; stay tuned!

The dream so far. Excuse the construction debris.


Gaile said...

Elliot is my hero. I am jealous of his wife.

El said...

Oh, Gaile, I do agree. However, he'd probably intimidate me right out of the vegetable garden, so I guess I am glad I married a guy who only wants to eat the stuff, and not coax it into being.

Anonymous said...

I grew up for the first 12 years in Benton Harbor which is also in the SW of Michigan. I have lived in Alaska since 1959 and am hoping to get a greenhouse built to grow some good foods for us this summer. But I had a massive stroke from excess stress that I did not handle well and am still unable to walk well. Hopefully my husband and grown sons will help to get it built and planted.