Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas! (and a Holiday Surprise in the Greenhouse)

Um, Yeah

Realization of the Day:
There are days when nothing can faze me—not even this.

I hope you got everything you wished for—along with a few surprises—for Christmas!

© Copyright 2009, the wide-eyed foodie farm blog where I definitely don't remember asking Santa to please bring me a possum for Christmas.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Quick Winter Tip from My Favorite Vegetable Gardening Book: How To Help Protect Plants in Below Freezing Weather

Greek Oregano in the Greenhouse Ready for this Greek Slow Roasted Lamb Recipe

I love books. I love them so much that when I moved from northern California to Missouri 15 years ago, I chose to sell most of my beautiful Art Deco furniture in order to have more space in the moving truck for vintage collectibles (like some of the treasured contents of my potting cabinet) and books.

I especially love cookbooks, and while I admit to hardly ever (or never) using many of the ones I own, I rationalize their purchase like this: if I discover just one fantastic recipe in a cookbook, that to me is worth the entire cost of the book. The rest of the pages are simply a bonus.

I don't have nearly as many gardening books as I do cookbooks, but if I applied that same rule to them, The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith would probably be worth about two thousand dollars. This book, which is all about Ed's high-yield W-O-R-D system: Wide rows, Organic methods, Raised beds, Deep soil, is packed with smart and helpful tips, and after 9 years of owning it, I still learn something new (or relearn something I've forgotten) pretty much every time I pick it up—which is a lot.

Having the Internet at your fingertips when searching for gardening help is great, but having one really reliable book you can turn to first is often even better, and for me it's The Vegetable Gardener's Bible. If what I'm looking for isn't in it, something else always is—like this little sidebar tidbit titled But They'll Freeze! about keeping plants in a greenhouse alive during even the coldest winter nights:

In December, January, and February, night temperatures in our greenhouse dip well below 0°F (-17°C), and all the plants therein freeze solid. If we pick them while they're frozen, the result more closely resembles mush than salad. But if we wait until the sun has warmed the soil and thawed the leaves, we have a salad that has even more depth of taste than any the summer can produce. The secret to this success is that you not water the plants during the coldest times of the winter. If there's too much moisture in the cells, they burst, and the plant will not recover. We stop watering in mid-December and don't start again until mid-March.

He's right about the frozen solid plants. More than once I've gone out to the garden on a really cold morning, sure that everything was history. Now I realize it's better not to look. I simply wait until the sun warms up the plants and brings them back to life before I check on anything—and it's amazing how well they can recover.

I'd actually forgotten the part about not watering at all during winter until rereading But It'll Freeze! just now. I do water my plants in the greenhouse sparingly this time of year—especially the ones in pots—but if I know we're in for a real cold snap, I make sure the soil is dry. And it really does work.

You can apply this theory to some extent with plants growing out in the open, although rain or snow can put a damper (ha) on things. Heavy clear plastic sheeting, either draped directly over beds or on top of some sort of simple structure such as these mini greenhouses, can help protect plants as well as keep them dry.

I've raved about The Vegetable Gardener's Bible before (you can read my full review here), and over the years I've heard from many of you who purchased it on my suggestion and like it as much as I do. I still highly recommend this book for both beginning and seasoned gardeners.

Do you have a favorite gardening book or winter gardening tip?

© Copyright 2009, the defrosted and still edible foodie farm blog where the early bird may get the worm, but the late gardener saves herself a lot of despair on icy mornings.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Garden Journal 12/1/09: Brrrr!

Volunteer Arugula that Didn't Make it Under Cover Last Night

Time to Put the Strawberry Patch to Bed for the Winter

Very Cold Kale (which is fortunately very cold tolerant)

Realization of the Day:
Something tells me it somehow really is the first of December.

It was 20 degrees outside this morning. There's snow predicted for tomorrow. During the past few weeks I've looked up to see hundreds of honking geese desperately flapping their way south (being on the migratory flight path is one of the neatest things about living here).

Winter is definitely on the way—and I still haven't planted my garlic!

So what color is your garden these days? Green, brown, white?

© Copyright 2009, the too cool for the pool foodie farm blog where we're no longer bemoaning the fact that no fall lettuce ever got planted. Forget light salads—it's the season for cozy quick breads and hot soups, not to mention freshly baked muffins and scones. Bundle up, eat well, and stay warm!