Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Winter gardening and composting


A lovely warm day above freezing yesterday to gather seaweed on the beach..there never seems to be time in spring and summer and I read that seaweed composts quickly so a new project is evolving. After gathering up a trunkful of free fertilizer we brought it home and hosed it off thoroughly because apparently the salt residue is not welcomed by the plants. I decided rather than have it just freeze outside for the rest of the winter, to make a temporary compost pile in an unused corner of the greenhouse. I layered the seaweed with cleanings from the chicken house floor, the contents of the kitchen compost bucket, and handfuls of soil for the benefits of all the busy little microbes. I have a feeling this might get smelly but time will tell, its just an experiment and something to satisfy that winter gardening call.
 I'm reading Eliot Coleman's Four Season Harvest, a wealth of information on cold  weather crops in a variety of unheated structures. He has great advice on freeze proof crops like corn salad, spinach, etc, and a lot of greens I've never heard of but am ready to try. E.C. has his farm in Maine, zone 5, which is only half a zone warmer than southern New Brunswick so his ideas should work here, I think. He makes plastic tunnels inside his greenhouses to give the winter crops a double layer of protection. They are made of polyethelene sheets stretched over half moon shaped hoops made of 3/4 inch pvc. The plants grow more slowly in winter, my august planted mesclun has never bolted to seed or become tough and bitter like the summer crops will do.
My initial idea was to try and have fresh greens til Christmas but heck, why stop now? Today I planted some sugar snap peas, some spinach and radishes, just to see if they will germinate in January.

4 comments:

Gwen Buchanan said...

Fabulous Kathi.. sounds and looks super... I gathered seaweed one summer and left it in the garden for .. longer than I had planned... as some other job came up... when I got back to it and opened the bags they had completely rotted .. it actually looked just like manure .. very black, rich, messy and smelly and the plants loved it...

Gwen Buchanan said...

...forgot to say the seaweed had been gathered and stored in black garbage bags

Rose said...

Fresh greens in winter sound delicious! Letting the seaweed set so the salt leaches out of it sounds like a good idea. My father used to spread cow manure on the garden and his fields every fall and never had a problem with it, but a nursery owner told me recently that horse and cow manure needs to "age" or the nitrogen in it will stunt the plants.

Loved your story about your chicken "Little"! Those small, unexpected moments are really the source of so much happiness.

kathi dunphy said...

More coastal people might want to take advantage of the free compostables along the beaches since the huge increase in the price of chemical fertilizers last summer. Thanks for dropping in Gwen and Rose!