In my February garden, down here on the Gulf Coast, we have been harvesting plenty of greens and carrots, along with some radishes and cilantro, but I can see that the end of my winter garden is near.
With that change of garden-season in mind, I am getting set for more planting.
Harvesting in February
We have been fortunate in having a mostly-mild winter; our garden has provided good food for our kitchen without interruption.
The greens in the picture below are recently harvested collards, kale, and a sugarloaf chicory:
The carrot crop has been excellent this year, in both productivity and flavor. In north Georgia, I only managed “excellent carrots” a few times.
I brought in the last of the carrots yesterday, a large mixing-bowl full, even though many were still fairly small.
In our recent warm weather, some of the carrots have started making new, tiny, bright green leaves.
When that new, spring growth happens in fall-planted carrots, the deliciousness gets sucked out of the roots; the sugars get used up in making the new leaves.
Since I prefer delicious carrots, the veggie drawer in our fridge is now overloaded with carrots.
Collard greens crop
We have been eating greens from the garden every week for a few months now, and one green that we grew is collards.
I have never liked collard greens before (Joe has always liked them), but the flavor of this year’s crop is unusually mild. Surprisingly, I have enjoyed eating these collards!
I don’t know if the mild flavor is due to the soil here, or if it is a feature of the variety that I planted: ‘Top Bunch’ Collards.
Next year, I plan to grow this same variety again, plus another, to compare flavor.
One of the other things I like about this year’s collard greens is that the leaves keep a firmer texture than many cooked greens. They don’t end up, after cooking, as a mass of dark green slime.
The kale also has done well. We eat these curly-edged leaves raw (chopped finely for salads) and cooked.
As the weather has warmed, the flavor hasn’t changed, but the texture is more coarse; the leaves are tougher. They are no longer as good in salads.
However, they are still fine for cooking. One way we have found to prepare them, that is especially good, is to chop a big pile into our biggest cast iron skillet with plenty of olive oil and chopped garlic, then, after the kale is the level of “cooked” we want, we mix in cooked pasta.
Proportions of pasta-to-kale vary, depending on what else is for dinner. If this is our main veg, then it is kale-heavy. If this is the “bread” part of the meal, and there is another veg on the plate, then it leans more toward pasta.
Either way, at the end, we add either some grated parmesan cheese before serving, or sprinkle on some big salt (like a coarse sea salt).
The fall-winter-early spring garden is packed with many kinds of greens, not just collards and kale.
There is a patch of arugula, and a newer mixed patch of arugula and a small-growing endive. We also have a few kinds of chicories, including sugarloaf chicory and an endive that is still not bitter.
We are growing these other greens for eating raw, in salads. I have tried to grow lettuce here but have not yet had success in that endeavor. Maybe next year…
Getting set for more planting
Here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, it will be warm enough to plant summer crops in a few weeks. By “warm enough”, I mean that nighttime temperatures will be consistently up in the 50s.
In my February garden, there are “things to do” to get ready for spring. The two main things, for getting ready for spring, are these:
- first is making room by clearing out winter crops and amending the soil,
- second is starting some plants in containers, to plant out in the garden when the weather is warm enough.
First: making room in the garden
Space in the garden to plant summer veggies in is already showing up. There were winter radishes (harvested and eaten), other radishes, and the carrots that I pulled. The cilantro is sending up flowering stalks, so that crop will be pulled in a few weeks.
Some of the chicories are heading-types; harvesting the heads of greens creates more open space in the garden.
And when I need the space still taken by collards and kale, there will be a big day of blanching-and-freezing greens, so that we can enjoy eating the last of those greens while we wait for the next crops to come in.
Amending the soil is another step in “making room”. Spreading on more compost and adding other amendments such as organic fertilizers are part of getting the garden space ready for the next crop.
We have already started adding compost to some parts of the garden.
Second: starting seeds in containers
I have started several kinds of seeds, in pots and in a flat, for planting later.
The seedlings below are all cold-sensitive crops, including tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. This tray spent most of its first couple of weeks indoors, under lights, but now, on warm days, I move it outside, in a part-shade spot on the deck. The time spent outside will help toughen up the seedlings as they are exposed to wind and stronger light.
The seedlings in the wooden flat below include flowers and herbs that tolerate cooler weather. This flat has been mostly outdoors, except when there has been rain. I don’t want the little plants smashed by big raindrops!
Yesterday, actually, I gambled by planting seeds outside, in the garden, for bush beans and pole beans. These are “summer crops” that can withstand cooler weather than tomatoes/peppers/eggplants.
If the weather turns cold and the bean plants do not survive, that will be ok. I have plenty more bean seeds to replant the space with, if needed.
I am looking forward to another gardening season, to the change in crops, and to learning more about growing good food in my new yard.
Hoping your gardening is going well!