Snow-tolerant Veggies

Yes, it’s May. And yes, it’s still snowing. In fact, we had temperatures around 20 degrees, with snow, over the past few days. The prediction is for warmer weather, but in previous years we’ve had snow and lows below freezing well into June. Of course I’m anxious to get my garden growing—but what will survive our winter/spring weather? Surprisingly, quite a lot!

LAH_7318We were gone last fall, so I never got around to pulling out last summer’s freeze-killed veggies. It turns out that was a good thing. With no protection at all, my Starbor kale roots survived our Zone 4 winter, and new growth is appearing from a dead-looking stump. I expect the kale plants to bolt as soon as it warms up a bit more, but in the meantime, I’m harvesting kale now. I plan to include kale in my garden again this year, starting seeds inside and setting out plants in late June to mature in September and October, after frost sweetens the leaves. You can bet I’ll leave those plants in place next fall, maybe with a bit of mulch or a row cover, for yet another early harvest.

LAH_7336The same thing happened with last year’s Prezzemolo Gigante D’ Italia parsley—the roots have all re-sprouted and are growing profusely. Since parsley is a biennial, it too will bolt and produce flowers, but we can eat the leaves in the meantime. I just set out my new parsley seedlings in a raised bed covered with plastic. I confess I didn’t put much effort into hardening them off, but they’re thriving in spite of the snow.

I plan to leave the current plants to bloom, as I want the seeds. Since they fall off as soon as they’re ripe, a paper bag around the seed head will keep them from scattering before I get to them.

LAH_7324The plants remaining in my garden when we left town last September apparently bolted and produced seeds. I have volunteer lettuce in my raised beds, and it’s doing very nicely. In past years, I grew lettuce over the winter in my unheated greenhouse, and it survived temperatures as low as 10 degrees. Again, this lettuce bolts quickly, after being exposed to such severe cold, but by then I had more plants coming along, creating an uninterrupted harvest.

LAH_7316-001Last year’s cilantro also went to seed—with a vengeance. I had cilantro seeds—known as the herb coriander—all over the place. Now I have cilantro seedlings everywhere. It’s a good thing we love cilantro!

They need thinning, but I can happily pull and use those in the way of my other plantings, and still have plenty of volunteers to keep us in cilantro for months. I’ve been amazed in the past that cilantro germinates even under the snow.

LAH_7333I pulled all the onions I planted last year—we’re just using up the last of the crop. But there are onion shoots coming up where last year’s plants grew. I left the flowers (research shows that, contrary to popular belief, leaving the flowers results in bigger bulbs), and apparently they produced seeds. Since onions take forever from seed, I don’t expect them to reach harvestable size this year, but maybe I can grow my own sets for next year. We’ll see. In the meantime, this tells me that it’s not too early to plant onion seedlings. (Wait for warmer soil to put out sets, so they don’t bolt before producing a bulb.)

LAH_7331We have a steady source of black oil sunflower seeds from the near-by bird feeders, so I am constantly pullout out volunteer seedlings. Packets of sunflower seeds always say to wait until the danger of frost is past before planting, so I was surprised to see that we already have a number of very happy seedlings. If you want to grow sunflowers, go ahead and try sowing them now. You might be surprised.

I may be gardening in my heavy jacket and knit hat, but at least I can be outside with my fingers in the dirt. Finally!


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