Winter is Coming.

IMG_0708   I try to garden. I’m not very good at it yet, but I’m getting better each year that passes. Last year I tried out cover crops, and I liked the result. I had less of a weed problem in the bed I grew the cover crops in, so we’ll see if that holds true for the other bed I’m trying this year.

I picked Winter Rye and Austrian Snow Peas as my two cover crops because Colorado gets fairly cold, so I needed something hardy. I also wanted to mix crops, and I wanted one of them to be a nitrogen fixing crop. Next year I’m going to grow some variety of beans or peas for nitrogen, but since I haven’t been doing anything for it I figured getting a cover crop to do the work would be a good idea.

IMG_0709The bed I planted the cover crops in this year was my beet/onion bed. The onions never grew very big because I dropped the ball with weeding, so I figured I’d let them overwinter and see what happens. There’s also one baby beet I’m trying to overwinter, we’ll see how it goes. The reason it matters at all is because I harvested all of the beets last month and planted the cover crop seed and the rest of my beds are still planted because we haven’t had a hard frost yet (weirdly enough). I think September is the best time to plant the cover crop here, because I didn’t get to it until October or later last year and the snow peas didn’t grow very well. They lived, but they weren’t terribly happy plants.

Another benefit to growing cover crops is that you get green all winter long, rather than various shades of brown. Brown is nice and all, but green is even better.

IMG_0711I also had two of my carrots go to seed. I find this odd because everything I read about carrots said they’re biennial which supposedly means they only go to seed in their second year of life. So I’m not sure how it happened, but I’m not complaining: I have hundreds of heirloom carrot seeds for practically no cost ready for next year.

IMG_0710I never knew what carrots look like when they bloom until I got my volunteers this year. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Each carrot has multiple flower bunches. They start out in a dome shape with all of the blooms facing out for pollination. Bees and flies are the primary pollinators. Mine got mostly flies because I planted them in the back right next to our trash bin so the flies were already there. Once they’re pollinated they fold inward and start forming seeds. You can see in the picture on the right that the middle is green and the edges are brown: the heads are ready to cut when the middle has browned.

It takes about a month for this all to happen and the heads don’t all bloom or turn into seeds at once so you have two months or so of seed harvesting to look forward to. The harvesting itself is pretty easy: once you cut the seed head from the plant you wait a few days for it to dry out and then you turn it upside-down and rub the seeds. They just fall out. It’s best to do this into a white container so you can actually see the seeds. It doesn’t take long at all, and I actually sort of enjoyed it.

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