Winter Garden

One of the perks of working at a farmers’ market is getting the first pick. I see what comes in in the morning, and if it’s something I really want and I think it will sell out, I can ask the farmer to “put one back for me”. Last weekend one of the farmers had a great deal on winter seedlings. I knew they would sell out fast, so I had him put a few 6-packs under the table for me- Chinese mustard, russian kale, swiss chard, mizuna, and red cabbage. He sold out within two hours.

broccoli seedling

Then I went to the feed & seed and bought something I’ve never tried before- the 20-packs of “pro” seedlings. These are bundles of seedlings with tight root balls, very little soil and no pots. I snagged two bundles of broccoli. I don’t even remember the variety.
winter garden2
This winter I will become the broccoli master. Broccoli everywhere! The kids and my husband really like broccoli, I like broccoli, it can be easily frozen if necessary, and it’s fairly expensive at the farmer’s market. All perfect reasons for trying to grow it myself. I spent one entire evening clearing this grass-and-weed-infested raised bed by hand after my younger son ripped the grass up with a mattock. I added a few buckets of compost but the incessant rain has discouraged me from adding any more soil nutrients, since most of what I use are liquid.
winter garden1
This is the second bed of winter cole-crops- more broccoli, kale, swiss chard, and red cabbage. This bed in the forest garden was completely full of tithonia all summer. As soon as I cut down the tithonia for the compost pile, the betony started popping up. I am not clearing the betony out of this bed- yet. I know from experienced that the betony is unstoppable. The thick hay mulch last year was the perfect environment for betony and the roots rocketed through the beds. There’s no stopping it without digging everything up, sifting the soil for the tubers, and then laying it down and re-planting everything. And frankly, that’s just not going to happen. This is one of those experimental less-is-more opportunities for observation. Will the broccoli in this bed do better than the broccoli in the raised bed with no weeds? The other way around? We’ll see.

I still want to try growing carrots again now that the soil has better texture and I want to try fennel bulbs. Both will go in after I dig up the sweet potatoes and cut down the chiles next month. Birds or ants ate up all the dill seeds that I scattered in the herb garden and raked in- I don’t have a single seedling. So much for seed saving. I’m still going to need to buy seedling parsley and dill, or start it in the greenhouse. Onwards, October!

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