Posts Tagged ‘winter gardening’

Getting the yard and the house set up with Christmas lights is a great time to think about winterizing the garden. You can put a string of Christmas lights around sensitive plants like the aloes and citrus.  When there is a frost warning I take a cotton sheet (with a Hawaiian print) and cover the plants.  The little bit of heat from the lights and the cotton cover creates a nice, cozy environment for the tender ones. Sometimes I have my Christmas lights up through January  because it is a long cold winter but I can live with that.  No plastic covering on plants.  Plastic conducts cold.

I re-potted my black bamboo and other plants that go dormant. This is what my potted bamboo looked like. Yikes.

I had to take a hammer to the roots to separate them.  It was nasty.  I should have done this 3 years ago.  But I got about 25 new black bamboo plants.  They are sitting in dirt in a plastic bag for the time being. I need more pots and dirt. Repotting is good to do also before a nice rain to give the roots a reassuring boost and encourage them to set up housekeeping in their new home.  I gave them all a hot toddy (a drink of worm tea) in case they were experiencing post uprooting shock.  This was not a fertilizing treatment.  It is never good to fertilizer in the winter. It encourages growth and they are putting out shoots in the dead of winter. Ouch.  So, no fertilizing just yet. If you are having a dry fall and winter make sure and check your watering schedule. If the roots of any plant or tree dries out it will die.  Pay close attention to potted plants.  North winds are particularly brutal, they seem to suck every ounce of moisture out of the air.  So, check your plants after a windy day.



Weed. And put the weeds in a bag not on the compost pile or come spring you will have a weed pile for a compost pile. Everything else that will not reseed itself put on the compost pile. I did a major cut back on deciduous plants like the pear, apple, roses, jasmine, honeysuckle, wisteria, purple basil, and ginger. I learned from the California Rare Fruit Growers just recently that the best time to cut back fruit trees is in the summer. Less chance of diseases setting in and wintering over.  Just have to be careful that you do not cut back next years fruit bearing branches.  Will do a section on pruning which is a whole thing into itself.

Munching is always good especially when it starts to get cold. It protects the roots and discourages weed seeds from germinating by blocking out the light when the ground starts to warm up in the spring. Try to put at least 2″ of mulch in the garden and move it away from the tree trunks and stems of plants. You don’t want anything that is going to harbor constant wet and moist conditions touching your trunk and stems. That kind of environment just invites the nasties like mold, fungus and diseases. www.bgky.org/tree/mulch.php

If you have bare spots in your yard  where flowers once grew plant a winter garden. So easy to throw some lettuce seeds, carrots, spinach maybe a radish or two in that spot. Plant continuously every two weeks  so you never run out.  Also check with your local nurseries for winter garden plants.  They will carry starts of whatever grows well in your area and time of year.  Fresh greens in the winter is a real treat.  My parsley is re-seeding itself and has taken over the pot. The purple basil which is a perennial is still blooming and no matter how much I cut it back it just keeps growing.  I also took all the pieces I cut off and stuck them in a pot and now they are all growing.  We have a lot of great fixings for spaghetti.


Which reminds me. This is a great time to plant bulbs like garlic. Put your garlic in a perennial garden or permanent pot somewhere in the sun.  If you don’t harvest it all the first year it just keeps growing and multiplying. It also likes parsley and you can put it anywhere in your garden as a bug deterrent. Just make sure it has good drainage.  You can buy any organic garlic and it will grow. Break a clove off a bulb and plant the fat side down and leave a little of the tip showing and that is all there is to it.  Mother Nature does the rest.

If you have empty pots around make sure and turn them over so they will not collect water.  Mosquitos love to lay their eggs in standing water.

Don’t forget the birds. Take the hummingbird feeder down when the temperature starts to get cold at night.  Most hummingbirds are migratory.  They need to get out-of-town and winter in warm places and the feeder keeps them around perhaps a little longer than they should stay.  Check your local area for birds that home and feed accordingly.

This is the first year I am hosting a couple of worm bins. I know they don’t like it too cold either so will cover them up when there is frost in the air. They are going to stay outdoors and  I am looking forward to the worm tea I will get from the rain water.

Get all your tools out of the weather and clean them off good.  A shot of WD 40 will keep them from rusting.

O.K. Kids that about wraps it up for now.  Got any questions or suggestions feel free and chime right in.

Staying warm

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All right, gang, we’re back with another jam-packed episode!

One of our goals has been to make this into a collaborative effort, and it continues move in that direction. Jeff Jensen, my friend from High School (that place I went to nearly 20 years ago!) sent me some music to include in this episode, and I’m thrilled to add him to our growing collection of great artists. (Now if only I could get Fear Factory. What, not the right tone? Okay, fine.)

It’s also really cool to see the progress we’ve made on both the filming and editing front. We’re actually improving. Although we can only improve so much with me in front of the camera….

This episode sees us doing a little catch-up to get on schedule with the seasons: we pack the summer garden tearout in with the what I call a “winter garden medley”—photos of the garden as it grows over three months. Now our filming schedule will only be a month off instead of six….

We also take a trip to Mt. Olive where I learn a LOT about organic farming, and, inspired by their worm bins (200 tons of compost?! Seriously?!), I set out to build my own.

Join us! And let us know what you think!

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I’m not very good at the whole “right on schedule” thing, I must admit. That said, here are a few shots of the “winter” garden just as we start to transition into a “summer” garden.

Here in SLO we should probably label the seasons “wet” and “dry,” but I’m splitting hairs.

I’m afraid we pulled some of the leeks a tad early. (Sorry, Heidi! It looks like we’ll have to use non-homegrown leeks for the lasagna). The white parts need to be, like, three times longer.

On a positive note, the broccoli is finally taking off. I can’t wait to dig in! (In fact, I kinda already sneaked some. Shhh…)

In a week or two I’m going to post a detailed review of our winter garden. In the meantime, here’s a quick winter garden wrap up, with the winners, the competitors, and the also-ran.

The winners:

  • bok choy (one word: prolific)
  • leaf lettuce (just keeps growing and growing and…)
  • spinach (just keeps growing and growing and…)
  • green onions (SO sweet and tangy)
  • radishes (our fastest growers of the season!)

The competitors

  • broccoli (slow starter, but we’re seeing action now!)
  • head lettuce (died back very quickly after reaching “peak”)
  • leeks (need lots of time to grow)

The also-ran

  • red and yellow bulb onions (la de da, any DAY now)
  • carrots (had better luck with the summer batch)

I must say, it was a great first experience with a winter (wet season) garden. I’m already planning for next year.

How about you? Did you do a winter garden? How did it go?

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I love the rain! So does the garden!

So do the weeds. It was time to do some serious weeding.

I pulled the big weeds right out of the rain-soft ground. I’ve found there’s actually an art to pulling weeds with the entire rootstalk intact. And I really get into the challenge of seeing how many weeds I can pull out whole.

The kids jumped right in. Logan gathered the weeds I’d pulled and Kaia played in the mud.

On the smaller weeds we used straight white vinegar, which is, as I’ve said before, the edible version of Round Up.

And by edible I mean, if you get a bit peckish while your weeding just grab some lettuce, apply a little of your weed killer, and voilà! instant salad.

It’s weird: a project can look massive and onerous, but once I get rolling it’s done in half the time AND I end up enjoying it. Or maybe that’s just me—made half crazy from all the vinegar.

P.S. I also wanted to demonstrate my awesome weed-pulling skillz with an animated gif, but the site that would have allowed me to do that suffered a server crash, so…another time!

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So…we have electric central heating. Dumbest thing ever. You should see the meter spin when the heater is running. In the winter it drives our electric bill from $60/month to $360. Last January our bill was $626. Yep. Innnnnn-sane.

Something had to change.

So I went on an energy-saving crusade:

  • I started unplugging appliances (like the coffee pot) and electronics (like the entertainment center) at night
  • I bought a space heater that uses as much juice as a toaster
  • We put on a sweatshirt before we turn on the heater
  • Denette made draft dodgers (She’s writing a how-to post)

Our electric bill dropped from $343 to $141 in the first month.

Then our electric dryer broke. Now I’m keenly awaiting our next bill to see how much that has managed to knock off.

You know what’s cool? Realizing just how much control I have over my conditions. I can, if I choose, save significant amounts of money by making small lifestyle changes. Okay, the dryer/clothesline switch is a BIG lifestyle change. But the others are not. The others are simple and straightforward. And an immediate boost to the budget.

Now, what to do with the extra $? Debt reduction or Hawai’i? Hmmmmmm…

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So, we started our winter garden in December to film it, which was actually a bit late. And it was just pure luck that we are having such a warm winter and and everything is growing like crazy. If you’d like to take advantage of the beautiful weather, too, it’s not too late to throw some “winter” veggies in the ground.

The best way to find out what to plan is to check with local nurseries. They’ll stock up on the veggies that are in season and ready for planting. Farm Supply (who I absolutely love, by the way) is carrying broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, lettuce, bok choy (OMG, Bok Choy is the winter version of zucchini) seed potatoes, onion sets, peas, and lots of other cold-loving plants.

If you have some organic garlic cloves around stick them in the garden, too.

You can start many of the plants—like radishes, carrots, spinach, lettuce—from seeds since they are fast growers. Others you can start from…starts. Hah! Once again, check with your local nursery, they’re the experts.

The Old Farmers Almanac has a time schedule for planting by the moon. So if this is your first or you are going to plant the second round like we are, now is the time.

  • The time to plant flowers and veggies that bear crops ABOVE ground is during the LIGHT of the moon that is, from the day the moon is new to the day it is full, this is a waxing moon. I like to think of it as wax on, like in Karate Kid. Wax on is a clockwise motion adding to the light of the moon. Waxing. Above ground crops Brussel sprouts, lettuce, Bok Choy (OMG) radishes, spinach, etc.
  • Flowering bulbs and veggies that bear crops BELOW ground should be planted during the DARK of the moon: that is, from the day after it is full to the day before it is new again. This is called the waning moon. Again, in Karate Kid Wax off. So this is a counter clockwise motion decreasing the light of the moon. Waning. Below the ground crops like Potatoes, onions, carrots, garlic, leeks, etc.

The month of February starts out with a waxing moon so plant above ground crops up until 2/9. The full snow moon is 2/9. So plant your below ground crops on the waning or dark of the moon. Or not. Some swear that planting by the moon makes a real difference. Others, who have to get stuff in the ground so they can film it, do it whenever they can. (I’m sure Samson will write a post about how he’s SKEPTICAL about planting by the moon. I say skeptical, schmeptical).

Old Farmer’s Almanac shows the following planting dates according to the moon for:

  • BEETS 2/10-23
  • BROCCOLI 2/24-3/10
  • CARROTS 2/15-23
  • CAULIFLOWER 2/24-3/7
  • CELERY 2/24-28
  • COLLARDS 2/24-3/10
  • ENDIVE 2/24-3/10
  • KALE 2/24-3/10
  • LEEKS 2/15-23
  • LETTUCE 2/24-3/7
  • ONION SETS 2/10-23
  • PARSLEY 2/24-3/10
  • POTOTOES 2/10-23
  • SPINACH 2/7-9, 2/24-3/10
  • SWISS CHARD 2/7-9, 2/24-3/10
  • WHEAT, SPRING 2/24-28

Plant away! And we’d love to hear how it goes. Oh, and if you have any other questions, leave them in the comments. Oh, and if you have a nursery you really like, let us know about that, too.

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The update is here! (I’m saying this like I’ve POSTED other updates to see if I can fool you. How’s it working?)

Right now we’re getting about 16 oz of leaf lettuce and several radishes a week, and we’re growing enough bok choy to open a small Chinese restaurant. I’m looking forward to harvesting the spinach next!

The bulb onions are taking forever, which we expected. So are the carrots, which we didn’t. I WANT BABY CARROTS!

The nasturtiums and marigolds are coming in nicely, though we haven’t had any real bug problems anyway. Something likes the bok choy, but only a little bit, so I’m okay with sharing. Plus, it’s the bok choy. We have PLENTY.

When we were out watering last week, Logan, my ever-vigilant son, pulled up several of the head lettuce shoots thinking they were weeds. Oh well, they went very nicely in the afternoon salad.

My only concern at the moment is the broccoli. It’s looking a bit stringy and anemic. Waiting to see if broccoli start off as gangly youth before they grow into strapping young stalks.

That’s all for now! Stay tuned for the next in the series! Because I’m going to make it a series! Honest!

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We filmed the planting about a three weeks ago for Episode 6. Just after we planted the weather got really cold and it rained a lot. I was afraid we’d have some frozen, drowned plants, but they apparently loved the weather because they’re doing great. Despite my influence, even. I’m liking this whole winter garden thing because I don’t even have to worry about watering—very much.

Today, after spending the majority of Christmas doing as little as possible (and what a wonderful day it was!), I decided to venture outside to take a few photos for everyone to see.

We’ve planted some head lettuce, some…well, just listen to the audio I recorded. And listen to Logan’s call-to-action at the end. He’s our #1 marketer!

The kids in the garden (Update 2: The link is working now!)

And here are some photos to go with the audio. Gives you a sense of place, and kids, and coldness…

Quiz: What did Logan get for Christmas? (It hasn’t left his side yet).

Is anyone else tending a winter garden? Have you done it in the past? Do you have suggestions for us? Sound off in the comments!

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