Monday, November 2, 2009

November Gardening in Brooklyn

Visits this past week from my son, Sam, who runs Poor Farm Farm in Vermont and our friends Otto and Olive, who live in Minneapolis, reminded me how relatively temperate our climate is here in New York City. Our visitors all gaped with wonder at ripening Roma, Beefsteak and cherry tomatoes still on the vines in our garden, not to mention the last of some of our other summer/early fall crops: peppers, eggplants and lima beans (which are still filling out).
Meanwhile, I’ve been monitoring the slow progress of my experimental plantings for late fall: several varieties of shell beans (for soups), Swiss chard, kale, carrots, turnips, cilantro, lettuce, mesclun mix, and a second planting of shell and snap peas. I’ve never before planted this late (mid-September and early October), so I don’t know if the combination of shorter and shortening daylight hours and overcast days will permit enough sunlight for these plants to mature before we get killing frosts (probably in early December).
Inspired by Eliot Coleman’s Four Season Harvest, I’ve also begun my experimental plantings for early winter: some winter-hardy kales, collards, arugula, lettuce, and other greens. Some of these are already planted in regular garden rows, which I plan to cover with Reemay “garden blanket” when hard frosts begin. I’ve also planted some of these in the boxes in the wind-protected alley, where I’ll experiment covering with Reemay and/or Plexiglass.

Re-reading Coleman, I am struck again by the realization that so much of vegetable gardening is experimenting to see what works in one’s particular garden with its unique soil conditions and microclimate. I suspect that results also depend a great deal on annual variations in weather, plant diseases and pests, and even seed germination.
Stay tuned for the results of my experiments.

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