It’s been really cold the last few evenings – down into the mid 20’s. This got me thinking about the fate of the “edible” cover crops that Mark planted this fall. I blogged about them a few weeks ago and said I would report back once we’d had a few hard freezes.
Well now we have and here’s my report!
The lettuce, believe it or not, is still in beautiful shape as you can see in the photo above! I was really surprised when I went over to the garden to check it out. I thought for sure that I would find the lettuce completely melted out because the temperature Sunday night was 25oF and Monday night it went down to 23oF. I found no sign of wilting at all. I guess winter lettuce means “winter” lettuce.
The daikon radishes, turnips, and rutabagas are still growing strongly but this isn’t surprising. These are truly hardy cool season crops. It’s the lettuce I was curious about.
The kohlrabi is beginning to swell and some of the radishes are HUGE! Mark has been harvesting lettuce from the plot fairly regularly since early October and also some of the daikon radishes. When you look at the garden, it’s pretty hard to tell where he has harvested the lettuce because he doesn’t pull it up, he just cuts off the leaves about an inch above the ground. When he harvests the radishes though, it tends to leave a bare spot in the plot because the tops of these are pretty big and tend to shade out the lettuce that is growing right around the plant. Some of the radishes he’s been harvesting have been up to 18″ long. No wonder they make such a great cover crop for the vegetable garden; the roots really break up the soil deep down. Maybe Mark should leave them to do their job but I guess it doesn’t hurt to pull a few for dinner every once in a while – there are still plenty left!
Last Sunday, Mark must have been a little concerned about the hardiness of the lettuce because, knowing that the nighttime temperatures were going to plummet, he covered part of the plot with some cover cloth as an experiment. He used crates to keep the cloth from laying directly on the plants. It turns out this wasn’t necessary. I did peek under the cloth after I took these pictures and it seems that the cover is doing more harm than good because the plants are no longer receiving the light they need and have begun to wilt and lose some of their color.
Something else I noticed as I walked around the garden is that a few other “guests” have also been helping themselves to some of the crops. All around the perimeter of the plot, there were little cloven hoof prints; that’s right – deer have been visiting the garden! Generally, we have very few problems with deer at the nursery – even in the hosta gardens. They don’t even seem to munch on the daylily buds in the display gardens that are located a little farther from the house. I’ve always been surprised about that because we’ve often seen deer in the fields around the farm.
I could tell that the deer had been nosing around in the lettuce at the edges of the plot but they didn’t seem to be walking through it. I didn’t really see a lot of evidence that they had even eaten very much. Perhaps they don’t like the taste of lettuce.
Some of the turnip greens and kohlrabi foliage on the other hand have been eaten by caterpillars and grasshoppers. I noticed this back in mid-October and it looks like they continued to chew on the leaves for a while after that. Now that we’ve had some hard freezes, I’m guessing they’re not a problem any longer.
So there you go! It looks like Mark’s edible cover crop experiment is a success – at least for now. I’ll continue to keep an eye on it. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to my Thanksgiving rutabagas!
Until next time – Happy Gardening!