February 2018 Post-Snowstorm Report

A rather unexpected late-February snowstorm! 5″ of snow and a low of 24F.  I have little to report from my own garden.  In fact, so little that I was considering not posting at all, but since this blog is supposed to serve as a record (at least to myself) of my garden, I figure I better grab a few pics and show them.

Early morning, February 22, 2018

The only thing outside I protected with Reemay was this little group of celery plants.  This pic shows them right after I pulled the Reemay off on Friday morning (3-4 layers).  Looks good! They’ll probably bolt come May but whatever.  I’ll start some new ones this week.

Celery, after 24F with Reemay

Purple sprouting broccoli sailed through it all with zero damage.

 

California poppy seedlings which sprouted in maybe November? are A-OK after getting snowed on.

Eschscholzia

Feverfew is sort of a special plant to me since it’s one of a very few that my birds don’t eat.  I have lots of this here and there; this one in the pot is probably the most vulnerable and look, it’s just fine:

Tanacetum parthenium

That’s it for marginally hardy stuff that stayed outside.  The only other thing of interest is this – one little flower cluster on my little baby Arctostaphylos x ‘Austin Griffiths’ – so cute!

Arctostaphylos x ‘Austin Griffiths’

 

So what did I bring in? I’ll tell you:

  • A flat of lettuce and allium seedlings that I sowed in January (they’d been out; just brought them in until it’s above freezing)
  • All the Iris x pacifica that Lance gifted me last fall after he divided his clumps
  • Colocasia ‘Midori Sour’ which had been in the garage most of the winter – I brought it back out during very warm weather in January and now right back in until it’s reliably above 40F at night
  • An ailing Ugni molinae that I nearly killed by letting it dry out and get cold over the last few months.  It might make it…
  • My baby Tetrapanax which has some young leaves I’d like to see it keep – in just for the one night it got down to 24F.

Here are a few of the above hanging out in my kitchen awaiting warmer days.

Colocasia ‘Midori Sour’ , Ugni molinae, and Iris x pacifica

 

Ok that’s it.  The snow is almost entirely gone and thankfully we didn’t get that cold east wind.  It’s almost as if nothing ever happened.  Whew!

Winter Vegetable Garden, February 2018

The vegetable garden is always a year-round affair for me.  That doesn’t mean I actually harvest and eat things every month, but there is always activity.

I started these on January 18.  There are Walla Walla onions, two or three varieties of storage onions, two varieties of lettuce, leeks, and shallots.  There are also a few spinach plants in here too out of the picture frame.  Both lettuce varieties are particularly cold-hardy; later in the spring I’ll transition to different varieties that don’t need to be cold-hardy, and eventually in the summer we’ll get into varieties that are actually bolt-resistant and tolerant of heat.

 

In my 2nd seedling tray I have almost all peppers.  This one row is eggplant, and they’re up first! I sowed these seeds on January 26.

 

Outside now, in the back yard, we have some broccoli! I’m almost positive this is variety ‘Rudolph’ which is a purple sprouting type that doesn’t require vernalization, so it matures earlier, and slightly more uniformly? With more of an actual head? This is how it seems to me anyway, compared to regular purple sprouting broccoli which really doesn’t make a central head at all.  These plants are flipping beautiful, too.

yeah, this is the same plant as the first picture above. I really like this one!

I’ve had a much easier time growing Brassicaceae plants this year than ever before.  I attribute that to a couple of garden helpers you’ll meet later in this post.

On to cabbage.  This one is ready for harvest anytime! The variety here is ‘January King.’  This is my favorite winter cabbage variety – if I had to grow just one, it’d be this one.

 

I’m not sure, but this may be ‘January King’ as well. But this one doesn’t look like it’s going to head up.  I always think that when they’re at this stage, and usually they prove me wrong.  We’ll see.  It looks like ornamental kale, kind of, doesn’t it?

 

Here are some other cabbages – these came from an overwintering cabbage blend from Territorial.  So who knows what the actual varieties are.  I don’t really care; they change what’s in their blends every year anyway.

See all the evidence of something eating the lower/older leaves on these?  All these Brassicaceae family plants have that to some degree or other.  It’s about half slugs and half birds.  Earlier in the fall, before the ducks were coming over to this side of the garden, the slugs and probably cutworms were having their way.  I’m happy to report that I have done absolutely nothing I mean NOTHING to combat slugs and cutworms this year.  The ducks eat them all!

This next one is a crappy picture, sorry! But this shows the cabbage on the far right in the above photo.  You can see that it’s heading up very nicely and should be ready later this month.

 

I just harvested three plants’ worth of Brussels sprouts. I thought this one could go a bit longer so I left it. Again this is from one of those winter season mixes from Territorial.  Nordic Winter Blend Hybrid, it says.  Three different varieties apparently.  So maybe those others were earlier-maturing.

I have to put a plug here for growing these Brussels sprouts over the winter.  You might find yourself hosing off aphids a couple times in September, but then once the cool weather hits, the aphids split town and you’re golden.  It’s a million times easier to grow all these Brassicas in the cool season, I find.  If you haven’t done it, I encourage you to try next year.  Get varieties bred for the cool season, or for overwintering, sow your seed indoors in mid-June, and set plants out in August.  Watch ’em for aphids and spray with Bt for those cabbage moths.  You’ll only have to do that until the cool weather of fall comes.  They don’t need any protection from freezes, I promise.

 

Here’s my helper Ramona, digging slugs and worms out from under the 2″ layer of wood chip mulch in there.

These plants are tall enough that she can easily walk under and among them and keep everything tidy.  Sure, she nibbles a leaf now and then, but mostly the ducks are after insects.  I feed them grain every day, too.

 

These next plants are the cauliflower.  In this pic, the large plants in back are the ones I’ve been calling my “ornamental cauliflower”  — they were started from seed in July of 2016.  Yes, 2016 and that is not a typo.  They just didn’t flower – not in the summer, not in the winter, not in the spring… I think it’s just a combination of a lot of factors that prevented whatever triggers their flowering process.  Compare their size to the plants in front, which were started in June 2017.

 

And it turns out, one of them is actually a broccoli! I had no idea.  It can’t be purple cauliflower because I didn’t have seed for that in 2016.

 

This is the stalk on the purple broccoli plant above.  Can you believe that? This plant was originally more upright, but a few weeks ago it fell over.  And of course kept right on going…

 

Here are the trunks of the other two plants.  If you look closely you can see the plants’ first year of growth mapped out in the leaf scars.  From the bottom of the stalks, it goes from summer, then to winter, and then summer again where the scars are more spaced out.

 

I have really loved these plants and I’ll be sad to harvest them.  I might actually try just cutting the flowers and leaving the plants, to see just how long they’ll go.  Will they bolt eventually? Will they just keep growing? Are they truly perennial or will they someday actually die? I find them quite fascinating and beautiful.

 

Lastly we have nearly 300 garlic cloves planted in this bed.  Well, cloves-turning-into-heads.  The ducks nibbled our garlic quite a bit last year too, but they haven’t done that this year.  I really do think it’s because of the wood chips.  A few of them are a little smashed – that’s because Ramona landed directly on them the other day when she flew over. The ducks roost at night in the coop with the chickens, and when I let all of them out in the mornings, the ducks fly over the 5′ fence out of the chicken run and into the garden, where they hang out all day until I let them go back and roost at night.  They’re not super accurate fliers, so a smashed garlic plant on occasion is just part of the deal.

 

Next week I’ll be starting my tomatoes indoors.  This year, I’m trying a completely new-to-me thing with them: grafting! You can bet I’ll document that whole process here.

That’s it for the vegetable garden highlights.  This has been a remarkably mild January, and overall a zone 9 winter, but mild winters aren’t really a requirement for winter gardening in the Northwest; you can still grow brassicas and garlic over the winter in zone 7.  That said, here’s hoping February turns out to be as kind as January has been!

I THINK IT MIGHT LIVE

We’ve all had these situations where a special plant almost dies, and then … something happens… and you get soooo very excited, it feels like falling in love again and to borrow a phrase from a favorite friend, you love the thing so much it makes your teeth hurt.

This happened years ago with my lime tree.  It completely defoliated one winter; I had a lot of shit going on in my life and we also had to move out of the apartment building we’d been living in for a decade.  It was early April; no leaves.  I put the plant outside (earlier than normal; had no choice), and left it to die, or not die.  We proceeded with the moving process and after we finished, maybe 10 days later, I came back and checked on the tree.  GUESS WHAT! It had a ton of tiny little purple baby leaves.  I was amazed, so relieved, and so happy.

Here’s the lime, a year and a half after that episode, looking wonderful:

Citrus hystrix, August 2015

So this is now (I think I hope) happening with my lemon that I just got this summer from Four Winds Growers, which is the same place I got the lime tree from maybe 10 years ago.  The lemon arrived in good shape with about 5 fruits on it.  I wasn’t thinking about what its growing conditions might have been at the nursery, so I just put it outside, middle of August, heat waves and all.  I should have hardened it off more carefully, but I didn’t even think.

Here’s the lemon on September 2, about 2 weeks after it arrived:

Meyer lemon, Sept 2, 2017

But unfortunately it really went downhill from there.  It started to get yellow leaves, here and there at first, but then more and more.  The citrus cognoscenti highly recommend a potting mix of what they call 5-1-1.  It’s 5 parts fairly coarse bark, 1 part perlite, and 1 part peat-based regular potting soil.  I made a mix that was more like 5-1-2, because I wanted a little bit more moisture-holding capacity as my citrus plants do spend the whole frost-free season outdoors.  I repotted it into this mix, and it was still looking more or less okay when I first brought it in, albeit more chlorotic.

October 10, 2017, right about when I brought them in

In the pic above, see that little poof of new leaves over on the right side of the lemon? That’s about all that was left; nearly ALL the other leaves have fallen off in the last month since the above picture was taken.

BUT LOOKIT.

Only the new leaves remain and they do not look good, major interveinal chlorosis.

Do you see, on the branch closest to the bottom of the picture here? I’m not great at super close-ups but let me try:

 

Tiny beginnings of new leaves! And yes that’s an ant trap in the pot in the background.  And a scale insect on the lemon, which I only noticed after looking at this picture; that got removed along with several others.  But you guys, this little lemon is covered with tiny leafy bits like this.  Some seem like they might be flowers which I’m not thrilled about, but whatever.

I am very hopeful but also still prepared for disappointment if we have to go that way.

Meanwhile, there are other cool things happening in the indoor grow room.  The pepper I brought in is really thriving and keeps making fruit. Ha!

Pepper who won’t quit

 

And Hibiscus shizopetalus keeps giving me these … I’ve never been a big hibiscus fan but this just does not suck, though they only last a day:

H. schizopetalus

 

And there’s a caterpillar in here which is eating the leaves of the pepper, the Pelargoniums, and African violets.   I find that somehow humorous though I have no idea why.  I guess it’s just funny to me to see insect predation on African violets.  Sure, here’s a pic:

 

See the round holes on the Saintpaulia and the peppers? As I was taking this photo just now I was composing the last line of this post in my head, which was to read, “The pepper and the Pelargonium here are both big plants and I’m never going to find this caterpillar, but that’s okay because they’re all growing quite well and can tolerate a bit of predation.  I’ll just let the thing chew away.”

But then I found it.

Duck food! (chickens are asleep)

All for now.  Wish my little lemon tree good luck.  I’ll keep you posted.