Sunday, 12 May 2013

Mid May - cereals, legumes and other permaculture species have survived freezing weather!

Hello everybody!

The freezing weather has just ended!

Spring has arrived!
In fact it has lasted on and off since mid March until the first days of May, with about 3 separate periods lasting about a week, where the temperature dropped to almost -15ºC at night, for a few days in a row. And the first day of May marked a record low of -14ºC for May since records began. But in the last week, we had temperatures almost always above zero, and a mix of sunny spring days and rainy cool days.

Spring has finally arrived in Iceland. Crocus start flowering.

The broad and beans under just a double fleece and a black plastic sheet, have nearly all survived! Fleece rules! Sometimes I lost up to 10% of the seedlings during those freezing spells, but then I planted new ones. These will be indeed a selection of the most cold hardy seedlings I could ever have! And now they thrive!

Inside the cold frame, peas have survived several deep freezes. And we have now planted many more crops!
The perennial rye, hulless oats, spring onions, garlic, multiplier onions and broccoli, also survived under such a protection. This ought have been the most challenging spring gardening I have ever had!

Broad beans and perennial rye have survived deep freezes, under a fleece. Notice the moss mulching that ensures survival during a severe freeze.

Cereal party!
I planted finally a field of 4 types of cereals: perennial rye, hulless oats, hulless barley and kamut wheat. And some rows of pak choy, walking onions, red siberian kale and carrots (sown). I planted a plot 2m by 3m, enough for 15 days of grain for a person.

Our cereal bed for a 1 month grain harvest. It has hulless oats, perennial rye, hulless barley and kamut wheat

Fleece covering the cereal bed. When weather is very cold, one of two plastic layers were put over it.

Everything seems nice outdoors, although the awakening of plants is just starting and slowly. I therefore moved all my tree seedlings outdoors since they were in such bad shape or still asleep, while growing indoors.

I have now ready a large amount of seedlings of more brassicas, onions, beets, celery, fennel, turnips, and less known species such as scorzoneras, the siberian tomatoes, the painted mountain corn (both tolerant of frost and snow), the perennial species of multiplier onions and walking onions, and more warm loving crops such as squash, watermelon, sunflower and quinoa.

Often I lost seedlings that become weak due to improper soil or watering or insect pests or unnatural temperature.

One thing is sure, growing plants indoors is a lot more effort, due to the unnatural growing conditions of a greenhouse, especially for most species which are more used to temperate climates.

Growing seedlings indoors, requires a lot of sunlight. A thin transparent plastic creates extra moisture, and then you don't need to water as much.

A renewed wish for perennial crops....
But growing outdoors is a lot of work! So I have been thinking more lately of slowly introducing more perennial species as food staples, for the cold climate outdoors, rather than the common annual crops that demand so much effort and attention!

These will be: siberian pea, honey locust, mesquite; groundnut, chinese yams and arrowhead; scorzonera, skirret, perennial onions, good king henry, crambe, perennial broccoli, indian ricegrass and perennial rye.

Apios americana, groundnut. I think this can be a good potato-like crop to grow in Iceland.  They are very cold hardy, when dormant (the aereal part dies in winter). They have survived -15ºC without snow cover.

Chinese yams are another hardy perennial root crop to grow (experimentally) in Iceland. Their "tropical" like leaf growth stands minor frosts.

Tiger nuts produce plenty of tasty tiny tubers. They are frost sensitive,  but easy to grow; they are a perfect indoor crop.

Bean troubles
Another sad topic has been the infestation of beans with red spider mites that devastated my lima beans, red beans and winged beans. I thought it was a viral disease or a nutrient defficiency, but apparently the cause for their demise was just spider mites, due to low humidity.

The lima bean crop was severely damaged. A nutrient deficiency? A virus disease? Spider mites? Irregular watering?

Quinoa, amaranth and chenopodium
These were affected by root rot and also something eating the seedlings. But I am protecting the containers and having a lot of them, just to assure that I will have some crop saved. However, these crops are way better to be started outdoors, if the climate would allow.

Survivors of cold! 
The painted mountain corn survives well an ocasional frost outdoors, down to -3ºC, just as well as the siberian tomato. The chinese yam, good king henry, crambe and maca, also survive well minor frosts.

Normal corn is severely damaged by minor frosts (left), while painted mountain corn is fine (center). Siberian tomato has survived several minor frosts and shows new growth, despite minor leaf burn.

I will keep more updates in soon. Especially new videos!

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