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This January Is Winter.

January 26, 2014

The last couple of winters were quite mild, even for north Georgia. How mild? I had volunteer cherry tomato plants sprout in February that survived. I didn’t actually “need” the temporary poly greenhouse last year. You get the idea.

By contrast, this winter is a real winter. We are experiencing the polar vortex cold-dump along with half of the country; many mights in the low ‘teens, some in single digits, several days it never made it above freezing. And the wind, seemingly always there and always from the north. Not our favorite thing down here…..

Early this month, we had our first string of days below freezing with night temps as low as low as 6 degrees (Fahrenheit of course). I documented the hardiness of what I had remaining in the garden under various levels of protection (none, light spun polyester row cover, mulch, plastic as well as combinations of all). This post will likely bore anyone but the hardcore backyard food gardeners. (Although I’m sure Mrs cohutt will no doubt be happy to see her that her precious artichokes made it through.)

On cue, we start with the artichoke that is not in the greenhouse:

I had this cluster of artichoke shoots under several layers of just about everything. The image below is after removal of some of the mulch that almost completely covered the plastic shell.

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Under the shell, the plant was covered in two layers of row cover as well as having 6 inched of leaf mulch up to the bottom of the leaves.

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Six degress? No problem!

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The artichoke plant inside the greenhouse came out fine with a layer of mulch underneath and a double wrapping in row cover. I left the door and window closed throughout the period so I’m sure the ground thawed nicely in the 70+ degree interior on the days when the highs were only in the 20s. Below, you can see that there are several new stalks growing around the single large stump of last year’s primary stalk.

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Also in the greenhouse, the brussel sprouts, kohlrabi and Chinese cabbage all thrived under a layer of row cover while all the lettuce completely melted into goo. (No lettuce goo pictures, too nasty).

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Under row cover, cabbage, kale, and garlic all sailed through with little evidence of even a frost:

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The smaller leeks were left exposed without cover or mulch; although they had some freeze damage to the leaves they are still alive (and remain quite tasty). The chard and dill that had survived several modest freezes disappeared during this cold snap save the one oddly hardy leaf of chard; they were both behind the leeks in this bed.

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Thyme shook off the cold both in the ground and in a pot while the oregano and parsley both showed severe but “non-lethal” freeze damage (no pictures of this). I learned that mizuna, both the purple and common green varieties, can take frosts and modest freezes but 6 degrees obliterates them even under row cover (purple mizuna was in the front left of this bed). The kale and garlic in the same bed did fine, as did the spinach in the small bed in the background.

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Of the two types of rosemary in the garden, the larger coarser variety had little issue uncovered but the finer stem/leaf type took it on the chin and if it makes it, it will be a much smaller bush than before:

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The turnip & mixed greens were pretty much defoliated but most plants are still alive. I’ll leave this stand to see how it recovers; worst case I will give up and pull the handful of edible turnips exposed after the leaves wilted. The broccoli plants in the background were severely damaged and began to wreak so bad I gave up on any hope for future harvests of secondary sprouts this winter; they have been chopped into the fresher part of the compost pile.

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My garden has stands of volunteer arugula year round; for the past two winters almost all plants survived full exposure without damage. The jury is still out on this year’s volunteers; the smaller ones were pretty much wiped out while the more mature plants seemed to hold on by a thread after severe damage. This specimen was the king of them all, almost 2 feet tall prior to the freeze (late last summer it popped up next to one of the rabbiteye blueberry bushes. Go figure…)

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Riveting, isn’t it?


7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 26, 2014 8:20 pm

    Unusual, unexpected, definitely difficult to predict and plan a garden. Last winter the cold was really tough on the garden. This year it is unusually warm and we already have plants that are leafing.

    • January 26, 2014 8:24 pm

      Glad somebody isn’t freezing…..

      Because of the warm winter last year, my garlic was so small that I had to order new seed garlic this year- NEVER thought I’d have to buy garlic again. There were a few decent sized heads but not nearly enough to as much as we usually do.

  2. January 26, 2014 8:55 pm

    We have Buffalo, NY, conditions here in NYC. But my hydrangea plant (the gift plant that wasn’t supposed to survive) always dies back to the roots then resurges in the spring. We sure could use some of that global warming around here!

  3. Brent Eamer permalink
    January 27, 2014 7:51 am

    We Bruce, we hit -15F (-26c) in Prince Edward Island, my Cos Romaine survived in the greenhouse, in suspended animation, and then we went to 50F last week and it was still alive. But for you guys to experience those temps, is like us experiencing 90F (we wilt)

  4. January 29, 2014 11:15 am

    it would be interesting to know if the chard comes back from the roots and grows new foliage. I have chard come back quite often but it usually bolts the second year. I enjoyed reading about your garden because I am still under snow here.

    • January 29, 2014 1:40 pm

      My experience is also that chard is a biennial.

      • February 1, 2014 7:15 pm

        Yes, I guess I should have said it “always” bolts the second year. Often times it won’t winter over here unless I get it buried under a huge pile of leaves or straw. It typically freezes the ground too hard down to about 1 1/2 ft or so. The poor little roots hardly stand a chance without a lot of insulation. 😉

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