Sunday, November 27, 2011

Overwintering root vegetables in the garden.

Keep your potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, cabbage, and other root crops in the ground this winter and harvest them as they are needed. Cut off the tops and cover these vegetables with a thick layer of leaves, straw or hay to keep the ground warm. Depending on how cold it gets in your area, the mulch layer may need to be four inches or more in thickness. These vegetables need to be mulched as soon as possible so don’t wait too long. Once the ground freezes (about mid-December in Grand Junction, CO) it is too late.

When you need these vegetables move the mulch aside and dig what you need. Replace the mulch to keep the ground warm. Be sure to have all these vegetables dug by spring. As soon as these vegetables start to grow in the spring their eating quality will be significantly reduced.

This technique of overwintering your root crops is more successful when you have a sandy soil. If the soil is heavy and you have a lot of rain or snow try to keep the soil dry. Cover the mulch layer with a tarp that sheds water. Dig a trench at the edge of the tarp to direct water away from the mulched area.

If you have a heavy clay soil and can’t keep it dry, dig a trench and fill it with dry straw, hay or leaves. Place the root vegetables on this layer and apply more straw, hay, or leaves to fill the trench. Cover the trench with a tarp if you get a lot of snow or rain. The layers of straw, hay, or straw allow the soil to drain and help keep the vegetables dry and free from rot.

Previous recommendations for overwintering cabbage included the removal of the outer layer of cabbage leaves and the head of cabbage dipped in hot wax. The wax-dipped head of cabbage could be hung in an area where the temperature was just above freezing or layered in the mulch-filled trench. This was said to increase the ability to overwinter cabbage. I’m not sure if this is necessary. No matter how you over winter cabbage the outer leaves will often rot and need to be removed before use.

If you prefer to freeze or can these vegetables, or turn your cabbage into sauerkraut, you can learn more about how to do this safely by contacting Rhonda Follman at the Colorado State University Extension office at 970 244-1834 or

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lavender Christmas Craft Fair and Bake Sale – December 3, 10 a.m. to 3 pm, Mesa County Fairgrounds

Lavender Christmas Craft Fair and Bake Sale – December 3, 10 am to 3 pm Mesa County Fairgrounds  Free admission

The Lavender Association of Western Colorado will host their 3rd annual Christmas Craft Fair and Bake Sale on Saturday, December 3 from 10 a.m. to 3 pm at the Mesa County Fairgrounds. Local vendors will be selling lavender-inspired hand crafted gifts to include gift baskets, spa, bath and body items, culinary lavender blends, wreaths, etc.

A wide variety of gift items at the silent auction!

Demonstrations on using lavender!

Intellitec College massage therapy students with their massage chairs!

Bake sale featuring delicious sweet treats, hot coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and cider.

Proceeds from the silent auction and bake sale will go to further the goal of promoting the local lavender industry through research, education, marketing and networking.

Fertilizing gardens in the fall, winter, and spring can be a bad idea!

Organic matter and synthetic nitrogen fertilizers are often applied to gardens, trees, shrubs, pastures, and field crops in the fall, winter, and early spring months. Losses of up to 70% of the nitrogen as ammonia (NH3) can occur before next season’s growing season if not done properly.   In addition to the loss of a valuable plant nutrient a reduction in air quality can result. Ammonia creates smog by combining with nitrous oxides (NOx). The result is a hazy view and deposits in your lungs and the lungs of other animals.

Microbial activity of Bacillus, Clostridium, Proteus, Pseudomonas, and Streptomyces bacteria change organic nitrogen into ammonia as soil and air temperatures increase in the spring. To prevent nitrogen loss from organic matter applied to a garden it should be worked into the soil and not left on the soil surface. When applied as top dressing to a lawn, organic matter should be raked into aeration holes to move as much of the product into the soil as possible.

The synthetic fertilizer urea (46% Nitrogen) can start to breakdown as soon as it is applied to the soil. If the soil is totally dry, no reaction happens. If there is a small amount of soil moisture present this fertilizer can hydrolyze and convert to ammonium and carbon dioxide within two to four days. This is more of a problem in high pH soil areas.

CO(NH2)2 + H2O + urease = 2NH3 + CO2

It was commonly thought volatilization of urea was more problematic when air temperatures were 50 oF. or above. More recent research has shown volatilization of urea even occurs when temperatures are below 41 oF.1 The same high loses can occur when urea fertilizer is applied to frozen soil. When at least one-half inch of irrigation water (or rain) occurs after application of urea, losses can be significantly reduced. Working urea into the soil also reduces nitrogen losses.

When Ammonium Sulfate (21% N) is applied to soil, very little or no conversion to ammonia (NH3) occurs making this a very good nitrogen fertilizer.

1. Engle, R., and Jones, C. Choosing your Nitrogen Fertilizers based on Ammonia Volatilization. Nutrient Digest. Fall 2011; vol3 (1).