Thursday, February 28, 2013

It's way too early to garden...

I was on the phone with a friend the other day when I mentioned I needed to get back to gardening. "Gardening? It's way too early to plant anything right now!" Ah, but that is not the case. One of the fantastic things we've learned in our 2 years of chickens and gardens is that vegetables grow every month of the year! Here is our garden in February:

We've got broccoli and broccoli romanesco (gorgeous green cauliflower) in the first photo, lettuces (Little Gem, Romaine, Oakleaf Red, and other varieties) in the second, and parsley and carrots in the third (plus a little cover crop for the chickens).  We also have kohlrabi, bok choy "Toy Choy", spinach, radishes, arugula, and lettuces.  Did I mention lettuces? Because lettuce grows like a weed.  I'm not sure I can ever buy it again in the grocery store.  We can't keep up the the masses of lettuce growing in our garden beds.

I've always thought of gardening as being about fresh tomatoes, zucchini, and basil.  But, wow!  There is so much more that is easy to grow.  Granted, we live in Atlanta which is Zone 7b, but gardening can happen throughout the year all over the country. There are wonderful crops like carrots, beets, and lettuces that are sweeter and better when they ripen in cool weather.  Our vegetables have to stand on their own little seed-feet, too, because we don't have a sprinkler system or regular watering method- way too much effort and expense -or I'm just too lazy. 

Gardening in the winter is definitely a learning experience. We planted many seeds like broccoli in November 2011 which was too late.  Right when the broccoli started to sprout the following spring, it bolted to seed in the warm weather.  My dreams of fresh broccoli went right to the chickens. This year, we planted the winter garden in August 2012 to gain a few more months of cool. 

Carrots are incredibly easy to grow. Stick the seeds in the ground and you're set.  We've had purple dragon, yellowstone, and royal chantenay carrots (seeds from It's a great feeling to have nothing for dinner, run out to the garden, yank a few things out of the ground, and there's you go!  Plus, the kids like helping and actually eat what they grow (most of the time- no one is eating radishes or bok choy but me).  These are fabulously flavorful carrots that you can't get at Publix or Whole Foods...

In January, we planted a second round of seeds- beets, more carrots, lettuces, and potatoes.  The lettuces turned bitter and the chickens got happy.  They cluck when I go to the garden and pluck leaves. The radishes turned to wood and the chickens were thrilled with all the delights thrown into the coop.  It's one of the complete circles that I love- throw the leaves/scraps/bitter plants to the chickens who eat them and turn them into fertilizer.  And bless my husband who hauls that "fertilizer" out of the coop!