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Green thumb in winter?

Gardening made easy, possible for upcoming cold season

  • Updated
  • 3 min to read

Still hibernating because of COVID-19 or looking for a new hobby around the house for the winter?

Having a green thumb during rain and snow is still a possibility this year, despite the state of the world.

Melissa and Scott Pfalzgraf, of Earth Shine Farm, have been aiming to educate people on the benefits of winter gardening in Calaveras. They are even in the process of working with San Andreas to start a gardening workshop.

Compared to summertime, winter gardening has a great potential for new hobbyists and can promote health and sustainability.

There has been a high demand for gardening supplies this summer in relation to quarantine from the novel coronavirus. Seeds have been scarce in stores but are slowly returning to the shelves.

As gardening stores and hardware stores get ready for the winter season, special deals will surface for those interested in outdoor planting.

“It’s easy to work in the garden,” Scott Pfalzgraf said about the winter season. “In the summertime, it’s so hot – no one wants to be (outside) for more than a couple hours. But in the wintertime, as long as it’s not raining or snowing, you can actually be working in the garden.”

For those who dislike working outdoors because of the unwanted solicitation of bugs and insects, winter gardening could elicit a new perspective of the hobby.

“In the summertime you’re dealing with the aphids, the harlequins – the whole bug problem,” Scott Pfalzgraf told the Enterprise in an interview Sept. 4. “Almost all the bugs are gone. Almost all the gophers are not as hungry and eating because they’re kind of cold. So you’re avoiding all these things from the summertime.”

Don’t have a drip system installed? No problem, Scott Pfalzgraf said.

“You don’t have to water every day, because you’re going to get rain,” Scott Pfalzgraf said. “The ground is going to be pretty moist and fertile. It doesn’t dry out, which is a huge problem in the summertime, especially in California.”

There are plenty of options out there for the beginning winter gardener.

Roots

Beets, radishes and turnips are easy ones for those just starting out in winter gardening.

Turnips can usually be harvested in about 60 days, but radishes give the most reward and are ready to harvest in as little as 25 to 30 days.

These roots can handle direct sunlight.

“If not harvested by the end of the season, leave them in the ground – they really keep well,” said Scott Pfalzgraf.

Greens

Asian greens, kale, spinach, chard, lettuce and spring mixes can be grown in the winter as well.

Brassicas

Cabbages, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli can be started indoors and transition outside. They are traditionally known as the “cole” crops.

Kohlrabi, a unique and somewhat unfamiliar brassica, can be grown during this time as well.

“It looks like a broccoli plant, but instead of growing broccoli, it grows a bulb at the bottom,” Melissa Pfalzgraf said. “It’s a no-fuss plant.”

Onions and Garlic

Onions and garlic are two-season crops, which means a larger harvest. Once the plants first begin to sprout, cut the flowers off so it triggers the plant to keep growing again. At the end of the second season, crops will double in size. Nov. 1 is typically the deadline for planting garlic and onions so they will have the apt amount of time to grow.

Special Instructions

The recommended time to start planting seeds is now. By the middle to late September, plants should be put in the ground to let them get rooted properly, Scott Pfalzgraf said.

For frost protection, winter gardeners want to consider purchasing a white sheet called Agribon.

“(Agribon) will raise the temperature of the soil by 10 degrees,” Scott Pfalzgraf said. “I’ve had snow piled up on the sides of these white shade cloths and huge green cabbages loving the whole thing.”

For those unable to acquire Agribon, a white sheet can also suffice as protection against frost.

Calcium is something that plants in Calaveras are lacking, so add calcium to the soil by simply taking some broken eggshells and scattering them throughout the garden. Eggshells are also a natural slug repellent.

Oyster shells can be used as a calcium additive as well and can be found at the local feed store.

Help the Bees

In the winter, most of the plants that bees thrive on are not pollinating. Rosemary, however, flourishes even in the cold season. Plants that have been harvested from the spring can be left in the ground to flower – the flowers will provide food for the bees in the winter as well.

Local Support

CalaverasGROWN will continue to operate through the winter season and have their mobile market. Visit their Facebook for farmer’s market events, seed exchange events, and more.

For more information on winter gardening, contact the Pfalzgrafs at 273-9892.

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Holly has an associate's degree in anthropology and a bachelor’s degree in English, with an emphasis in creative writing. She has moved to the area from southern California and shares her life with a Siberian husky and three rescue cats.

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