Sunday, December 30, 2012

Greens For Chickens Plan Ahead for Winter

This last week the seed catalogs began rolling into our mailbox. I suspect many of you also received garden catalogs  and may be thinking about your 2013 garden. With that in mind, we decided to write an article about growing greens for your chickens but with a bit of a twist...

In summer, finding extra greens to feed chickens is generally not a problem. We give our chickens all the less-than-perfect lettuce, cabbage, peas, tomatoes etc. from the garden and keep the nice looking stuff for our plates. 

However, as we move into the Fall and Winter season, finding anything to give our flock becomes more of a challenge. So here's a guide to help you plan your Fall & Winter 2012 garden so you have plenty of time to consider how to arrange your garden. You can plant a garden primarily for your family with the chickens getting the extras, or you can set aside a small patch specifically for your girls.

Brrrrrr......It's Cold Out Here



When To Plant For Fall & Winter

Generally speaking, you should plant your Fall/Winter crops 8-10 weeks before your first frost date.  (You can find the first frost date for your area at the Victory Seed Company web site.)  

You should be mindful of the days-to-maturity for the varieties you grow.  Work backwards from you first frost date to ensure that you are giving any vegetables you intend to grow sufficient time to mature.  Since the days are shorter in the fall, it's generally recommended that you add about 2-3 weeks to the days-to-maturity estimates printed on seed packets.  Another strategy to manage to manage the constraints of days to maturity, is to buy seedlings for your garden from your local garden center, rather than trying to plant them from seeds. This give you a bit of a jump on the season.


Kale is particularly frost resistant

Extending The Harvest Period

Prolonged periods when the temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit will kill cold tolerant vegetables. You can increase your harvest period by using season extenders (greenhouse, cold frames, straw mulch, row covers etc.) to keep your crops warm and protected from driving rains.  Where we live, our temperatures rarely go below freezing.  With a greenhouse, we've been able to harvest fresh chard, kale, miners lettuce and other vegetables all winter long.  

If you're climate is less for forgiving, you'll generally need to harvest as the temperatures dip below freezing.   But there are some exceptions; once mature, some crops can be left (stored) in the garden even when goes below freezing.  These crops include most of the root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, beets, salsify, oriental radishes and cabbage.

All the vegetables shown below can be grown when the weather is cool.  The vegetables shown with an asterisk are the most hardy.  These veggies can withstand temperatures as low as 28 degrees Fahrenheit for a few weeks and still make it. 
  • Arugula
  • Broccoli(*)
  • Brussels Sprouts(*)
  • Beets(*) - for fall harvest or can be stored in the garden.
  • Cabbage(*) - can be stored in the garden.
  • Carrots(*) - can be stored in the garden.
  • Chard- For Fall harvest
  • Chicory
  • Chinese Cabbage(*)
  • Kale(*)
  • Miners Lettuce
  • Mache
  • Parsnip(*) - Can be stored in the garden.
  • Parsley (*)
  • Peas
  • Radish(*) - Can be stored in the garden.
  • Salsify - Can be stored in the garden.
  • Spinach(*) - For fall harvest
  • Turnip - Can be stored in the garden.
  • Upland Cress

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