Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Short-day onions & more...

Garlic chives!
The winter edible season has started, but not before a couple of last gasps of the fall crops.

In doing the research for "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida," I planted some garlic chives.  I'd never planted them before and was prepared to be underwhelmed, but not so.  They've grown amazingly well, they are evergreen, and we love the taste--both cooked and raw. Plus they are beautiful even after frequent harvests.

I planted some Burpee 'Green Tiger' zucchini in September to see if we could get at least some zucchinis before frost. It's an iffy proposition with the shortening days and fewer squash flowers in bloom.  Each female flower in the squash family needs to be visited 8 or 9 times by a pollinator in the one day it's in bloom. I like to give it a go, though, because some zucchinis are better than no zucchinis at all! They will all be killed in the first frost, so this is a temporary pleasure.  This green tiger ended up in a stir fry. Yummy.

I planted the sugar snap peas in September as well but they usually do better with frost where only the flowers are hit while the rest of the vine stays green. We are looking forward to these sweet treats through most of the winter.  If a really cold snap is predicted, I may throw a tarp or blanket over the tomato cages to protect them. Since they are close to the house, it's warmer there already.

Green tiger zucchini. Sugar-snap pea flower.
Getting ready to plant onions: I worked in new compost and created 3 wide rows. I left the middle row unplanted for now.
In the bed beyond this one there are wide rows of parsley, purple carrots, cabbage, romaine, and in the back, sugar snap peas growing up the tomato cages.  In the foreground are white icicle radishes.
This year instead of waiting for Home Depot to get in its onion plants, hoping that they'll have short-day onions, I searched online for them. I wrote about this in "Recipe for failure: long-day onions in Florida." 

Short-day onions are important for success here in the South because we grow our onions straight through the winter when the days are short.  So I found Dixondale Farms that specializes in onions. I bought two bunches: one was the Yellow Granex, which is the type most of the farmers around Vidalia, GA plant. Only the farmers within four counties of the town can call their sweet onions Vidalias, but the onions we grow in north Florida can be just as sweet. The second bunch was the short-day sampler with a combination of Texas 1015Y super sweets (yellow), Texas early whites, and red Creoles. With at least 60 plants in each bunch, that's a lot of onions for us, but it was only $3 more for the second bunch.

The bunches were shipped loose in their box, but seemed to withstand the rigors of shipping.  The tops were trimmed down to about 4 inches.  I planted them 4 inches apart in wide rows and lightly mulched them with pine needles & leaves.  3 days later, after a soaking rain, the plants have greened up and their leaves have already grown beyond their 4-inch trim.
Short-day sampler onion plants. After only 3 days and a rain, they've greened up.
Granex onions are planted 4 inches apart in 2 wide rows separated by a fallow row. The row next to the house is broccoli in a couple of different stages of growth--I re-seeded when some of the first crop didn't make it.

Garlic, black-seeded Simpson lettuce, Swiss-chard & dill, newly planted carrots, onion sampler, fallow row, and another onion row. Marigolds, lime basil, garlic chives, meadow garlic, and zucchini.
This shows the view down both sides of the newly expanded edible beds.  We enjoyed the lime basil for a change from the standard sweet basil. There are still some areas left open for later winter crops between the onion rows and next to the meadow garlic.  Of course, the zucchini won't last past a frost, so that area will open up soon.  The marigolds, which I'd planted extensively over the summer will also die with the first frost. This is the last patch and the butterflies visit every day. I'll save a bunch of seeds for more marigolds next year.  Our first frost usually comes in mid-December. To see the process of expanding these beds, see "Further lawn reduction, more edible garden space, and zebra longwings!"

Newly hatched turtle in the herb garden.
We found this baby turtle crawling around in the herb garden. I'm not sure whether it's a musk turtle or a mud turtle, but in any case, we gave it a ride around the house and put it down on the shoreline of the pond out front. We wished it luck as it crawled into the water.

I hope you are enjoying the wildlife in your yard this fall. And I wish you great bounty for Thanksgiving and beyond. I am thankful for you, the readers, who share our adventures in and out of the garden.

Green Gardening Matters, 
Ginny Stibolt

1 comment:

  1. Cute little musk turtle (stinkpot), Sternotherus odoratus.