Water + Sun = Food : The Quiet Season by Stephen Rose

Stephen Rose is a garden member with a remarkably green thumb. He’s chronicling the year in his own lush backyard. We are following along for tips for our own plots, decks and sills.

It is finally cold in Brooklyn. Spring training is still 38 days away. All my bulbs (including garlic) were planted months ago. My tropical plants are happy inside. I wrapped the trunks of my espaliered apple trees to protect them from mice and other critters. I will likely prune the trees some time this winter to encourage them to grow another horizontal cordon. I also protected my fig trees against the cold weather by piling up leaves around their trunks, bending over the plants and wrapping them in insulating agro fabric. I left my sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) in the ground, a trick that sweetens the tuber. I will dig them up soon. Even the kale doesn’t like it when it’s this cold. I won’t be doing much in the garden until March. The farmer rests.


The scene of the Great Sunchoke Disaster     Credit: Stephen Rose

Last week I ordered my onions for the spring. I order those from Dixondale Farms in Texas. Dixondale automatically ships live, tiny little onion wisps at the correct time based on your region. Onions and garlic provide a lot of bang for your buck, in my opinion. Cured properly, they last all winter. I contend that onions and garlic have a high ceiling: unlike cucumbers, which pretty much taste like cucumbers no matter where they are grown, onions and garlic grown at home stand out from conventional bulbs. I also grow Egyptian walking onions, but those are perennials. The Egyptian walking onions have very potent, garlic-like bulbs that actually grow on the stalks. They look sharp too.

In the next couple of weeks, I will order seeds for the spring. I generally order from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. I buy early cold weather seeds and sow them after the last frost: mostly lettuces and herbs, and sometimes peas, which I may germinate indoors first. I don’t have grow lights indoors, so most of the nightshades I plant in May I buy as babies. Before the babies go in the beds, I will already have harvested an early spring lettuce crop. I have had excellent luck with the baby plants Kira at Evolutionary Organics sells at Grand Army Plaza. I may end up ordering some unusual seeds that would be hard to find as babies, like artichokes, cardoon, or unusual squashes. If I were committed to starting seeds indoors, I would secure a grow light, some kind of heat source for the seedlings, and soil-less mix.

I have yet to decide if I am going to grow potatoes again. We had decent luck with them, they can go in very early, and again, I think potatoes have a high ceiling.

The easiest decision I will make this winter is not to repeat the Great Sunchoke

Disaster of 2015. I planted a couple sunchokes in the corner of one of my raised beds, and they liked it, a lot. I was warned that sunchokes are native and can tend to take over, but I foolishly underestimated the plants. Sunchokes are related to sunflowers, to give you some idea of the scale. They grew 12 feet tall, finally flowered in late September, and ended up shading portions of the garden, even when they were tied together. Limitless, stupid sunchokes. Don’t throw tubers in your garden beds when your mother tells you not to, kids.


One Response to “Water + Sun = Food : The Quiet Season by Stephen Rose”

  1. Andrea Kannapell says:

    Wow, those sunchokes are incredible. Thanks so much for this glimpse into the mind of a successful gardener. I am taking notes! This site has some great pictures of the Egyptian walking onion: http://www.egyptianwalkingonion.com/

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