Sunday, February 15, 2009

Winter Gardening

About a month ago I was reading an on line article from Mother Earth News, Use Cold Frames To Grow More Food, and on page 3 a section called Milk Jug Seed Starters got my attention. For one, it was an unusually sunny and warm January here on the North Coast of California, which got me motivated to get out in the garden, and second I have a ton of milk jugs waiting to be taken to the recycling center. I figured why not use a few of them to take care of my itch to get outside and garden.

Back when we took our trip to Oakland's China Town we had picked up several packets of seeds from the markets. Oriental Spinach, Chinese Kale, and Edible Amaranth. They are all suppose to be winter hardy plants, so I decided to experiment and try these seeds out along with some Romaine lettuce seeds in the milk jug seed starters and see if I could achieve some success.

So far I have been pleasantly surprised by the Chinese Kale and the Oriental Spinach. Nothing has sprouted from the Amaranth yet. Being the ignorant gardener I am, I'm not sure what I did wrong. My Romaine sprouted and was doing beautifully, but has since been demolished by some critter, most likely slugs and/or snails. I have one start left from the 20 or so that first popped up. I'll have to give that one another shot and find a safer location. Apparently the slugs and snails don't care too much for the kale or spinach. I hope I didn't just jinx myself by typing that.

Here is my one lonely lettuce sprout, that probably won't make it through the day:

And here are my successes. The Chinese Kale:

And the Oriental Spinach:

And true to the poorly translated from Chinese to English instructions, they are cold tolerant plants and have survived the cold front that has brought freezing temperatures
to our area, beautifully. I should be able to transplant them to the garden without hardening them off, since they've already been acclimated to the weather. At least that's what I'm hoping.

Hopefully I'll be writing of further successes with the Chinese Kale and Oriental Spinach, and that I finally figured out how to get the amaranth to sprout. Oh yeah, and whether I've succeeded in saving any new lettuce sprouts from the slugs and snails. Those evil little slime makers!

Well, off to look up some recipes for Chinese Kale and Oriental Spinach, and some psychological tricks to get my kids to eat them.
Happy Gardening!


Cheri Watt said...

Wow! Nice job on getting the starts going. Good luck to your lonely little lettuce plant! I love the idea of the milk jugs. Did you put them outside or in a greenhouse? I am excited to do some gardening this year, too! I have started getting the greenhouse ready, but little Erin doesn't give me much time for it! Take care and keep up the gardening!

Sinclair said...

Yay! I don't have milk jugs, as we try to only get ours in glass, but I love to read Mother Earth News, and those little plants of yours are very inspiring!

Pelageya said...

What a good idea! I need to try it. Thanks for sharing!