Sunday, November 27, 2022

December 2022 Edible Garden Planner

Early December garden; chard in the foreground, herbs in the background
November 27, 2022

December is when many stick to the indoors and staying warm.  When winter arrives, it may appear that everything is dead outside, but there is still life in the garden.  In the beds, kale, cabbage, salad burnet, sorrel, rosemary, oregano, garlic, onions, lettuce, leeks, chard, dill, celery, sage, carrots, broccoli, spinach are all still green in December.  Under cover, greens and lettuce are growing.

This fall had weeks of above average temperatures followed by weeks of below average temperatures with below normal for rainfall.  I am still watering the outdoor pots of edibles. We brought all my overwintering tropicals, pepper plants, bay tree, moringa tree, basil, aloe vera and citrus trees a month ago and way earlier than normal.  The pepper plant will continue to produce for a few more weeks.  It will keep its leaves and start producing again in February.  My kumquat tree is loaded with fruits.  Kumquats produce nearly year round.  The moringa tree was flowering for the first time this year when I brought it indoors  

Outdoors, fresh herbs, onions, kale and broccoli are just steps away from the back door, the portable green houses are packed with greens.  I did not bring in the rosemary this year and it is still green.  Both rosemary plants made it through last winter in the garden bed so I hope they will do the same again this year.  

Most Mediterranean herbs are perennials so you get to enjoy them practically year round.  You can also grow many herbs indoors as well like chives, oregano, rosemary, parsley, chervil, and basil.  Rosemary, basil and bay are good ones to dig up and bring indoors to guarantee survival through the winter.  Just place your potted herbs in a sunny window.  I keep my bay tree in a pot and bring into the basement with grow lights for the winter.  My bay trees is over 8 feet tall after 6 years in a pot.  I really need to repot it as I am sure it is root bound but it continues to look healthy.  
If you are using a greenhouse or row cover, your kale, celery, mustard, lettuce, chard, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, sprouting broccoli will be happy all winter.  They will not grow much until sunlight gets back to 10 hours per day in late January, but you can still harvest from them right now.  Be sure on sunny, warm days to pop the top on your covers or you will scorch your greens.  It can get 50 degrees warmer inside a greenhouse on a sunny day than the actual temperature outside.  Do check to make sure your pots in the greenhouse have enough moisture.  Open when it is warm to check, water and harvest.  I have both of mine open right now because it is above freezing and we are getting some rain.  
Cultivated dandelion in a pot
All cold crops are at their sweetest during the cold weather.  Frost brings out the sugars in cold crops.  Hardy greens like chard, kale, spinach, mustard greens, cultivated dandelion greens, pea shoots and collard greens make great salads and are tasty steamed or braised.  You can still sow seeds in December to get a head start on the spring garden.  What to plant in the December edible garden

Make sure if you have any potted veggies to put them on the ground if they are on coasters to keep them warmer during the winter.  The ideal location is in full sun and a sheltered area on the south side of the house to extend their growing time.  Placing straw bales around them or mounding mulch provides extra protection.  Moving them up against the wall on the south side does double duty-southern exposure gets the most sun and warmth and the wall radiates its warmth.  Pots left exposed on all sides will be zone colder than the ones planted in the ground.  If you are in Zone 7, be sure that plants left in pots are hardy to at least Zone 6 if you want them to come back in the spring.  If they are not, put under cover, mulch around them or bring into the garage or basement for the winter.
Extend the season with protection for plants

Veggies like your favorite tomato, pepper, eggplant, or celery that you potted and moved indoors will continue to produce indoors if provided warmth and enough sunlight.  My Chiptelin and cayenne pepper are ones I bring in every year.   We place them in the sunniest spot in the garage or basement and supplement with 4 foot fluorescent grow lights.  

Your indoor and outdoor plants will still need to be fertilized at about half the rate as during the growing season.  A liquid fertilizer every two weeks would be plenty.  I used alfalfa meal to provide nitrogen for my greens when I covered with the portable greenhouses.

Be sure to spray your edible garden beds with deer repellant, sooner rather than later.  The deer and rabbits will be getting hungry and your edible garden will look like a feast to them!  If you keep them from getting into the garden the first time, it is much easier to deter them after the fact.
Chives in front, sage and rosemary in back
In addition to the greens, onions and fresh herbs fresh from the garden, we will be eating the extras I put up over the summer and fall.  I have green beans, okra, tomatoes, pesto, winter squash, sweet peppers and hot peppers in the freezer.  Canned tomato sauce, hot peppers, pickles and pickle relish in the pantry.  I have my first storage veggie in our new cellar, Trombetto that can be eaten young as zucchini or stored over the winter as winter squash.  I have dried onions, homemade chili powder and herbs for seasoning dishes.

If you don't have much freezer space but want to grow what you can preserve without freezing, check out this blog for your garden this next year 21 no tech storage crops.

If you weren't able to put in your own garden this year or have enough to put up for the cold months, buying local is a good option.  Many farmers markets will open up again right before Christmas.  You can also look up local farms at www.localharvest.org  If you want to support your local farmer and get fresh produce come spring, buying a share from a local farmer is an excellent option.  It's called CSA (community supported agriculture).  You buy a share now and then get a weekly allotment of fresh produce when gardens start producing again in the spring.

Before I started our own edible garden, we joined a CSA.  It was great.  We got lots of super fresh produce, our weekly grocery bill was significantly reduced as our meals were planned around the vegetables, and it was an adventure getting to try new recipes with veggies we had never ate before.  
Eat well, be healthy

A CSA shows you what grows well in your area.  You can find out the varieties you like and when they come into season.  You can even save the seeds from the varieties that you want to grow in your future garden if you partner with an organic CSA that grows open pollinated and heirloom vegetables and fruits.
What do the terms GMO, natural, heirloom, organic, hybrid really mean?

To advertise as “organic” you have to be certified.  Many farmers cannot afford to do this.  Some farmers participate in the "Certified Naturally Grown" program.  This is less expensive than USDA organic, but also relies on inspections by other CNG farmers, non-CNG farmers, extension agents, master gardeners and customers instead of USDA certified agents.  If you are interested in produce grown without pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals, ask the farmer if she uses organic practices.  Go visit them to see the garden for yourself before you commit.  You can also check out reviews on line. 

Many sell out by January so don’t delay if you want to join!
Tarragon, thyme, sage, rosemary and chives
Winter is time to savor the fresh herbs from the garden along with what you have preserved, browsing for canning ideas, and planning next year's garden.  A potential Christmas meal using what is growing in the garden in December, Jazz up the Christmas feast with herbs from the garden

I have used Christmas break in the past as the time to finalize my garden plan for the spring.  I look back on my notes from last year's edible garden and this year's seed catalogs to decide what new varieties to add to my standbys.  Here is my 2022 garden reflections and plans for 2023.

Seed catalogs have started arriving and there are tons to look at on the internet that you can start ordering for your spring garden.  For tips on choosing seed catalogs to order from:   New seed catalogs are here!

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