Thursday, February 6, 2014

Garden's Bounty in Winter

One would think that with all the sub-freezing temperatures we've been having lately nothing would be growing in an East Texas garden.  Quite the contrary is true.  My broccoli plants are making lots of little broccoli heads, the strawberry plants that went into the ground in October are busy beneath the soil surface putting down a good root structure in preparation for spring fruit.  The garlic plants are also working beneath the soil surface to form nice large heads which will be ready to pull up in mid-late May.  

Carrots!  Carrots are a year 'round crop in my garden.  The carrot seeds I planted in fall are maturing and we've been enjoying fresh carrots for about 6 weeks now, which will continue into the spring (or earlier if I pull them all up before then).  It is such a treat to go out on a cold day and pull up some fresh carrots to roast for dinner.  And there is nothing like the aroma of rich, loamy dirt combined with a freshly-pulled sweet carrot.  

These were pulled on February 1st.  Aren't they beauties?

I hate to waste the carrot tops.  A year or so ago I decided to chop some up and throw in a vegetable soup I was making.  They added a nice texture and subtle taste... kind of like parsley.  Since then I've used them in pasta and potato salads, and green salads as well.  I would think that vibrant green color would provide some good nutrients.

NOW is the time to plant carrots for a spring/summer crop.  And they are so easy, you really don't even have to plant the seeds... just sprinkle them on the soil surface is all that's necessary.  Keep the soil moist until seedlings emerge, then thin a couple of times before you start pulling up small, baby carrots.  They will continue to grow and get larger for a couple of months, just continue to pull up any that are crowded together to give room for growth.  

I like to plant my spring/summer carrot crop in the same beds that tomatoes will go in.  The carrots will get a 6-8 week head start before small tomato plants go in the ground.  Once the tomato plants get larger they do a good job of keeping the carrots cooler and shaded during the hot summer months... a great way to extend your carrot crop into the fall, then it's time to plant again for a winter crop.  

I have a nice selection of heirloom carrot varieties.   Upcoming Seed Saturdays are February 8th and 22nd. More info on Seed Saturdays can be found here.  

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