Winter Garden Update

on Feb 19, 2019 by Michael Rupured

Mild weather has been the norm in Athens this winter. My garden experiment has turned out better than expected. We’ve had a few cold spells with below-freezing temperatures, but the polar vortex stayed well north of here. The coldest weather is behind us.

Lows two or three degrees below freezing won’t hurt anything I planted. Locating the garden between a heat-retaining dry-streambed and the shelter of an eight-foot privacy fence offered aditional protection. I was prepared for colder temps, but never had to cover things up.

A winter harvest was unlikely. Cool season crops need to be in the ground in August or September when it’s too hot here for the plants to survive. Planting before late October is a challenge. By mid-December, growth stalls from shorter days and colder temperatures.

Roots keep growing until the ground freezes. Entering the growing season with a more extensive root system pays off with bigger harvests. The plants are more robust and ready for harvest earlier than possible from a late winter planting.

As the most likely to suffer cold damage, snapdragons were my canaries. Freezing temps would kill the tops, but the resulting layer of dead foliage would protect the plants from further harm. Much to my surprise, they made it this far with no sign of cold damage. I can’t wait to see them bloom!

The pansies have bloomed all winter and increased in size. On warmer days, fragrance from the deep purple variety fills the yard. Too much rain has been more of an issue than the cold. If it doesn’t dry out, some plants are in danger of drowning.

Cauliflower and broccoli produced shrunken heads. Thinking they’d get bigger, I waited too long to harvest and the heads were largely inedible. Still, that the plants survived and produced heads was a success.

Fresh peas are vastly superior in flavor and texture to canned or frozen peas. I planted some around a tomato cage in early November, and when those came up, planted more around a second cage, and when they came up, a third. I’m hoping to harvest before heat burns up the plants.

Winter gardening is a lot less work than spring and summer gardens require. Abundant rain elminated the need to water. Bugs and weeds weren’t an issue. Freezing temperatures are the only risk.

We’ll see what the future holds, but I’m calling my winter gardening experiement a success. Thanks to the sheltered location, lows a few degrees below the 23 we experienced would be survivavle. I’ll definitely try again this fall. As always, I’ll keep you posted.

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