Sunday, February 5, 2017

Late winter planting to avoid the spring rush?

The experiment - I'm exploring the possibility of starting leafy greens in late fall and "storing" them in the garden under a frost cloth during the winter so they are out of my way when I need the seed starting space for chiles (we have our priorities in this state).
If it works, I can have a three-planting rotation for leafy greens: Late fall for harvest in early spring, late spring for harvest in spring/summer, late summer for harvesting into the winter.

I planted out seedling butterhead lettuce in soil blocks December 3. Earlier plantings of chard, kale, bok choy and leaf lettuce - set out in beginning in early November - are looking happy and putting out leaves.  I've been harvesting since mid-January.  They are under a frost cloth tent, but it's not heated.
Bok Choi, planted as seedlings in December

I know they shoulda been planted much earlier, but other projects blocked my use of that space. It's a bit of an experiment. If they don't grow enough to get harvested this winter, they are all set for a growth spurt in early spring.

This area is USDA Zone 7a, and nights below freezing or even in the low the 20s(F) are common, but we have many sunny winter days in the 50s and even into the low 60s, with nights barely reaching freezing at time.

Our lows might be as low as KY but it doesn't stay low all day (one of the issues with the USDA zones is that they don't consider the ameliorating effects of less time at that temp). What's to my benefit here is that we have a lot of clear, sunny days above freezing. And our snowfalls melt off in a couple of days.

Available Sunlight?
If you want to try this, here;'s a couple of websites to help you decide if it's likely to succeed.

NM is only 2% below than NV for KWH of solar energy, and roughly twice what Kentucky gets. The sites below are meant for solar panels and power generation, but it's a good proxy for the "is there enough light to grow stuff here?" question.

Sunlight Estimates from solar energy site

 Solar energy estimates

I'll be tracking how things are growing - taking pictures of the same spots in the beds so I can compare leaf size and count week to week. Totally experimental season for me. 

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