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What do grow during a "little ice age"?  RSS feed

 
Paulo Bessa
pollinator
Posts: 356
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
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Hi, here in Iceland, people could call probably this summer "the year without summer". Yesterday we had some ice pellets falling, and these last days have been having some frost during the night. But overall its not only the cold but the lack of sunlight that is creating problems.

Its quite cold for this time of year. Not only the warm sunny weather has not arrive yet (after the spring was severe cold) but these last days were just a few degrees above freezing and very rainy. The days are just around 5-7 ºC or 40-45 ºF. And with near-frosty weather, expectations are not that great, because the growing season finishes in 1.5 months.

If this continues, and forecast models predict it will, then I do not know if my garden is going to produce anything. So I must plan already for next year, for even more cold reliant varieties and crops.

I was lucky enough to grow grain first indoors and transplant it afterwards (and same with potatoes), to prevent the crop failure. Now, in a sheltered spot the potatoes are growing nicely (its a local variety anyways) and barley, rye and oats seem near to head. However, I observe the following things. If someone knows of varieties adapted to cold climate and of short stalks please let me know (Icelandic climate can be windy and this year has been quite windy and then grain crops can collapse during a storm).

I am lucky to have broad beans and some varieties of peas near cropping. Most other annual vegetables are near their total failure this year, however due to my perennial investments, I will probably have an harvest, thanks to chives, multiplier onions, siberian kale, etc... I need to find some roots to grow (carrots and beets will probably fail this year), swedes seem to be the easiest ones to adapt to cold weather, they seem that they will provide a good harvest this autumn, but they are annual, so I would love to have some perennials, so far I only have scorzonera, which survives the winter here. I have groundnut (apios americana) but apparently it does not grow well in such a too cold summer. But I hope it could adapt in years ahead since its still its first year.

Valerian salad and rocket salad were the best greens this year, and I hope that their self-sowing produces even hardier varieties for next year!

Its absolutely impossible to grow any cucurbits this year, even squash is just not growing. Luckly I laugh and smile from my own efforts and failures! Even painted mountain corn is barely growing, but siberian tomatoes could still produce a few tomatoes. They are all growing in perfect outdoor conditions, shelter and fertile soil, and raised bed, even huegelkultur for a few plants. If they refuse to grow, I am just going to dig a few out and have them growing indoors

Of course, we grow things in Iceland in greenhouses (even I do), but the fun is growing outdoors.

Anyone else suggests something else, some variety or crop?

 
John Elliott
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Turnips!

Your 'summer' sounds a lot like our winters -- you never know how many growing hours you will get or if there will be a frost at night. You need a crop that can withstand a hard freeze (squashes and curcubits are out), yet put on growth if you get a couple nice days of sun -- like the rocket.

What does very well for me in the winter (besides the rocket) is turnip, rutabaga (swedes), Korean radish, kohlrabi, and chicory. You may want to look into pre-germinating the first four, because while the plants do well in cool weather, they take a LONG time to germinate when it is cold. I normally plant them in September (when the soil is still very warm) and they pop up right away. As the weather gets colder they slow down their growth, and in late December and January, when we get the most hard freezes, they stop growing and just hang in there.

After a particularly cold night (-8C or so), the kohlrabi will be all wilted and look like it is a goner, but with a little afternoon sun it pops right back. I overwinter a lot of these brassicas and then they go to seed in about May and June. In fact, I just collected some kohlrabi seed, so if you send me a PM with your address, I can mail you some.
 
Paulo Bessa
pollinator
Posts: 356
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
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Hey John,

Great to hear from you one thing I guess its key is having the vegetables to self-seed themselves. I also do what you said, sowing indoors and transplanting outdoors, when the frosts are gone (I actually came to the conclusion that to transplant things here in May is not worth, as weather is still so cold, that even if plants survive, its better to let them grow longer indoors and transplant when the true mild but cool weather arrives in June.

I will save seed of my broad beans and peas that have survived -15ºC for a few days under a cover (which is to say a permanent -5ºC for longer than 48 hours). I saved some kale seed last year, it did not germinate when I tried, but all seed that was left around the garden germinated like crazy this last May. I guess my kale is already requiring cold stratisfication. I never thought that could happen in brassicas!

thanks for your offer on the kohlrabi seeds. Although a nicer offer, maybe they are can be more useful for someone of a more southern climate. What I would need more would be a kohlrabi would be create the bulb more faster than the usual ones. In 3 years I couldn't harvest yet a proper size kohlrabi outdoors, nor a beet. Just nice swedes, radish and carrots, and sometimes turnips.

It seems that within the brassicas, the brassica rapa and related ones (turnips, swedes, kales, oriental ones), grow much faster here than the brassica oleracea (cabbage/kohlrabi) group, except the broccoli, which also crops quite quickly here...
 
Johan Fuglevik
Posts: 4
Location: Norway
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Angelica archangelica, in norway vossakvann have stems of far superior quality compared to wild type.

Have you tried seakale?
 
Paulo Bessa
pollinator
Posts: 356
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
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We have plenty of angelica growing wildly here, I am not found of its flavor, so far I only do tea from it. Do you use the root?

On wild plants, we have 3 which I am curious about. First is the northern dock (whether its seeds could be used as a grain alternative? the problem is their oxalic acid). Second is the silverweed (I heard its roots are starchy and edible but can also upset the stomach). Third is lyme grass, a perennial grass with edible seed, that grows by the coastline. I am still not fully sure whether I identified it correctly.

Sea kale: I managed to germinate two seedlings which are now growing nicely in the garden. I planted in sandy soil, full of compost and seaweed. I have not tried to eat it yet.

 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1363
Location: northern California
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How much space do you have access to? Perhaps you need to shift some focus toward animals.....quite a few people in extreme cold (and extreme dry) climates rely on animals that can survive on whatever sparse vegetation grows. I would think geese and rabbits are both pretty hardy and might do with less room than most. You will, however, need not only enough to feed them fresh in the growing season but much more to save dry as hay or fermented as silage to get them through the long cold winter.
 
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