COLUMBIA, S.C. — April brings wild temperature swings across South Carolina, but more often than not the pendulum swings towards the warm side of things.
Great news for gardeners planting their summer plants, but for those who are trying to keep their winter garden alive, time is running out.
This winter I grew spinach, parsley, lettuce, collard greens, bok choy, and cauliflower in Gandy’s Garden. While they all thrived during the rainy and mild winter in the South Carolina Midlands, they’re reaching the end of their lives now that the weather is warming up.
Flowers are a promise of fruit in the summer garden, but when it comes to leafy greens, flowers are a signal the plant is at the end of its life. Winter crops stop producing leaves when they bloom and when the plant diverts its energy towards flowers (and seed production), it’s taking energy away from the sugars in the leaves that make the texture and taste so mouthwatering.
There are things we can do to make the most of what’s left of winter plants.
Shade cloths can help prolong the winter garden season a few weeks if you have the room, but in Gandy’s Garden the priority is getting the beds ready for summer crops which need a few months to establish before the weather gets excessively hot.
So we’re getting rid of the winter crops!
Don’t feel bad about digging up and using a winter green that’s decided to bloom. If you catch it early in its bloom cycle, the leaves will still taste good. Our collards and parsley are just starting to bloom and the leaves still taste great! I freeze whatever food I can. Parsley freezes well all on its own, but others like Spinach and Collards are best cooked and seasoned first before they’re frozen.
The flowers on these winter greens are absolutely beautiful. They do very well in a vase of water in your home and will add some much-needed brightness! There’s nothing bad about leaving the flowers on the plants a little longer. Pollinators can’t get enough of them!