Friday, March 13, 2015

Spring Spinach

Today was warm, and it began to rain in the evening.  After work, I still had the itch to get in the dirt, so I uncovered our two overwintered beds and seeded some stuff, til dark in the old raincoat.  Yep, I was midnight gardening again.

Pigeon spinach and Clodia endive seeded last fall and now about 3" tall in March
Spinach is great because you can seed it late in the fall, even in October or early November, and as long as it germinates and gets a little growth on it (an inch is fine), it will overwinter with row cover and burst into production in March for several cuttings of fresh spinach salad.  There are many great varieties of spinach to try.  I love the large, crinkly, leaves of the old variety Bloomsdale Longstanding for spring sowings, but I usually go with an organic hybrid for overwintering, like Pigeon or Corvair offered by High Mowing Seeds.   Germination can sometimes be a pain with spinach.  It just won't germinate in warm weather, and I find fall sowings have better germination than late spring sowings.

I was pleased the the overwintered spinach and endive is about 3" tall...salad mix is soon in our future.  I removed the bit of straw mulch on the spinach (no straw in my salad please!) and added a few seedlings of arugula and lettuce mix I had on hand.  The rest of the bed had been planted with arugula, kale, cilantro and parsley, which we harvested into the winter, but by January the intense cold had killed them outright.  In the empty space, I seeded a few rows of Franchi Seeds, which I purchased at the PASA conference in February.  I planted a little broccoli raab, a chicory mix, some sylvetta arugula and a little patch of oats to harvest for chicken greens.  Finally, I put in two rows of Green Arrow shelling peas in the other overwintered bed.

Greens (before I raked out the straw and filled in any holes with lettuce and arugula)

I have experimented with overwintering several different veggies, and I've had the best luck with two things:  leeks and spinach.  If you transplant leeks into the garden in July or even August, they will grow and then overwinter very well, even with just a light mulch.  Straw mulch is good.  You can pull them whenever the ground isn't frozen.  I harvested the last of my overwintered leeks today, and they were just fine.  A bit mushy on top but the white shaft is fine.  The best overwintering varieties for me are Bandit, Bleu de Solaize, Tadorna, and Pandora.  Bandit is the hardiest.  I find the leeks do best out in the open, just mulched, no low tunnel.

Uncovered hoop with winter killed arugula and parsley and spinach that is alive and kickin'

What to do when it is raining and you want to seed some rows?  Put your seed in a metal tin, and bring a hand towel!

Here's to the impending spring!

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