Dear Aunt Tomato – Cold Weather Crops

The information I provide to you is editorial and helpful in nature and cannot be construed as perfect truth.  Some of the information I am providing is based on anecdotal evidence and personal experience.  The benefit claimed has not been evaluated by the USDA or your local extension service.  Your results may vary.

Dear Aunt Tomato,

It’s odd to call you “Aunt Tomato” since you are my sister, but I remember that your senior superlative at Lisbon High School was “Best Actress,” so I will play along.

What are your thoughts about cold weather crops?  Do you have any tips about the types of cold weather crops that are easy and most successful?  I’ve tried peas and found the bounty was minimal for the amount of work required.

Your brother,
Mr. Jimmie

Dear Mr. Jimmie,

Thanks for participating in the “Aunt Tomato” experience.  I’m not quite Bette Davis, but as long as I don’t start writing in the third person, I think we have just the right amount of drama on this blog.  Thank you for remembering the good times at old LHS!

It’s interesting that you would ask about cold weather crops; the Maine Organic Farmers and Grower’s Association (MOFGA) put the following post on their Face Book fan page on Tuesday, March 20, 2012:

“Given the warm weather, some of our staff started planting in the garden this past weekend. Spinach and peas mostly. Eric Sideman, MOFGA’s Organic Crop Specialist, said we just need the days to be warm enough to germinate the seeds and then the cold crops should grow fine. If they don’t germinate, it is best to plant your cold crops again after April 15th. Here is Maine, we should have warm weather until Friday and then it will cool down again.”

Your garden is in about the same zone as MOFGA’s, assuming they are planting in or near Unity, Maine.

I have been anxious and yet nervous to plant anything, thinking this blast of early New England heat is a fluke.  When I read the MOFGA post, I decided to plant some lettuce and some spinach this week in one of my little Hampton Victory Garden raised beds.  I do have one spot in my garden that is still frozen about 6 inches beneath the surface, so I’m going to be cautious.

You’ve decided peas are not for you; I understand.  Have you considered growing peas for the tendrils?  I bought a bag of pea tendrils at Winter Market last week and they had the same flavor as peas, but with the texture of greens.  If you cut and eat the tendrils, you will not have so many peas, but it sounds like this was not satisfying to you anyway.

The short list of things which are “very cold hardy” are:

Broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, spinach and turnips.

Following in the “cold hardy” category are:

Beets, carrots, chard, mustard, parsnips, and radishes.

I was reading an old magazine which also mentioned that Calendula was cold hardy, so I’m going to throw some of these seeds into the mix as well.

I think the most important advice I can give you, Mr. Jimmie, is not to think you’ve got to plant your whole garden today.  How about a little bit of spinach, a little bit of lettuce, and a few radishes right now and then in 10 days or so, you can add a few more rows of the same or new things?  As Buck Owens once sang “All I’ve got to do is act naturally.”

What an exciting time to be in the garden!  Good luck to you.

Aunt Tomato

P.S.  If you’re in “The Falls” this week, can you skip over to Uncle Bob’s and see if my garlic is coming up yet?  Thanks, bro!

What cold weather crops are you planting this week?

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