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From the Farm: Winter Garden vs. Mother Nature


I hope you were able to close 2018 on a positive note and are looking ahead with great optimism! One of the staples of the traditional New Year’s Day feast was a little hard to come by this year in Georgia. This was due to a large portion of the collard crop in the southern part of the state being washed away by heavy rains. While we are on the subject of rainfall, let me just go ahead and tell you that it was one of the wettest years on record in the state of Georgia and throughout the southeast. Many areas of the state were 20 inches or more over the 30-year average! Our farm was not spared from these heavy rains. But as I have mentioned many times before, you just have to roll with the punches and take what Mother Nature gives you.

All Was Not Lost

Our fall/winter crops fared well despite having pretty soggy feet the last couple of months. We had one of our best cabbage crops to date. There were more than enough collards and turnip greens to go around for the holidays. We had to leave our peanuts in the ground a bit longer than planned. In October, we caught a nice dry window for one week. We were able to dig and let them dry before bringing them in and spreading them out in our barn to further cure.

One cool weather crop that I always tend to pace around anxiously over is broccoli. I guess you could also throw cauliflower into this category that causes me mild anxiety. I am happy to report that we had some really beautiful heads of broccoli and cauliflower this fall/winter! If you have grown these crops before then there is a good chance that you have been disappointed before. There are many variables that can cause a broccoli plant not to produce a nice big crown.

Temperature Matters

Temperature is a big variable that is hard to catch just right some years. Bonnie Plants states, “If transplants sit exposed to cold below 40 degrees for a week or two, the chilling injury triggers heads to form way too early.”  So, if you’re in a colder climate and get a late start in the fall or if you try to start your plants out too early for spring, planting this can be an issue. Likewise, when temperatures get too hot, broccoli plants tend to bolt and start to flower much sooner than expected.

There are many factors that can make or break a broccoli crop. Making sure that your plants are well fertilized and watered is the most important thing. Also, be mindful of the temperature trends when you are planning your planting dates.

The Rain Reigned Over a Few Crops

A couple crops that we didn’t fare as well on this past fall were carrots, beets and spinach. We direct seed these crops. Unfortunately we received a ton of rainfall followed by above average temperatures after our first sowing. This caused the weeds and native grasses to grow much more vigorously than the previously seeded veggies. Carrots and beets are slower to germinate so weed pressure is always an issue. We had to replant and fortunately we achieved a good stand the second time around; however, it was much colder by this point so the growth has been slow. They look good though and should make for a nice harvest in the next month or so.

Get a Jumpstart on Spring Planting

farmview market

If you are starting your spring plants from seed, now is the time to start sowing your longer maturity crops (i.e.-broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage etc.) in a greenhouse or protected area. I know the year just started, but c’mon folks, you have to stay on your toes if you want to eat the freshest of the fresh in 2019!

Tour our Vegetable Garden and Creamery


Brad manages our farm operations, which include our certified naturally grown garden outside Madison and the Kelly family’s plantation in Leesburg, GA, known as Rock House Farm. Rock House Farm produces grass-fed beef, heritage Berkshire hogs, and two varieties of heirloom corn, as well as commercial row crops.