The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Monday, February 2, 2015

Too Cold and Too Bold in Gardening?

Use the Force - of Creation, Luke.


One reader is intrigued with my early planting of peas and sunflowers. Today we woke up to 15 degree temps here in NW Arkansas. Many times in January I was outside in a short-sleeved shirt, and I was used to getting the newspaper for our neighbor without the benefit of shoes. Dressing up means - wear shoes, clean sweats.

That January planting took place when we pulled back mulch from last fall and planted peas, then sunflowers along the back fence. That is easy when the mulch is placed in the fall. The ground stays soft, especially if lawn and weeds have been rotted by the covering. I learned that when I built a pine branch shelter for animals before the Minnesota winter. I did not see any wildlife there, but the area under the branched composted and became very soft for turning over.

The peas will do fine at 15 degrees. They can be planted in the fall, though many resist that because the seed is vulnerable to fungi and animals the whole time.

Spinach is easily started in the fall and continued in very early spring, since it likes cold (like peas) and attracts bugs, which dislike the cold.

This should not shock people, but city folk are often unaware of how much winter wheat is grown. Winter wheat is also planted in the late autumn and very productive from its enjoyment of spring rains.

Vigorous plants may host insects, but they shake off the damage by growing so fast. Seedlings attacked by insects can be seriously weakened, but beneficial insects, birds, and soil health will mitigate that problem.

Forget grocery store carrots, which are pretty good.
Carrots right out of the ground are delicious, sweet, and nutritious,
from baby seedlings - so cute - to full grown and dug up from the snow.
They are two-year plants, so they are not old and useless for eating until the second year.
Then they flower like their cousins - Queen Ann's Lace.

Next on my list is a second planting of peas, because they will grow before anything can. After that, a row of carrots will be planted. Carrots can be planted weeks before the last frost. Carrots can be kept in the ground into the winter, to sweeten them. In Midland I was never tempted to dig for carrots in the snow, but people think that is a great little adventure. I did grow kale and that can be harvested green from under the snow.

Let's think about that. Kale is so tough, it is still green under the snow. The texture has to be close to rubber, maybe tougher - and that is correct. But it is nutritious, like everything in the cabbage or crucifer family (crucifer for the flower - aka cole and brassica plants). The family is cold tolerant, even cold loving. Brussels sprouts, loved by gourmands like me, hated by city slickers, get better with a frost.


The taxonomy of common cruciferous vegetables
common namegenusspecific epithetCultivar group
HorseradishArmoraciarusticana
Land cressBarbareaverna
Ethiopian mustardBrassicacarinata
KaleBrassicaoleraceaAcephala group
collard greensBrassicaoleraceaAcephala Group
Chinese broccoli (gai-lan)BrassicaoleraceaAlboglabra Group
CabbageBrassicaoleraceaCapitata Group
Savoy cabbageBrassicaoleraceaSavoy Cabbage Group
Brussels sproutsBrassicaoleraceaGemmifera Group
KohlrabiBrassicaoleraceaGongylodes Group
BroccoliBrassicaoleraceaItalica Group
BroccoflowerBrassicaoleraceaItalica Group × Botrytis Group
Broccoli romanescoBrassicaoleraceaBotrytis Group / Italica Group
CauliflowerBrassicaoleraceaBotrytis Group
wild broccoliBrassicaoleraceaOleracea Group
bok choyBrassicarapachinensis
KomatsunaBrassicarapapervidis or komatsuna
MizunaBrassicarapanipposinica
Rapini (broccoli rabe)Brassicarapaparachinensis
Flowering cabbageBrassicarapaparachinensis
Chinese cabbagenapa cabbageBrassicarapapekinensis
Turnip root; greensBrassicaraparapifera
Rutabaga (swede)Brassicanapusnapobrassica
Siberian kaleBrassicanapuspabularia
Canola/rapeseedBrassicarapa/napusoleifera
Wrapped heart mustard cabbageBrassicajuncearugosa
Mustard seeds, brown; greensBrassicajuncea




Another reader is all set to plant, but her garden is under a foot of snow. We had two inches of snow predicted - accumulation! Oh no! I saw some flakes falling this morning, but not enough to make the car windshield white. Frost on the windshield has been a no-show all winter, with a few exceptions.

I am looking for bulbs to poke through the soil now, but the cold nights of February may slow that down quite a bit. We are usually a month ahead of the flowers in Midland, Michigan, where we once had six inches of snow fall in May.


I believe n God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth.