From Rugged Veggies to the Garden’s Biggest Wimps

March 29, 2008

The previous post shared some photos of a number of hardy and resilient plants as they awakened at the first hint of spring, but that wasn’t the full story… I hate to admit it but there are also a bunch of slackers out there in the vegetable garden this spring!

It wasn’t the harshest winter that we’ve seen here in PA however we did suffer through our share of damaging ice storms and freezing temperatures. As far as a snow cover is concerned, there wasn’t much of it around to insulate the garden and shield those over wintering plants from the wind and cold.

No Pampering Allowed in the Garden this Winter

Pampered Bay Laurel PlantI’ll confess that it was tough love for all this winter out in my back yard. Nothing was protected from Old Man Winter, with the exception of the shredded leaf mulch applied to the garlic bed, a potted fig tree that went into the garage, and those pampered Bay Laurel plants that spent the winter indoors under a sun lamp.

Other than those exceptions everyone else was left to fend for themselves this winter. No floating row covers, no wall of water devices, no blankets of mulch, no seed in the bird feeders (thanks to the squirrels), no heater in the pond (instead the pump ran all winter), and I didn’t even put the tops out on the cold frame.

Call it what you will, I just didn’t fuss with all of that this winter! And what was the result; well you can see many of the rugged veggie survivors that made it through just fine. Also, the birds are still singing, the goldfish are swimming in the pond, and there are plenty of greens growing in the open cold frames.

Missing in Action in the Raised Vegetable Beds

Winter Killed Globe Artichoke RemainsSo what’s up with the disappointing underachievers that haven’t shown up for this spring’s coming out party? At the top of the MIA list are those exotic globe artichokes that are vigorous and lush when the weather is mild, but seem to shrink under summer’s heat, and completely fall apart during even a moderate northern winter… Wimps!

I’ve always struggled to nurse artichokes through the cold winters so it’s really no surprise that they didn’t survive on their own. They often don’t make it even with a thick mulch, or when tucked inside a portable cold frame. The best success I’ve had was when I lifted the artichoke roots from the garden and over wintered them in a bucket of sandy soil in the garage.

Next is that beautiful sage plant that survived last winter with no problem, but now looks like its dead and gone without a single leaf or shoot showing any sign of life. Likewise for the Swiss Chard plants that live through some winters, but not this one… Losers!

Weak Performing Veggies and Slow Arriving Herb Plants

Mulched Garlic LeafI even discovered a few pale and deformed garlic plants struggling beneath a paltry mulch and had to help them to the surface. I really expected better from a plant that boasts a tough Russian heritage and goes by rough and hardy sounding names such as Siberian, Ontario Giant, Thermadrone, Wild Buff, Leningrad, French Germinador, Polish Hardneck, Allium Gladiator, and Belarus. Come on now, you can’t muscle your way through a few shredded leaves?

And I’m probably jumping the gun and being a little impatient with this last group, but where are all those perennial herbs and what is their excuse for delay? French Tarragon, comfrey, lemon balm, thyme, oregano, mints; I know you’re out there… Slackers! The only herb plants on the scene so far are the chives and tansy.

So am I being harsh and demanding, expecting too much, and unfair in my expectations? After all, there are plenty of kale, collard, spinach, and arugula plants growing in the garden and almost ready to harvest. And those indoor veggie seedlings are also growing rapidly and getting taller and taller by the day.

I’m even toying with the idea of booting those pampered and spoiled Bay Laurel trees outside to battle the frigid nights and frosty mornings. If I’ll do that to my prized herbal pets then you can bet I won’t put up with loafers or deserters out there in the vegetable and herb garden!

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  • Mark

    How about spending Earth Day getting your young gardeners (and those young at heart) excited about plants and nature? I thought your young gardeners would enjoy an indoor gardening adventure, growing the TickleMe Plant (Mimosa pudica). Recently featured by the National Gardening Associations Kids Store,
    If you want to give your young gardeners an experience they will never forget, consider having them grow a TickleMe Plant. This is the plant that will close its leaves and lower its branches when you tickle it. They sprout in days and can be grown indoors any time of year. Just Google TickleMe Plants or go to for seeds and growing kits. This plant has turned many kids into plant and nature lovers. I know, because I grow TickleMe Plants in my classroom. Your children may never look at plants in the same way and neither will you!
    Happy Growing,

  • Joe Carr

    Thank Mark for the post

    I didn’t know you could grow TickleMe Plants at home. I am so excited, as I remember this plant from the Botanical gardens in Chicago and then could not find it again. I love the Greenhouse at the TickleMe Plant website. I can’t wait till to start growing one. Everyone I tell about the TickleMe Plant asks me if its real. Now I just show the video on the site. It so much fun to see the reaction of children and even adults when they see the plant close its leaves and droop.
    I love the TickleMe plant.

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