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Some interesting observations from a beginner gardener

 
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Made a few interesting observations as a beginner gardener last year.

1) The first frost date came about 1 month late here in Oklahoma.  Instead of Nov 3 it was Nov 30.  (Climate chnage?)

2) I just made guacamole this morning on January 19 2021, with cilantro that was planted back in the summer. Wow it sure is winter hearty!  It tastes good too not bitter.

3)All my kale plants are thriving even after many days over winter in the 20's (F).   What would happen if I just let them stay there, would they be good for another year? Or do I need to pull them at some point and plant new seed?

 
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Yay for first year gardeners!! Your accumulation of knowledge has already begun!

1) frost dates are predictions, and as a weather prediction can be pretty unreliable. That said, everyone I know lately all over the place has been having increasingly extreme weather. Hot weather is hotter than usual, cold is colder, storms are stronger, droughts are longer, etc. I know in my zone we had a 6 month drought (first time in 100 years, supposedly) and now it`s been raining crazy volumes for weeks. It is midsummer here and I've planted okra at least five times and they simply refused to grow until the last wave-- by now we should be drowning in okra but my plants literally have two leaves and are ankle-high. The only safe assumption is that things will stay weird, I think. I know every year I like to take notes about what did well and what had trouble, and then look at the long-term forecast to decide what to plant. Even general phenomena like El Niño (or here this year, La Niña bringing us all this rain-- I saw that it was predicted and I planted mildew-prone stuff early in the season so I could rip it out early if it got moldy, which it did). Stay flexible!

2) Cilantro can go for a good long time if it doesn't bolt. Enjoy it while you can!! (even bolted it can be good, the flavor is a bit different but...needs must sometimes!)

3) My kale will overwinter, I can usually get a good year and a half out of them (I'm in 9b, rare frosts, never daytime frost). They prefer the cooler weather and will usually bolt or just stall after too long and then I start more. I think in the winter up there they won't put out new leaves in the cold season, so people generally just keep them over the winter for easy storage. See what happens!
 
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Made a few interesting observations as a beginner gardener last year.

1) The first frost date came about 1 month late here in Oklahoma.  Instead of Nov 3 it was Nov 30.  (Climate chnage?)

2) I just made guacamole this morning on January 19 2021, with cilantro that was planted back in the summer. Wow it sure is winter hearty!  It tastes good too not bitter.

3)All my kale plants are thriving even after many days over winter in the 20's (F).   What would happen if I just let them stay there, would they be good for another year? Or do I need to pull them at some point and plant new seed?



Yay for documenting your observations! I try to keep a garden planner with such info, so I can compare/diary what works from year to year.

1. Our first frost (middle Georgia) was earlier than usual. I distinctly remember studying NOAA's predictions about my area's weather. They said "warmer and drier." Boy, were they WRONG! We've had more frost damage than I can remember in several years.

2. I haven't grown cilantro in the winter, but my parsley is doing great! Thanks for the tip on growing winter cilantro. We love cilantro here!

3. Kale is very frost hardy. I've noticed it gets sweeter after a frost. (Science-y nerd fact: The plants send sugar into the leaf cells during cold weather. It's a self-preservation characteristic. Sugar water has a lower freezing point than plain water, so sending sugar up the leaves helps them to survive, but also makes them taste better to us. Bonus!)

You can leave your kale where it is if you don't have that space planned for a different crop. Be advised though, kale is a biennial. It will send up flowers and make seeds in the Spring. Great for learning about seed saving, as long as you don't also let any other plant with cross-pollinating potential (think Brassica family) blossom at the same time.
 
Jennifer Lowery
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Thanks for all the great replies and info.  Another observation I made, is that although the growth speed of the Kale has slowed down significantly, I don't seem to have the bug/worm problem in the winter like I did in the summer and fall Leaves aren't full of holes! Which is nice.  I have enough plants to pick here and there and it'll probably grow fast enough for me through the winter.  I have like 6 different plants of varying variety.  Time to start cooking some dishes with kale in it.  I like to mince a bunch , throw in a little minced onion, and fry it up a bit in butter and salt.. then mix in some scrambled eggs and make a fritatta, topped with cheese.
 
Jennifer Lowery
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I'm in Zone 7A.  It was August 20 I planted two square feet of Cilantro seed.  I scattered it and covered it with 1/4" or so of soil.  It never bolted nor died off.  I just had it over my mexican dish last night. It tasted very sweet and flavorful.  I've had this cilantro snowed on, bunch of weather in the low 20's.  Still survived.  I don't know if it would survive 0 degree weather, I don't think we had htat cold of a day here yet.  Heck I left the snow on it for like 4 days lol.  The parsely is still going too.

I am so glad I have a journal because now I'll just plant it again on August 20th this year.  I also had planted it in early spring and it grew well but bolted very fast, within a month or two after maturing.

I planted the cilantro seed halves: https://www.trueleafmarket.com/products/cilantro-seeds-leisure-splits?variant=18650807566451
 
Jennifer Lowery
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Lol my Kale has been covered with ice, then snow for almost 2 weeks now.  I went outside and broke of a frozen piece of leaf.  It was so delicious!  I am gonna laugh if it survives this.  It got as cold a -7F here in Oklahoma (Zone 7A).  There is still snow over it!
 
Jennifer Lowery
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Crazy business.. The snow/ice has finally melted.  The kale, parsley and cilantro were covered in ice and snow for 2 weeks!  It was very cold with some nights getting as low as -7F.  

They are thriving... wow..  and they all taste good.  (I did have to trim off pieces that didn't survive the weather but mostly they look good.. like they will easily make it through to the spring.)  They are all sweet, especially the kale as mentioned in the science above.

So therefore I have concluded Kale is indestructible in the harshest of winters!  

In the future, I am going to make sure I have a full 4 x 4 foot bed of kale growin in the fall to last me through all of winter.   I'll make sure to have the cilantro and parsley as well. Lots of parsley, I love Tobouleh. (I make it with riced cauliflower instead of bulgar wheat since I eat low carb).
 
Jennifer Lowery
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Wow I just chcked up on some other brassica, namely my arugula.  It survived too!  And it tastes so sweet and nutty . Not bitter.  So like all brassicas I conclude are indestructible in the winter  

I love arugula in a salad.  I suppose I should grow  a variety of lettuce over the winter.. I wonder if it will hold up to such extremes.  I suppose I'd need to build a cold frame for it, to go over my 4 x 4 foot raised beds.
 
Tereza Okava
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Yay for survivors!
Kale often gets nice and sweet after a frost. Arugula does really well in the winter, as do most brassicas. Lettuce will lose its structure at even the threat of a frost, but the brassicas are often more resistant- and even if they look pretty crummy, they might perk up when the weather turns and they get a bit of water.

Parsley, collards, cilantro, kale, arugula, edible chrysanthemum and romaine lettuce (which I think is actually a brassica, has more nutrition and does better in the cold) are my winter crops-- they bolt way too fast. Plus less pest pressure when it's cold.
 
Jennifer Lowery
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Thanks for the reply Tereza.  I'll try the Romaine Lettuce this year in the winter in a cold frame.

I just picked some very tasty kale from a couple different plants (grew like 5 varieties of it).. chopped it up and made a frittata.  Was so delicious.  I fried it so it charred a bit for some interesting flavor before adding the egg.

Amazing that I sowed these seeds indoors in summer last year and they survived 2 weeks under frost and snow with -7F weather!  

As you say there is no pest problem with the brassicas in the winter.  They got eaten bad by caterpillars in the fall.  I suppose I should use some thuricide on them if that's really okay for the garden health and human health.
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Gardening can be such an adventure.  It's fun to figure out what works for you. I can plan peas in August and get a fall crop, then they wait patiently, and I will get another crop in the very early spring.  I live in zone 9 b, and we don't get the cold weather like you, but peas can handle some frost, maybe if you cover it. It won't produce all winter, but you may get a jump on spring..  Anyway, great job. Nothing better than growing and eating your own food.  Happy gardening.
 
Jennifer Lowery
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THe Winter Survors
Kales, A few cilantro, Chives.   The arugula kinda died.  One kale plant died as wlel.

Hard to believe these kales were in -7F below weather, first covered by thick frost, then snow for 10 days.. no protection, no plastic or cold frame.  THey had no daylight for like 10 days ... crazy right?


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The last winters were quite mild here, but this winter had lots of snow and cold weather. So only one of my purple sprouting broccolis looks good. The other three look quite sad.

The chards are quite withered as well.
Most of the pointy endives look good and I can still harvest (https://deaflora.de/Shop/Endivien-und-Chicor-e/Zuckerhutsalat--Samen-.html), same with wintercress and lambs lettuce.
Chives freeze back to the ground here and are only sprouting timidly again.

Well, I am happy for every green leaf I can harvest in the garden right now!
 
Jennifer Lowery
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Glad some stuff survived for you too.  I am gonna try endives this year -- they are great for roasting, frying , grilling right?

Looks like I lied about the arugula!  3 plants survived and I just tasted it a bit of it and it was good    Survived all winter.. 10 days under ice and snow in -7F weather.

Yeah these brassicas are mostly indestructible!  I wonder how broccoli and cabbage would fair over the witner, say if I started htem indoors and transplanted outdoors at the right time.. they are brassicas too.  Maybe I could have a winter long supply of brocc and cabbage? I eat those all the time!  And I usually have so many empty garden beds throughout the winter.



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Jennifer Lowery
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I'd love to have NAPA cabbage and Leeks all winter long if possible somehow.. like these kale, arugula, cilantro and chives have survived.  I love kimchi and NAPA cabbages are expensive alogn with leeks.  I could spray them in the fall with thuricide every so often.. the catepillars really chew up my brassicas.. white butterflis/moths flying around all summer and fall.
 
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Jennifer I am delighted that you had kales survive that amazing cold snap.  Here in central Oklahoma we got down to -13F and it looks like my old kale plants that sailed through up to three previous winters may indeed be dead as heck.  Chives are fine but they used to survive -70F temps when I lived in Alaska, so I expected that.  I had some supermarket green onions that were four feet tall (two or more years old) that appear to have been frozen to a useless pulp.  Some robust parsley plants I had got utterly destroyed by the -13F, but I expected that.  I've had really good luck most years with all kinds of winter greens, but we didn't get any snow until about ten hours before the temps dropped below zero, and we never got more than a couple of inches.  I think a foot of snow on top as a blanket would saved more of my typically winter-hardy greens.
 
Jennifer Lowery
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Dan Boone wrote:Jennifer I am delighted that you had kales survive that amazing cold snap.  Here in central Oklahoma we got down to -13F and it looks like my old kale plants that sailed through up to three previous winters may indeed be dead as heck.  Chives are fine but they used to survive -70F temps when I lived in Alaska, so I expected that.  I had some supermarket green onions that were four feet tall (two or more years old) that appear to have been frozen to a useless pulp.  Some robust parsley plants I had got utterly destroyed by the -13F, but I expected that.  I've had really good luck most years with all kinds of winter greens, but we didn't get any snow until about ten hours before the temps dropped below zero, and we never got more than a couple of inches.  I think a foot of snow on top as a blanket would saved more of my typically winter-hardy greens.



Hey Dan, cool (no pun intended) to see another Oklahoma gardener on here :)

Dang two year old green onions :)  I wonder what they taste like after 2 years in the ground -- living of course.  Yeah my parsley didn't make it either.   Ah it makes sense why my plants survived the -7F then.. with that blanket of snow on them.  

So the same kale plants survived for several years outside wow.  Did they produce flowers for you the 2nd spring? If so about when?  As long as I keep the bolts trimmed, how does the kale taste? Is it bitter like other plants?   Just wondering if I even need to plant these new kale seedlings (six varieties) which are growin' inside right now :)  Would lettuce survive the winter here in Oklhaoma normally without a cold frame?  Just wondering if I really need to both building a cold frame.
 
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Jennifer Lowery wrote:
Dang two year old green onions :)  I wonder what they taste like after 2 years in the ground -- living of course.



As they get larger than thumb size, they begin to toughen up, and they get a little bit "juicy" in that they weep a sticky fluid (very oniony, but also a bit slimy) when you cut them.  I usually only cut the most upper parts to use like normal green onions, but the flavor is fine.  They also develop a cylindrical bulb about as thick as a "C" battery and 4-6" long which can be used like any other white onion, although the layers are very thin so it's not really "crunchy" eaten raw.  For cooking it's indistinguishable.   What I often do is cut the tips "as needed" for green onions year around and then when I harvest a whole plant, I save the best part of the bulb for use like white onions and put the entire rest of the plant in my vegetable-broth stockpot.  An 8 quart pressure cooker full of these makes a very nice onion broth! Which I use right away or pressure-can in quart jars for storage.


Jennifer Lowery wrote:So the same kale plants survived for several years outside wow.  Did they produce flowers for you the 2nd spring? If so about when?  As long as I keep the bolts trimmed, how does the kale taste? Is it bitter like other plants?   Just wondering if I even need to plant these new kale seedlings (six varieties) which are growin' inside right now :)  Would lettuce survive the winter here in Oklhaoma normally without a cold frame?  Just wondering if I really need to both building a cold frame.



Every kale plant is an individual in my experience.  I usually plant about six plants every year (more this year) of which only one or two prove hardy enough to survive unprotected through a winter where I am.  Sometimes I help them along with glass cloches (upturned fishbowls and the like) the first winter.  Second season, some of them flower (I don't usually pay attention to when).  Sometimes I let them go fully to seed, in which case, those plants are done.  Sometimes I pluck the flower shoots off when they first appear, and maybe a second time a few weeks later; this will persuade some plants to stop flowering and give me another full season.  This is the first time one of those second-season survivors hasn't made it through subsequent winters. The survivors seem essentially perennial, rarely flower, and I don't know how long they might last because this winter seems to have killed the eldest, which was four or five years old.  I just went out and took an inventory of all my old kale plants; most have black stems starting to turn mushy, but maybe two look like they might still be alive.  If they put on new growth, I am going to try my damnedest to get seed out of them this summer for my new line of "Oklahoma Unkillable".

All kale basically tastes like grass to me; I grow it because it's a survivor in my garden and because I like to have a few leaves available for mixing into larger salads, soups, and so forth for its nutrition.  On the rare occasion when I've really got a ton of good fresh kale that the bugs haven't laid eggs on, I usually make flavored kale chips in the dehydrator, which leaves me with a crunchy snack that doesn't taste like kale if I've done my spice/flavoring job correctly.  So I don't have useful flavor notes.

I haven't played with cold frames under Oklahoma conditions, so I can't comment usefully.  As for lettuce, I rarely grow it, and only in the spring; except for the fastest leaf lettuces I've never found anything that doesn't bolt in our warm weather.  There are a variety of timing windows spring and fall where various lettuces ought to work, but after many attempts I never seem to hit any of them usefully and to me lettuce is a low-value crop that doesn't justify finicky effort beyond my various failed experiments.  To be fair and honest, though, I'm a terrible gardener, and my planting experiments are mostly aimed at finding stuff (like the ancient green onions) that just thrives and survives despite my inconsistency and neglect.
 
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My grotty industrial style kale from the garden centre is in its 3rd year. It will no doubt seed this year but I'll be sowing more kale for sure.
Congratutlations on your obsevrations and questions. Experiment with everything, you'll see what works and won't be able to predict weather much.
Weather used to be variable and unpredictable, now it's more extreme.
 
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I was just admiring how beautiful the kale plants are looking after a couple weeks of sun, (after surviving -7F weather) ... growing fast.. nice big leaves. How big and beautiful they get when there are no white moths flying about them laying eggs. It was this morning I last admired them.

Guess what, I just looked out the window and see 3 white moths all over them, landing on the leaves doing their nasty business.  I guess they admire them too.. SIGH.

I don't know what to do.. I know if a few weeks the leaves will be full of holes.  

Should I spray thuricide on them once a week?
 
Jennifer Lowery
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I see the arugula that survived the harsh -7F winter, just started bolting int he last couple days.  I pulled it and gonna make a salad with t.  I started some arugula indoors a few weeks back so transplanted it today. Gonna direct sow some wild variety as well to taste it.  Haven't grown wild yet.
 
Sonya Noum
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Jennifer Lowery wrote:I was just admiring how beautiful the kale plants are looking after a couple weeks of sun, (after surviving -7F weather) ... growing fast.. nice big leaves. How big and beautiful they get when there are no white moths flying about them laying eggs. It was this morning I last admired them.

Guess what, I just looked out the window and see 3 white moths all over them, landing on the leaves doing their nasty business.  I guess they admire them too.. SIGH.

I don't know what to do.. I know if a few weeks the leaves will be full of holes.  

Should I spray thuricide on them once a week?




Plant more choice food for the whites, more food for you, and plants to attract the moths' predators. After that, do what you have to to obtain enough of a yeild for you ....
 
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Ugh, cabbage butterflies, my NEMESIS! I have some BT in my cart at Johnny's, but it'll be next year before I can get it and bring it back here. So I examine the undersides of leaves and pull off or squish any patches of yellow eggs. The cabbage worms here are HAIRY and very sinister looking (same genus, different species from your soft green ones), so if I miss a patch and they hatch on a brassica, I often just give up, whack the plant off with a shovel, and cart it away (with a ten foot pole) to dry in the desert or drown in a canal. Ugh! That's why arugula etc in my winter greenhouse are generally better -- not as many cabbage butterflies in winter! I'll squish and hose down aphids any day over those nasty sinister hairy caterpillars!

And leaving plants in the area to 'attract' the cabbage butterflies doesn't help, it makes things worse in my opinion. Those little bastards breed a couple of times a season. I can go around my own garden and try to remove all the egg patches, just about. But I can't do that for all the wild brassicas in the area, so they just function as hatcheries and really increase the population in the area. Last summer I tried to weed the wild brassicas all out in the edges of my garden, but I'm not sure I got 'em all. Nobody seems to eat the worms here -- they are covered with stiff hairs, and supposedly they are incredibly mustardy bitter/spicy -- from eating nothing but brassicas. Ugh!!!
 
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What if say every 5 days or so I wash off each of the brassica leaves with some water from teh hose.. with a little pressure.. Will it wash away all the eggs? If the eggs land in the soil do they make their way back to the plant?  Thinking I might just BT these every so often.  I really like how lovely they look right now undisturbed... they are growing so fast now. I can't keep up eating from them.. only 5 plants.  I ate some curled kale yesterday.. fried it up in some butter and lemon juice.. tasted like broccoli as far as I am concerned.. really sweet.
 
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You might try planting marigolds and nasturtiums amongst your veggies, they are supposed to be a good deterrent .  A little dish soap and water in a spray bottle may work better than just water.  The problem with this is it kills the good as well as the bad bugs. Some people use duct tape to get the eggs from under the leaf. Then put them in soapy water.
I hate to tempt fate, but I have never had a bad infestation that lasted more than a week or so.  I may have just been lucky, but I think it has something to do with lots of diversity.  Each bed has several different veggies, and several different eatable flowers, and also herbs.  It gives me the most bang for my buck.  I think it's a combination of confusing the bad bugs,  encouraging things that eat the bugs, and sometimes they are trap plans.  Last year my calendula was loaded with aphids, and I thought oh no hear we go.  I didn't do anything.  A week or so later no more aphids, and they didn't spread to any of the veggies.  I have Bt and neem oil from times I noticed a bug problem, and worried it would get out of hand, but they are still unopened.  So far nature has balanced itself out if I gave it a chance.  
Good luck to you. I hope you find a solution that isn't to much work, and does the job.
 
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Hello Okies! I have two thoughts about this - 1. row covers to keep the moths off of your brassicas; 2. By allowing your kale to grow year-round you are providing the moths with a year-round source of food. Perhaps by growing kale only say in the fall when the moths have already come and gone you can get a decent crop. Just a thought.
 
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