The local Plant a Row for the Hungry (PAR) gardeners plan to cut back on their whole-group meetings through much of the winter. That doesn’t mean the gardeners won’t still be providing garden-fresh produce to a local food pantry, but it does mean that they are using the reduced workload of the winter garden to take a break.
Instead of meeting as a whole group every week (the usual schedule), PAR gardeners are signing up in pairs to harvest and deliver greens and root-crops. If the garden seems to need more attention, larger-group workdays can be scheduled, but those will be less frequent. There is no need for watering or continuous weeding, and no more heavy work like spreading mulch, until spring comes back around.
Last week’s workday was the last major workday for the season. While some gardeners harvested, weighed, and bagged greens for delivery, others pulled the last of the peppers and eggplants. A freeze was tentatively forecast for the weekend, with a bigger chance of freezing early this week. An early-week freeze looks less likely as the target-dates get closer, but it was good to move those plants out of the garden while there was a small crowd of gardeners to complete the task.
Even better, there was a basket-load of peppers to deliver to the food pantry, in addition to the greens.
In the next week or so, the irrigation system will be turned off. Turning the system off and draining it for the winter will protect the equipment from freeze damage. This is a more complicated task (than pulling up old crops, for example) to prepare the garden for cold weather, but it is important for the success of next spring’s garden.
Gardeners who are new to fall/winter gardening in the South may be unsure about how much to harvest each week from the garden. It may help to know the guidelines the PAR gardeners discussed, to guide their harvest of winter crops:
- For leafy greens, harvest lowest/outer/larger leaves.
- Harvest no more than 1/3 of the mass of any leafy greens plant each week.
- Wait for warm-enough temperatures (above 32 degrees F, with no frost on the leaves) to harvest any/all of the crops/
- For root crops (beets, daikon radishes, etc), pull the entire plant at harvest, including the leaves. Those are good food, too.
- For the broccoli, some leaves can be harvested before the actual head of broccoli is ready to harvest — leaves of broccoli plants taste pretty much like broccoli; harvest sparingly, though, so plants have enough energy to make a good-sized head of broccoli.
Hope that other gardens are doing as well as the PAR garden!