Friday, November 30, 2012

Winter Vegetable Gardens Need Water

The fall and winter vegetable garden is relatively a lot less work than the summer garden, but the plants still need to be watered and fertilized in order to be most productive.

According to the University of Georgia publication "Home Garden Broccoli,"

"Broccoli requires proper irrigation to achieve optimum growth. Water plants daily for the first week to get the crop established. Continue to irrigate broccoli every four to five days, as needed, to keep the plants healthy.
Broccoli is a fairly heavy feeder and will require additional nutrients. After initial fertilization at planting, apply 2 pounds of 5-10-15 fertilizer or equivalent per 100 square feet of bed each month during the growing season. Mulch broccoli with pine straw or leaves to keep weeds away and to preserve moisture in the soil."
Broccoli in many local gardens is nearing the end of its fall production; the big heads of florets have already been brought in and eaten - but it is not alone in needing this additional care. The task of keeping the garden soil moist and fertile will be well-rewarded when the rest of the harvest - lettuces, spinach, cabbages, kale, and more - comes to the table.
Keeping an eye on the garden's moisture level through the winter has an additional benefit of reducing the risk of cold-damage to the plants. Moist soil holds heat better than dry soils, providing an additional level of protection from freezing weather. University of Delaware's Cooperative Extension has this to say about the protective effect of moist garden soil:
"A moist soil can hold 4 times more heat than a dry soil. It will also conduct heat to the soil surface faster than a dry soil, aiding in frost prevention. In a study performed years ago, the air temperature above a wet soil was 5°F higher than that above a dry soil and the difference was maintained until 6 am the next morning."

While most of us gardeners are not going to want to be out in freezing weather tending our garden plots, there are still plenty of warm days in which being outside for the tasks will be a joy, and the resulting good food will, too.