"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Muddy winter gardening

Silly me.  I didn't put my gumboots on when I went into the garden after recent rain, and this was the result..
My faithful crocs...
But, it gets much worse than that...
...Let the mud in LOL
... being "holey" shoes, the wet clay can't resist seeping in any available orafice.  So now I have socks to clean - they had to be white ones too, didn't they :}

But, taking about gardens, I have discovered the strangest thing.
The  tomatoes are on the southern side
of the broad bean / pea bed, so they've been
protected from the frost.  Is that the answer
to growing tomatoes in winter...?
I am able to grow tomatoes here during winter.

There was a single self-seeded tomato growing with my corn, sunflowers and squash last summer, and when I removed the last of the corn, I left the tomato plant in situ - it had a couple of tomatoes on, and I thought I'd just wait until they were ripe.

Lo, and behold, in the shelter of the broad beans and pea plants, if this plant didn't grow wings and fly :)
Gorgeous, lucious "winter" tomatoes
I have waited until they're a near decent size, and have had to harvest them green, after which I've left them on my kitchen windowsill until they turned red.  But - I have had more tomatoes from this one plant, then I did from all those which grew when the mice were in control last summer.

Yes, the mice have had a nibble or two, but they've been more interested in my fresh young peas so the damage hasn't been as severe to this lonely plant.

I've decided that next summer I think I'm going to devote a small "out of the way" veggie bed especially for the mice - perhaps they'll leave the rest of my vegetables alone - and I don't mind giving them a tithe of my crops.

But - it's good to know.  I'm going to plant a couple of tomato seeds late next summer, and see how they do through next winter.
Strawberries growing in July???
Also, my strawberries are bearing fruit already...!!!

We haven't had much rain so far this winter - I wonder if that has had anything to do with it.  Most mornings here are around 4 - 6oC.  And the plants are in the shade created by the (winter) north positioned sun hitting the garage before it can get to the strawberry bed.

Quite peculiar I reckon...


Harry Flashman said...

My wife and I have never had much luck growing vegetables here in the mountains. The sun doesn't fall on our meadow for more than a few hours a day, and the rest of the place is heavily shaded by maple and poplar trees. We have feral hogs that come down out of the forest and trample what they don't eat, and then there are the deer. I put up an electric fence running 2000 volts, not enough to kill anything but it administered a good jolt. Unfortunately, passing bears would hit it, take a swipe at the wires out of instinct, and tear out 12 foot sections. Then there was the fact that our chickens delighted in scratching up the new plants. I finally gave up and started storing lots of dried and canned food. Your gardening seems to be working out top flight.

Kirsten McCulloch said...

That's awesome Dani! I wish we could grow tomatoes here through winter! We have quite a sheltered East courtyard which I discovered last year doesn't get frosts till a month or more later than the rest of the yard, and right next to the house it barely does at all. So i tried keeping a self-seeded tomato in a pot near the house, moving it into the sun during the day.

But, I also discovered that in winter there are no bees around to fertilise flowers, and by June it's too much of the plant to do much of anything anyway. But, it does mean that I can keep tomatoes in pots near the house going for a while longer than the ones in the ground.

Marlene aka Ouma Miaau said...

Hi There! Our strawberries are also bearing down here in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, side although we've had very cold temperatures here lately. Why don't you start an open compost heap quite a way from the house and garden for the mice? Just be careful for snakes though as we know there must be quite a few still around in the veld. Do it well away from your living spaces. Mice are such an important part of the ecosystem that you dont really want to kill them. They live in holes under the ground, so it's actual fertilization and airing of the soil as well as feed for owls and such.

How I envy your lifestyle!!!


Bill said...

Given that we haven't even been able to grow tomatoes in the summer this year, I'm particularly envious of your winter tomatoes. :)

Quinn said...

Your crocs made me laugh, because they look very familiar! Although I don't usually wear socks with mine. I really need to buy another pair, but haven't seen any that aren't made in china. When I bought my ancient (and they look it!) crocs, they were being made in Canada...wonder how many years ago that was?!
Dani, have you ever tried scattering crushed eggshells around plants you especially wish to protect from mice? I've been doing that, and fingers crossed, it really seems to be working! Plus adding minerals to the soil. Now if I could just keep those wretched leaf-eating bugs away from my brassicas!

Dani said...

Ah, that is such a pity. There is NOTHING to beat harvesting your own fresh home grown veggies 10 minutes before you need to cook them. :)

But, storing dried food is good - you'll never want as long as your stock lasts. I want to try and solar dehydrate my excess harvests next summer and wish I had more storage space... (Though not ideal, I reckon our garage is going to have to do LOL)

Dani said...

Kirsten - I never knew that tomatoes would grow here in winter - lovely surprise :) And - in the shade!

Three smallholdings round us have bee hives - so there is, thankfully, never a shortage of bees.

Dani said...

Marlene - Welcome - thanks for visiting / taking the time to leave a comment.

I have got a compost heap away from the veggies - but the mice aren't particularly interested LOL

Yeah - know that mice play a role, but am tired of feeding them the bulk of what I'm trying to grow.

Dani said...

Bill - My last crop was a disaster also - maybe you'll be able to grow some in a protected spot this winter...?

Dani said...

Quinn - Socks are my token to the cold weather here. Summer - even crocs are to hot on my feet.

I have been trying eggshells, but, as RMan and I are on limited eggs / week, it's going to take a while until I build up sufficient layer to be effective. Thanks again for the tip :)

Bee Girl said...

I always know I've been working hard in the garden if my shoes *and* my socks *and* my feet are dirty at the end of the day...but your crock pic made my giggle :-) And...I'm envious of your winter tomatoes! What a gift!

Kris said...

We're having an odd summer this year - cool (nights into 40s), cloudy days, then heat waves. So my 'summer' tomatoes aren't faring any better this year than they did during last year's heat/drought. Dang. I'm still buying tomatoes! Good for you getting a bonus crop out of yours. You know, you don't need to plant seeds. Save a growing tip or two from that hardy individual you've got and root it for next summer, then cut again for a winter plant. Sounds like it's got good genes worth saving.

Farm Fancies said...

I've had a couple of tomato plants thrive into winter at the front (north side) of the house a couple of years ago. The reflected heat from the house at night stopped the frost killing them and they bore fruit until June. Unfortunately they were F1 hybrid plants that DH had brought home (they were on special as end of season) so I didn't want to keep any seeds but I'll have to try it again in the coming year with heirloom plants.
Personally, I wouldn't be feeding the mice too much as they will only breed more offspring. Could Rman build an owl nesting box to encourage these predators to help you with the mouse problem?
If washing doesn't make your socks white again I'd seriously think about dyeing them orange or brown and they can be your Winter gardening socks!
Hugs, Robyn xo

Dani said...

Bee Girl - Thanks

Dani said...

Kris - Cool - never heard of propagating tomatoes, and will definitely try it. The tomato is an heirloom one - maybe that helped?

Dani said...

Robyn - I can definitely recommend heirloom tomatoes. And this was an heirloom one :)

We have a couple of resident owls, who are trying to keep up, but I fear the mouse population is too great LOL

Good idea re: dying the socks. I might try turning them red - with beetroot juice... ;)

Kris said...

Check out this link to my propagation page regarding rooting tomato tips. Heirloom seeds grow true, hybrids do not. Rooting tomato tips. Note: read posts in reverse entry.

Dani said...

Cool - thanks Kris :)

Tania @ Out Back said...

That's a great idea to create a "decoy" for the mice, hope it is successful for you :)

Growing tomatoes in Winter, that is interesting. The other crops must have protected them. I have capsicums still growing this winter, I covered them with a net curtain and it worked great!


Dani said...

Tania - Exactly - decoy the bloody critters LOL Yeah, my capsicum are also still producing, although they are exposed to the frost... Go figure.