This year we planted a number of different crops in late summer as part of a relatively extensive overwintering trial. The goal is to identify and grow out for seed those plants that survive the winter completely unprotected. We have been doing this on a smaller scale for the last several years, and have had some success overwintering crops and growing them out for seed to produce hardier offspring.
The central component of this overwintering trial is our very own variation of Red Russian Kale. For the past 5 years we have been seeding a crop of Red Russian in late summer for leaf harvest in late fall. We then leave the plants in the ground unprotected and save seed from those that survive the winter. Each year the survivors produce hardier and hardier offspring, and a greater percentage are able to withstand Central Maine winters without row cover or even snow for protection. This year there is well over 5,000 row feet planted, and we should be able to begin really selecting some fine specimens of truly our own variety of Kale.
We are also growing out a large number of Evergreen Hardy Scallions from seed grown on the farm. We selected the first batch of seed stock for superior performance after being direct seeded and overwintered, and with over 1,500 row feet planted this year we should be able to continue selecting for the superior traits we are looking for. This is a simple crop to overwinter, as it is incredibly hardy, but it is still exciting to select the sleekest, greenest plants with the best divisions and a reluctance to bolt to save for seed, while also being able to sell the remaining scallions to eager early season buyers.