Winter Gardens

Not sure what to grow this winter?

These cold-hardy vegetables may stick it out thru the winter.

Purple cold-hardy vegetables. (Photo by Jim Myers)
Purple vegetables contain a pigment called anthocyanin that helps them resist rot better. (Photo by Jim Myers)
From OSU Extension –

Not ready to hang up your gloves and spade just yet?

The fearless gardener still has a chance to plant some cold-hardy vegetables to harvest next spring, said Jim Myers, plant breeder and researcher at Oregon State University. But don’t dawdle.

“Winter gardening is a risky business,” Myers said. “It may work one year with a mild winter but not another when the weather is more severe. If you plant some cold-hardy vegetables from mid-August to early October – depending on the crop – there’s a good likelihood you will produce something on the other end in the spring. They say farming is a gamble…some years more than others.”

Cold weather doesn’t kill these hardy plants; it simply slows their growth rate. For every rise of 18 degrees, growth rate doubles, but that guideline is only applicable for an air temperature range of 40 to 98 degrees, Myers said. If you plant cold-hardy vegetables from mid-August to early October, there is a chance they can mature by next spring if they survive in a vegetative state through the winter without reproducing.

According to Myers, the hardiest vegetables that can withstand heavy frost of air temperatures below 28 include spinach, Walla Walla sweet onion, garlic, leeks, rhubarb, rutabaga, broccoli, kohlrabi, kale, cabbage, chicory, Brussels sprouts, corn salad, arugula, fava beans, radish, mustard, Austrian winter pea and turnip.

Semi-hardy vegetables that can withstand light frost of air temperatures in the range of 28 to 32 degrees include beets, spring market carrots, parsnip, lettuce, chard, pea, Chinese cabbage, endive, radicchio, cauliflower, parsley and celery. For beets, spring market carrots and parsnips, the tops will die but the roots will tolerate lower temperatures.

Vegetables that contain the pigment anthocyanin, which gives them a vibrant red or purple color, are more resistant to rots caused by winter rains, Myers said. They include purple-sprouting broccoli, Rosalind broccoli and purple kale.

If you live in an area of the state that gets prolonged snow cover, the fluffy white stuff acts as insulating mulch and warms the soil for these tough plants, Myers said.

No matter where you live in Oregon, “some of the worst problems we have in the winter are with rain rather than temperature, so protecting plants from the rain is quite helpful,” Myers said.

He recommends covering vegetables with high or low tunnels made from metal hoops and clear plastic, available from greenhouse supply companies. To protect plants, you can also use row covers or cloches. To warm the soil use mulch made from yard debris, cardboard or newspaper.

Cross your fingers and by next March you could be feasting on shelled, succulent fava beans seasoned with salt and lemon juice.

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Herbs and Orchards Batman!

This has been a very busy couple of weeks! After graduating as a Master Gardener I am now working on my volunteer hours so have been putting in lots of time at the plant clinic fielding calls, people bringing in “what’s this thing growing in my yard” samples and others who have some weird bug. Not too fond of the bug questions, but at least I don’t scream and jump on the desk anymore.

A couple of days ago I attended an extended education course on grafting fruit trees. The work was done on apple trees. Using good root stock, which is  just a small stump, and which already has an established, healthy root system, onto which a cutting (scion wood which is one year old) or a bud from another plant is grafted.

Once cut they will fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. So it’s very important your root stock diameter and scion wood diameter are close in size.

'V' cut grafting tool

‘V’ cut grafting tool

So now I have my mini orchard started. Five small apple grafted trees are sitting out in my garden in their tubs where they shall remain for 2 years before finding their new place out in the yard. I have 2 Spitzenberg, 1 Black Arkansas, 1 Honey Crisp and 1 Golden Delicious.

Mini Apple Orchard

Mini Apple Orchard

Not sure if you can see the green ‘goop’ midway up the trunks but that is where the graft was done. The blue tape is just the names of the trees which, now that I think of it, I should probably put something a bit more permanent in there. Two of these trees will be pretty big, 15′ or more and the other 3 are on root stock that should keep them around 8-9′.

This brings my total of garden items to 12 tomato plants, 6 cherry tomato plants, 9 broccoli, 8 heads of lettuce (more to be started next week to keep my lettuce supply going) 8 jalapeño plants, 8 Anaheim chili plants, 4 eggplants, 20 leeks, herbs – cilantro, basil, oregano, sage, thyme, rosemary, parsley and marjoram, one small catnip plant for Ranch Kitty. Next month will see my squash and cucumbers started as well as bush beans.

I think this year is my most exciting year yet!