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Kale

Kale

Spring is going to start early this year. Already the normal 12″ of snow covering my garden this month is gone, the snowdrops are blooming with many honey bees hovering over them. Since most garden books say as soon as the soil can be worked, the cold crops can be planted, I’m going to try it. Just watch, a week or two from now a heavy snow storm will dump on the sprouting seeds. I’ll discover what happens to those baby plants then. I’m ever a pessimistic optimist.

So what are cold crops? Mostly leaf or root crops started from seed that actually prefer growing in colder temperatures. They vary in hardiness, but most will survive frost, and some of them even snow. What makes them great are they are typically short season, too, meaning they’ll be on the table quicker. Many ‘cole’ crops are cold hardy, but cole refers to crops from the Brassica genus or mustard family, vegetables like broccoli, kale, collard greens, kohlrabi, cabbage, or cauliflower. While these are cold crops, many other vegetables are similarly cold hardy.

Most root crops such as carrots and onions (basic cooking foods) parsnips (mashed like potatoes only sweeter), turnips and rutabaga (essential for pasties), beets (borscht and pickled beets, yumm), and leeks (leek and potato soup) prefer cool temperatures. Some leafy vegetables like arugula, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, maché (a old leaf crop in France relatively new to the states), and parsley (combine all for marvelous salads, plus spinach and Swiss chard make good cooked greens) favor cool weather. I’ve seen parsley still fresh and ready to use growing up from snow. It is also biennial, meaning it harvests for two years, but it has also reseeded itself in my garden. Peas, which are grown for their fruit, produce best in cooler temperatures.

Some of these leafy crops like spinach, lettuce, and Swiss chard (I’m not fond of kale or collards) will be ready for the table by the end of April. If the summer is relatively cool, they’ll keep sending up new leaves even after several harvestings. The root crops will take longer to develop, but will be ready to harvest when tomatoes and pepper plants are only becoming safe to put in the ground (May 15th to 30th depending on your last frost zone).

Two more good things about cold crops are that they can be planted again in mid-August to the end of September providing a late season crop, but most seed companies have seed sales in the fall, so you get the seeds cheaper. One more good aspect of this is those cheaper seeds will be just as viable for the spring growing seed. I’ve grown fall season carrots, which are very cold, even freezing, hardy, and while I can’t get into the snow covered garden to harvest them, I have dug them from the ground in the early spring.

While here in Northern Michigan we had a constant snow cover, it wasn’t as deep as I’ve come to expect. All the bad storms seemed to have hit south and east of Michigan. I’m not complaining. I felt bad for those caught in storms not seen in their areas for years and who were unprepared to handle all the snow, but mostly I felt relief. The local snow cover hovered around twelve inches this winter rather than the thirty-six to forty-eight I’ve come to expect. That has all melted. March came in like a lamb with several days in the 60 degree Fahrenheit range.

I still expect another snowstorm, but the snowdrops are blooming, so can spring be too far behind? How do they do that? Do they bloom under the snow so that the blossoms appear as the snow melts around them, or do they emerge and bloom overnight? However the snowdrops do it, it looks like we’ll have another spring even if we receive more snow.

The daffodils have also emerged from the soil showing two and three inches of green beginning to reach for the light. As I walked the garden noting signs of life, I took comfort in the signs of renewal! I also noticed all the winter debris needing to be cleaned up. I’m waiting a little longer before I start that project… but soon, very soon. I just hope March doesn’t leave roaring like a lion.

Snowdrops

Snowdrops

Every time there is going to be something to see in the sky, Northern Lights, Blue Moons, and other special events, our sky is overcast. Last night was no different. Lake effect snows blotted out blue moon. (Sigh.) Just a glimpse would have been nice.

Instead, I stayed warm inside and wrote down some goals for 2010. I’d like to expand my thyme garden, try more xeric plants, grow some new plants from seed, and try growing lettuce under lights. My blue and white shade garden needs something — it’s a very hard spot to grow anything. I’d like to get my telescope set up correctly so I could take photos. I also have writing and art goals. My only resolution is to try and be more understanding of others and less judgmental. Good luck. Some people need some judgment. Oops! Did I already break a resolution?

Since my last post the area has had over 30″ of snow. I know. I’ve shoveled it all. One of the teachers at the local school said we were having this because the artic is now and island and all that water provides more moisture for snow. Here we also get lake effect snow. Whatever is happening (will the government tell us if there is some catastraphy about to happen?) — it has made a lot of shoveling for me.

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