winter greens

Winter Gardens and goings on!

By: Robert Patrick

Lakeside RV Retreat @ Indian Creek Farm

Winter Gardens and goings on!

Here in east Texas on the banks of Lake Livingston winter has arrived. The curtain between crops has come down and is closing out a number of my permaculture crops. As the sun was rising I was getting my first look at which crops are taking damage from my first frost of the fall of 2013. Most of the online weather stations are not showing freezing temps, but then the taro and sweet potatoes are singing a different tune.

The taro is a major food crop in many countries, but most of those countries are in a warmer climate. I am experimenting to find out how well the taro will grow here in east Texas. FYI- growth over the warmer months has been great, large green tops and Hugh leaves, lots of pups, 6, 8, even 10 on some of the plants. With the frost event the large green tops are looking like they are about to turn to mush, this self shedding of the greenery is a good thing, the corms left in the ground will now be easier to harvest and clean. I’ll be leaving a number of the corms in the ground over the winter to see how well they store in the ground.

Should the corms be viable for consumption come spring, it will be a very good thing and confirm to me the value (in caloric terms) of keeping taro as a major part of the permaculture system.

An update to one of the many experiments I am performing, the King Stropharia mushroom beds I have created produced the first fruit this past month, mind you it was only one mushroom, but then the temperature was right at the edge of being to cool for them to fruit and as the taro grew it took away the sunshine needed to warm the ground properly for this excellent mushroom to fruit. The new spawn I inoculated into several of the garden beds is also growing and much better than the first inoculations I did back in the summer months. I do believe this experiment has been a success and come next spring and summer I should be collecting 100’s of lbs of shrooms here at the farm, man don’t you love it when a plan comes together.

Over these past few weeks I have been busting butt getting a portion of the gardens ready for planting. It was a few weeks back we had an almost torrential rain, 7 inches here at the farm. I had planted 3 rows just a day prior and have been watching for signs of the seeds sprouting, it seems they got hammered. I see a few sprouts here and there, but nothing like it should be, I’ll selectively be replanting this weekend and hope they can get a good start even in this cooler weather.

Now, if you know me, 3 rows just ain’t enough, after that major rain I got busy and cleared out the spring and summer area where I had planted the 140 tomato plants, it’s about 60ft x 30ft and I got 6 nice rows laid in and planted just before that nice ½ in rain two weeks back. I put in a new to me type of kale (Siberian Kale), it is supposed to be blue hued and man did it sprout, thousands of sprouts are rocking there way out of the ground, can’t wait to see this plant, I grow Russian Red kale and curly kale, so this should be a winner as well. I also put in Detroit red beets, early jersey cabbage, Imperator carrots, Swish Chard and a combo row of spinach, collards and turnips. If all of them sprout well, I’ll be in high cotton as they say.

Other good edibles I put in this month were garlic, it’s sprouted and doing well, multiplying onions were pulled and separated and replanted and have taken well. I started the winter garden about 45 days back, maybe 60. I have nice stands of kale and turnip greens, I’ll need to thin the turnips ASAP as I planted them in the broadcast method and they are too thick to produce the roots/tuber, I love me some turnips. Everything needs to be thinned, but then that’s a good thing.

With the cold weather setting in or at least making its appearance, I’ll be harvesting my first crop of sugar cane. Now then most of this cane will be replanted and that will happen in the next few weeks. I put in 5 starts this year and all of them took, they were not full stalks, just cuttings mind you, but each has produced between 5 and 14 stalks each and they are 8 to 10 feet tall, I’ll get a few hundred cutting if I go that direction or I might just plant the stalks whole. At any rate, I’ll have hundreds of stalks next year and the ability to sell.

One of the things I like about winter gardens is the lack of grass pulling, god knows I have pulled my share of grass and I can grow some grass. I had a magnificent crop this year, some of it almost out grew my veggies…lol I’ll be working on getting my grass growing under control, I had the opportunity to obtain a number of bales of bad hay, it had gotten wet and started molding and the cows would not eat it, so its become part of the garden, I rolled them out on top of the ground and have been smothering some nasty grass, hopefully to death. At any rate, I’ll only expose the ground where I would put in rows and that should keep the grass from growing in the walk/harvesting rows in between.

Some folks are confused by my use of the term permaculture and heck I can’t blame them…lol Sometimes I can’t adequately describe it myself. It encompasses so much I am not sure I will ever get enough of the design concepts built into my farm to really call my place a permaculture center, but I am trying and I will continue to try until I am successful. Let’s just put the definition here for future reference. “Permaculture is a branch of ecological design, ecological engineering, and environmental design that develops sustainable architecture and self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.” But then it is much more than this, it also incorporates ecological design systems for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor. It teaches us how build natural homes, grow our own food, restore diminished landscapes and ecosystems, catch rainwater, build communities and much more. So it’s a big thing and hard to describe or get the whole gist in an initial conversation.

Something that I consider as part of this is hugelkultur and I built my first large hugel bed this past month. I do hope that those who have interest do take the time to research these subjects I am covering as they can be quite beneficial to humanity as a whole and will directly benefit those who begin to practice these techniques.

More Great news, I’ll be erecting a green house this winter and be ready for getting starts started come January and February. I hope to use the green house for more than just my spring plant starts. Plans are being laid, schemes are hatching in my mind for a future business, but then I am always working on creating something, building something or trying to figure out how to do something. I may be needing some help around here come next year if all goes as planned and will be looking for a few good gardeners/nurserymen/women to join in a project. So keep your eyes peeled to these pages in the coming months. I’ll lay out the plan and keep you folks advised.

Robert Patrick

Master Gardener – Master Naturalist – Wild crafter (Medicinals & Edibles)

Amateur Mycologist – Custom Furnishings