the Winter Gardener

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Thu, Jan 8, 2015 - 7:40pm

Take a virtual tour of a suburban member's five-year-old garden, resting for the next season. Lots of our members have even bigger gardens--even farms- but I wanted to show what might be possible on half an acre.

It's winter, and last night it was 16 F (-9 C) here in supposedly sub-tropical SC. The above photo is of most of the raised beds in our backyard. I have a feeling many American yards will look like this next year, after the California drought and Florida deep freeze severely raise the cost of produce. Especially if the cost of food transportation rises.

There are 6 inches of pine straw (mulch) on each of the empty raised beds. There are also four inches of mulch on the winter vegetables (leeks, kale and walking onions), which can be raked away if it gets warm. Uncovered, for the most part, are the perennial herb garden in the foreground, which contains hardy oregano, thyme, celeriac (for flat parsley, not the root), bee balm (wild bergamot, for tea), and culinary lavender. Also uncovered: June everbearing strawberries (in the back, near the fence).

We solved our ongoing problem with bacterial wilts killing out tomatoes by growing them in the tubs.

Grow light in cold frame: incandescent .

We have a new cold frame on the south side of the house. When it gets into the 20's, we turn on warming light. When it gets into the teens, we cover it overnight. It has lettuce, radishes, daikon radishes, and more kale.

4 1/2 years ago, this was a one-foot sapling

One of the first things we planted was a mulberry tree. It provides fruit, distracts birds and squirrels from our strawberries, and shades the house in the summer (it's 25-ft tall, on the south side of the lot) while letting sunlight in for solar gain in the winter. It also shades our compost pile, an absolute necessity with 100-degree summers.

3 yr old grapevine on trellis.

Here's one of our six grape vines, black muscadines on a slim trellis. We also have concord grapes on the back and side fence, and bronze muscadines next to this and on a fence. A little Epsom salts for the magnesium really increased our yields.

covered asparagus bed

The dry asparagus ferns were cut at 2", then removed, and the bed was mulched. There are three kinds of asparagus under here: Martha Washington (heirloom, grown at Mt. Vernon), Jersey Giant, and purple giant. The plants are all 2-3 years old and are starting to yield beautifully.

4-ft potted ginger plant

Some of the gardening is going on indoors. Above is a couple of pieces of supermarket ginger root, shoved in a pot and watered. We normally grow it on the porch but bring it in when it's below 40 F. Lord, is that stuff good sliced in a stir fry.

But mainly, this time of year we are using up home dried, home frozen, and home canned foods. This week we've made pizza with home-canned sauce and our dried garden spices, peach cobbler with home-canned peaches (we have a peach tree), homemade applesauce, soup with home-canned chicken broth, Next week we have planned homemade flatbreads with sun-fried tomatoes and spices, home-canned 3-bean salad, oatmeal with our dried & reconstituted apples, thawed strawberries on cheesecake, and cage-free eggs in home-ground cornmeal cornbread and other dishes. There is so much more: stored garlic, frozen green peppers, frozen cubes of fresh herbs, homemade pickles and relishes, dried figs with goat cheese (our neighbors have goats), herb tea with honey from the aviary down the street . . . . I'm getting nice salads out of the cold frame, too.

It's still only a supplement to our food, but with the addition of a pressure canner and a chicken coop, an increasingly large one.

8 Comments

RNcarl's picture
RNcarl
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: May 13 2008
Posts: 382
Pine Straw

Hi Wendy,

Great garden. 

A question I have is, isn't the pine straw too acidic? I know you rake it away, but some of it degrades into the soil. I have though about using it for straw bale gardens but was advised against it. Here in the coastal plains, it is easy to get (rake the yard). I only use it around the ornamentals and trees.

Also, my tomatoes don't make it through the season because of the wilt as well. Tomatoes taste fine, they just die before their time.

 

C.

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1988
great question

Yes, pine straw is acidic, but so is all our soil around here. We counter it with a bit of lime, and small amounts of wood ash.

As to dealing with bacterial wilts, tomatoes in containers get fresh soil so it's not as big an issue. One thing we've learned about containers, though, is that black ones heat the roots too much in deep summer.

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 13 2008
Posts: 2247
Thanks for sharing your gardening info with us, Wendy!

Thanks for sharing your gardening info with us, Wendy!  I wish I could do a better job of staying ahead of the gardening tasks that each season brings (e.g., cutting back asparagus, mulching)!!

kd6iwd@gmail.com's picture
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 17 2011
Posts: 25
weeds and removing them

I have a garden here in Texas and the problem is that I work out of town and only get to the garden 2-3 times per month too see what is going on. The weeds take over every time so i was wondering how to get rid of them before planting. I saw a program on you tube where they used steam to kill unwanted plants so I am considering using a steam generator to sterilize the soil and really get ahead of my weed problem. I should note that I put two pickup loads of compost in my garden which really helped but the weeds arrived in the compost and I had a collection of the fauna of West Texas that was a sight to behold. Any suggestions would be really appreciated.

 

Best Regards

Jim

 

kd6iwd@gmail.com's picture
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 17 2011
Posts: 25
weeds and removing them

I have a garden here in Texas and the problem is that I work out of town and only get to the garden 2-3 times per month too see what is going on. The weeds take over every time so i was wondering how to get rid of them before planting. I saw a program on you tube where they used steam to kill unwanted plants so I am considering using a steam generator to sterilize the soil and really get ahead of my weed problem. I should note that I put two pickup loads of compost in my garden which really helped but the weeds arrived in the compost and I had a collection of the fauna of West Texas that was a sight to behold. Any suggestions would be really appreciated.

 

Best Regards

Jim

 

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1988
too busy to weed

Jim, there are several strategies for dealing with weeds, and they can often be combined. In Texas, you have  heat and cold, but a fairly long growing season - and that means you have Spring-seeding weeds and Autumn-seeding weeds. Unlike northern gardeners, you have to be twice as vigilant. But you can delegate that vigilance to several things.

  1. Dense plantings. Just because the seed packet says "grow (or thin to) 8 inches apart" does not mean you always have to. For example I broadcast my leaf lettuce, kale, cucumbers and herb seeds (like basil and cilantro) so that they are so dense they crowds out weeds. This also works with things that DO need the space but transplant well such as carrots, cabbages, beets, and radishes. I plant enough cabbage or carrots densely in one 4' x 4'  raised bed to fill three raised beds, then transplant them in one session when they get big enough to the two other boxes, Then I .. .
  2. Mulch between plants. This works well with things like tomatoes, okra, green peppers, bush beans (lima, green beans wax beans), and plants that need at least 6" space when matured that started from flats you grew indoors or got at a nursery. Black plastic mulch is good in cool weather since it warms up the soil and speeds growth: just poke a hole in it and insert your plant in the soil. In warmer weather you can use anything organic that holds in moisture: I've seen straw, bark, wood chips, leaves and pine straw used as mulch. 3-4 inches will let water through and keep weeds down. Be careful which kind of straw - you do not want seeds in it.
  3. Use companion plantings. Anything tall can often have a useful plant at the base, crowding out weeds. The thing to keep in mind is that you plant things with long roots, like carrots interspersed with things with shallow roots like lettuces. Here is a chart on suggested companion plantings. My favorite: Tomatoes like a bed of nasturtium beneath them, which have lovely edible flowers and make peppery salad greens.
  4. Southern gardeners need to mulch heavily in winter. Weeds cannot grow under 6" of much, so if you cover a bed with thick mulch there will be a lot fewer weeds at spring planting time.

I never heard of steaming a bed to get rid of diseases and weed seeds; but I do recommend soil solarization. Just put some clear plastic tightly over the bed and let the greenhouse effect fry the soil sterile in a couple of months.  A proper compost pile gets so hot it kills weed seeds. I rake my raised beds of any old weeds and cover them with fresh compost before a new planting - they always needs topping off.

ronpoitras's picture
ronpoitras
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 21 2010
Posts: 23
flaming weeds

Another option to controlling weeds is to use a flaming torch. Harbor freight carries a simple device that can be used for this purpose.

Harbor Freight Weed Burning Tool
This tool is perfect for quick de-icing and weed control. It attaches to a standard 16 oz. propane bottle to give you portability that you can't get with other torches. It has a piezo push button starter, has a 24-1/2" long wand with a pistol grip handle. Sells for about $25. Go to Harbor Freight\'s Web Site

For additional info on flame weeding see http://www.michiganorganic.msu.edu/uploads/files/31/E3038.pdf

I use this tool to go over my asparagus bed after the ground has dried but a few weeks before spears shoot up.

Good luck!
 

robshepler's picture
robshepler
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 16 2010
Posts: 109
RNCarl

We had  pretty bad wilt virus problem this year as well, hit the potatoes too. Johnny's has a couple of varieties that they recommended specifically for their wilt tolerance. This year we are going to try "Marnaro", "Fredrick" and "Bigdena" on our reps recommendation.

Rob

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