Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Almost Winter Garden

Down here in SE Louisiana we have an extra season that many parts of the country don't get. It's closer to a second summer than anything else as the day temps can sometimes make it into the low eighties and the nighttime temperatures hit the high forties. It kind of reminds me of summers in NE Pennsylvania where, in August, you pulled out the long sleeve shirts and put a blanket back on the bed. Our pseudo summer here in New Orleans is perfect for gardening.

As I live in an old urban area with limited space, I do all of my vegetable gardening in trays or planters due to the high levels of lead in the soil. It has recently been shown that in areas with high lead levels, even if you build raised beds with all new soil, the lead will migrate up into those beds over time so containers seem the safe way to go.

I'm interested in a simple garden, one that will give me a variety of lettuces and fresh herbs. You can certainly do more given more space and better sun than I have in the middle of the city. My garden this year consists of at least four kinds of lettuce, nasturtiums (for flowers, seeds and leaves),  broccoli rabe and bak choi. For green herbs, I have chervil, chives, flat leafed or Italian parsley, dill, basil and cilantro. I also have tarragon, oregano, sage, rosemary and lemon thyme to add to my flavor palate.

Many of the local nurseries and Farmer's markets have plants ready to put in the ground. I often find these to be four or five plants in a single small pot and I carefully pull them apart and end up with five separate plants rather than one  struggling one. In container gardens you can plant pretty close together which maximizes the container or tray area. I always buy a packet of mixed lettuce or mesclun. As I thin it out, I replant the seedlings into other trays and always have more than I need.

That's about all there is to it other than keeping an eye on watering the seedlings and keeping the cats away from the nice fresh beds you are making. I tend to cover the fresh trays with landscape fabric to keep them wet and the cats away. Be sure and reseed before you diminish the plants and you can keep a garden going until March without any heavy frost. Believe me there is nothing like heading out to the courtyard to pick the fresh greens for that night's meal.

You can plant seedings or seed but the thing to do is get your "winter" garden going now. Within a short period of time you will be eating fresh greens from your garden, saving you money and giving you the satisfaction of growing it yourself. Now get planting.