The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Delay fall greens harvest for a winter crop

Curly mustardNow that the weather has finally turned autumnal, the few fall crops I managed to germinate are growing very quickly.  I don't like leaving beds empty in the summer, and didn't want to waste the warmest part of the garden on cover crops, so as other fall crops failed to come up, I just kept throwing curly mustard seed onto bed after bed.  On some beds, I had to throw the mustard seed down two times to get good coverage, but now our winter garden is bright green and full of delicious leaves, ones that I don't plan to eat yet.

In the past, I've started eating my fall greens as soon as the plants got big enough, and they lasted well into the autumn.  However, last year I was stunned to be served fresh greens in the dead of winter at a friend's house, and he told me his trick.  He lets the plants put out a lot of growth in the fall, then starts to eat the greens in the winter.  Although the plants don't have enough sunlight to produce new growth in the winter, under a row cover they do manage to hold onto the green leaves they made in the fall (now turned sweet from cold weather.)  I would far rather eat from my summer garden now and save our fall greens to be a winter delicacy, so I'm following suit.

Granted, mustard isn't the most winter-hardy green, so I might be disappointed.  Kale is a more dependable winter crop here, but kale was one of the autumn plants that barely germinated in the summer heat, and I didn't have spare seeds on hand to replant.  Here's hoping the mustard is hardy enough to make my experiment succeed.

Our homemade chicken waterer never spills or fills with poop.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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