With spring looming on the horizon, this seems like a good time to record what I’ve learned this winter about growing cold-weather crops in containers with no protection from the elements other than the south wall of the house itself. It all pretty much boils down to two important things:
1. Stuff grows a whole lot slower in cold weather than it does in warm, sunny weather. That sounds like a no-brainer, but I was really surprised at how *much* slower everything grew. I planted in mid-November, and have yet to harvest any mature plants. I’ve had a few nice salads made from thinnings, but by mid-February I’d really expected more. Here are my little broccoli transplants that I moved into their own planter in December:
Granted, this has been an unusually cold winter for SoCal, so maybe in a more typical winter I’d have been harvesting broccoli florets by now.
2. Stuff grows REALLY slow when it’s crowded. I overseeded my original planter, and every time I thin out the seedlings more seedlings sprout. This overcrowding has seriously stunted the development of the little plants. Behold:
As you can see, these are really tiny for three-month-old lettuces and kale.
So to summarize, this fall I will plant my winter garden a few weeks earlier and use a lot fewer seeds.
One other interesting thing I learned from my experiment is that carrots grow just fine here in the winter, but radishes apparently won’t even sprout in cold weather. At least, mine didn’t. This surprised me, since I’ve always understood them to be a cool-weather crop. It might have been a fluke, I guess; maybe the radish seeds were defective. I’m going to try them again next fall, just to see.
And now it’s time to start preparing my spring/summer garden bed….