Sunday, August 8, 2010

winter vegetables: experimenting by following the rules

carrot seedlings
I had planned to prune the summer tomatoes in hopes of a fall crop, but instead I decided to settle for my potted Sun Gold cherry tomatoes and blah Juliets and focus my energy on starting the cold-weather vegetable beds. 

Although it feels strange to me to sow winter seeds now in triple-digit heat--last year I didn't begin until mid September--I decided to throw caution to the wind and follow the Travis County Extension website's planting calendar this time. 

The past two weekends, husband Kurt and I have braved the heat to weed and compost three raised beds. Kurt did the heaviest lifting by turning and mixing the compost piles then working his brown gold into the dirt. I sowed kale (Red Winter) and carrot (Carnival Blend and Scarlet Nantes) seeds last Sunday. I've been watering them two or three times a day with the "mist" setting on the hose-end sprayer, and tiny seedlings appeared Friday. 

kale seedlings in the foreground, a blob of French sorrel from last winter, and carrot seedlings in the back
Yesterday I sowed broccoli (Waltham 29) and cauliflower (Chef's Choice Blend) seeds in one bed and green beans (Contender) in another. All the seeds are from Botanical Interests

huge oregano on the left, two hot banana peppers at front right, and ailing tomatoes at far right
Over the next three weekends, we'll replace the tomatoes with potatoes and beet seeds. In about a month, I plan to  harvest and freeze all the basil and use those beds to sow lettuce seeds. Must remember not to go as overboard with the lettuce as I did last year!

basil is still thriving


Caroline said...

I planted fall potatoes last week but haven't planted anything else yet. My eggplant is just now flowering! Your basil looks fabulous. Mine always pouts through the summer then bounces back like gangbusters in the fall.

katina said...

I think this may be the first year that I'll make a olive oil/basil blend and freeze in ice cube trays. I'm not a fan of pesto, but I figure just OO and Basil means I could still add a cube to spaghetti sauce and get the right amount of basil in it.

I should really be thinking about fall garden stuff, too, but I just can't. (aside from starting transplants)

LindaCTG said...

I admire your energy in the heat. But for sure, those are nice looking beds. Makes me want to get out & work!

In the past, it's in August that I start lettuce seeds in cups/flats/whatever under the patio cover's protection. By October, when it's cool again, they're ready for the garden. Probably won't get around to it this year, but an idea for you.

mss @ Zanthan Gardens said...

I read those planting guides and am incredulous. But it's true that I always get started for fall too late. I just don't see how anything can survive this heat.

Looking forward to the results of your experiment with GREAT interest.

TexasDeb said...

Somewhere I'd read we are supposed to plant potatoes on Valentine's Day. You are such the garden rebel with all your rule following.

I too am watching with interest. One August crop of arugula in years past sprang up, grew at a ferocious rate and nearly immediately bolted. "OK" I thought at the time "so much for cool weather crops in August!".

I'll be happy to be proven wrong - I've had such poor luck with summer crops a good head start on winter might just save the day.

Iris said...

Caroline--I hope next weekend isn't too late to plant fall potatoes. I've never tried fall potatoes. Because I'm already out watering the seedlings three times a day, I've been giving the basil a little extra water, too.

Katina--Last year we made lots of basil ice cubes. I hadn't thought of freezing an olive oil/basil mixture--cool!

Linda--Thanks for the lettuce idea! Will try it.

MSS--I can't believe anything can germinate in this heat either, but I'm encouraged by the recent emergence of my carrot and kale seedlings.

Deb--This is my first time trying fall potatoes. I planted my summer ones in early March. I'll have to remember the Valentine's Day tip. I enjoy the fall/winter garden SO much more than spring/summer.

reneesroots said...

Iris, Congrats on your carrot seedlings! Getting carrot seeds to germinate in August isn't easy. I think it's so cool that you're getting into fall gardening. It's painful to be out there from mid day on, but mornings have been almost nice lately. I finally set out a couple of tomato plants yesterday. Plan to plant a couple more tomorrow morning....maybe i can trade you some fall tomatoes for some fall carrots!

Iris said...

Renee--Thanks! Yep, I'm excited about this fall garden experiment. I'd love to trade some carrots for your tomatoes!