The tops of these Brussels sprouts should taste pretty good. (Mary Lowther photo)

The tops of these Brussels sprouts should taste pretty good. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Blame it on the weather

The cold frame was another failure

By Mary Lowther

The problem with New Year’s resolutions is how soon they become inconvenient. I resolved to be nicer to David, for example, which greatly reduces the number of things I can complain about. There’s always the government, I suppose, but my mother brought me up to be a lady and my doctor wants me to watch my blood pressure. Fortunately I still have the weather, but I still have to watch my language.

The perfectly dreadful spring weather meant a very late start in the garden last year; I can certainly grumble about that! The interminable drought that followed didn’t help, either, which provides me with something besides myself to blame for how little my garden is producing right now.

Take the witloof chickory, for example. Granted, it was an experiment last year, re-planting the previous year’s roots in the hope they would grow bigger and make larger salad fixings when forced inside. Most of them formed extra roots that were also quite thin, and when transplanted in a bucket of sand inside (just like the book said) only one of them has sprouted a few measly leaves. My attempt to coax their greens into a third year seems to have failed, so I’ll buy another packet of seeds and start again this year with better soil and, hopefully, better weather.

The cold frame was another failure. Was it because I oriented it along a north to south bed and it isn’t fully facing the sun? Perhaps the gap between the two windows on top allowed too much winter air, or maybe I didn’t chop off the two layers of frozen snow and ice that had accumulated over two weeks in November right away. Should I have thrown a blanket over it at night to keep out the cold? Still, the lettuce inside hasn’t been eaten and isn’t completely dead. If I cover them with some Reemay inside the frame and toss a blanket over the frame at night they might recover.

My Brussels sprouts seedlings went into the garden late August at the same time as cauliflower and broccoli seedlings, and though I did harvest small cauliflower and broccoli heads, the Brussels sprouts never sprouted, although the tops look potentially edible. On the whole I’d say it was worth planting late, despite a small harvest.

The fava bean cover crop died, as did the rosemary seedlings I had coddled from cuttings taken mid-summer. I guess the cold was too much for them so I’ll just use fava beans as a summer cover crop and will have to protect new rosemary seedlings next winter.

On the other hand, field pea, turnip and kale cover crops are doing well and the carrots and a few onions are surviving, so I’m looking forward to an early harvest of these, but I’m itching to order my seeds now and get started on this season’s gardening. Besides, I’ve had enough of inside chores and need an excuse not to clean the house. If I get enough quality time in the garden it will be a lot easier for me to keep my New Year’s resolution.

If that doesn’t work David can always blame the weather.


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