Sunday, December 6, 2015

Keeping Active: Winter Gardening

I love being outside, moving, being productive, making projects for myself and especially when any of this involves gardening. In Britain they call their entire yard their garden. They don't have yards, so when I say I am gardening, you may consider it yard work.

Final Final Harvests
Of course, we are finally experiencing nightly frosts, but there were several threatening days in October and November where I would dig up, cover or harvest whatever remained. I had several "final" tomato harvests. The real one came the third week of November, when we finally got down to 25 F on Friday night/Sat morn.
We are still eating tomatoes that have ripened since the killer frost.

 The above tomatoes were all harvested green and
allowed to ripen in the beer flat in the kitchen (where I could see them daily). 
As they ripen, we eat them. They aren't as good as vine-ripe, but always beat the
flavor of store toms. 

In the geodome house, I decided to harvest all of the eggplant and cut the plants back. I'm curious
to see if they will make it through the winter. I've never had the soil freeze in there, but I have had frosts.
I know greenhouse culture depends more on the difference between high and low temperature, rather than just one or the other. There is a moderating effect. So far, the plants are still healthy looking. 
Final eggplant harvest from dome.

Final pumpkin, pepper and tomato harvest.
I love this pumpkin. It is super productive, even in part shade and
nothing stops it. I've been saving seeds for 3 years. It was
originally from a Autumn Harvest Mix from Pinetree Garden Seeds
so I have no idea what it could be. If anyone has thoughts, please let me know. 

I don't normally pick bouquets, but when I know the flowers are going
to die, I allow it. 
Red Salvia below
 This Salvia was purchased by mistake or
mislabeled in the catalog. I thought I was buying
a different one. Normally, I do not care for this kind of
annual salvia, BUT I didn't know they grew as anything other 
than dwarf. Apparently, the old fashioned ones grew into large (3+feet) shrubs.
This ended up a beautiful, healthy and productive plant, so...I saved seeds and changed my mind.
Seed from Pinetree (with wrong photograph in catalog)

Chickens: The 3 young girls (Mavis, Petunia and Ruby) plus Rosa are laying like crazy! I'm consistently getting 2 eggs per day, even with the shorter days. We are getting some "double yokers" too. See the one on the left? 
Left- double. Right- single.
The single yoke eggs seem smaller than they should be,
but that's okay by me. 

Rooster update:
Mattilda decided one day to stop liking the kiddo. He has attacked her and chased her down the street. If you TRY to read anything on the internet to help with learning rooster language and recovery 98% of what you will read is- make him soup. This is not an acceptable response. Clearly we just aren't understanding each other, so I've made it my responsibility to learn rooster behavior. I'd say 50% of the time I go in the orchard/chicken yard, he pecks my foot. 
Things that are helpful- hold him for awhile and he stays away and Papi keeps him away from me. Give him treats. Treats don't come from other roosters, so why fight me? Walk slowly. Don't look at him. Don't make eye contact. Pretend you don't even know he is there. I've contemplated building him his own coop, but then I feel horrible about the idea of confining him for life. If I could find a person who has only females and wanted him (not to eat) I would probably give him up, because I think he would be happier. For now, he stays and we accept and learn. I really need a book about chicken behavior- if anyone has a source, let me know.

I'm still working on redoing the orchard/chicken yard, which includes new fruit trees (new trimming/dwarfing method), raised beds for permanent food plants and pots (for bees, natives/perennials and things for chickens to eat).
The raised beds/cold frames are made from fencing, which is 6ft long pine. It's super cheap and easy to work with. Not sure how long it will last, however. Below is a cold frame of kale, gailan, chinese cabbage and lettuce. The cover is an old shower door. 
 Below is a long view of the beds in progress. You can
see the geodome in the upper right corner and 2 new blueberry
plants in the lower right corner. One bed is made from
cabinet doors (white). I plan to have things like perpetual chard (already in),
Good King Henry and some other permanent food crops in these. 
 GKH needs a cold spell to germinate, so I sowed it in 
cells and it is in one of these frames, under glass.

 Working on a retention wall. I lose soil to erosion down this slope 
to the drain. Hoping this will help with the slow process of raising this bed.
Green shrubs are Boxwoods and I just added a Holly by the pole (see below).
I plan on topping these 16 x 8 x 6 blocks with something more decorative (brick, natural rock).
New Holly.
Two were planted along this bed for winter interest, screen, 
protection and food source for birds.

Another slow project is this bed behind the garage. 
I transplanted some natives- Joe Pye Weed, Gray Goldenrod and
Short's Aster behind here and recently added these
fallen branches to create a border. 
 Other plants back here: Coralberry, Blackberry, hydrangea, 
concord grape, pecan tree

More projects with fencing:
I built these 1 x 1 foot boxes each from just 1 6 ft fence board.
They are 5 1/2 inches deep, which is great for staring native seeds, 
which have deep roots. I was looking into plastic deep cells for starting seeds, when
this idea came to me. It's cheaper and sustainable. I've started Aromatic Aster seeds in one.
The next one will either be- N Sea Oats or Button Blazing Star. I only have 2 at present, but
want to sew more seeds so....more to come


Growing on:
 Red Trumpet Honeysuckle still greenish
Below: Shallots and parsley
 Multiplier Onions up and green (below)
 Garlic up and green (below)

Gardening still happening:
Transplanting (gray goldenrod)

 Seed collecting (Senna above)
Planning (always). I think I want
a dry native plant in here next year
Maybe Purple Prairie Clover?

Other things you can do now: 
Plant bulbs (yes, still) and they are on sale now. 
Prune- a great time as you can see the bones of the trees
Plant/transplant perennials while the ground is still soft
Mulch- still raking leaves? Spread wood mulch
Construct- to get ready for spring gardening
Plan, plan, plan (my fav part!)
Seed catalogs are arriving.... plan, order too much and
Start seeds! Especially perennials or slow growing things (like peppers-due to my cool basement)

Speaking of which:
The makings of a pizza with homegrown toms

Vegan Pasta Primavera
(really super good- a nutritional yeast sauce)
Who knew?

A dal pancake. So yummy. Not from the garden, however.
 November: preserved Hen of the Woods 
 Veg tacos

Gardening is an under-appreciated activity in many ways- one of which is for exercise. I was pleasantly surprised to find out how many calories I burn compared to my husband's purposeful gym visits or race events. I'm burning more than him, getting Vitamin D, creating food for me or wildlife, creating a pleasant and therapeutic space and accomplishing something other than burning calories for the sake of burning calories. I hate gyms. I don't care for routine. I also think this is cheaper than a gym membership. You can do it without a lot of special gadgets/clothing. I wonder if more people would consider it if it were promoted seriously? 
Anyway, I obviously love it and I hope you do too.

Happy Winter Gardening.