The first week of 2017 looks set to bring lots of rain to the Bay Area and snow to the Sierra Nevada, topping up the reserves that California will be relying on all year. We’re hoping the skies will clear in time for our next garden workday—drop in any time between 10am and 1pm on Sunday, January 8. We’ll be turning the compost, clearing the paths and generally putting the garden in shape for the new year.
Whenever you manage to make it out to the garden, January is a good time to prepare for the year ahead. Some crops will germinate in the cold and wet of January, like leeks, onions and the more hardy greens. But if you’re planning to dedicate some of your 2017 plot space to warm-weather crops, like tomatoes and zucchini, you won’t be planting until April at the earliest. In the meantime, you have plenty of time to plant a cover crop. Cover crops are typically legumes like field peas, beans and clover that will germinate and grow to maturity in 60–90 days and add nitrogen to your soil to boost the growth of your summer crops. With these legumes, much of the benefit comes from the nitrogen-fixing nodules in their roots. Another popular cover crop component is oats, which will grow fast and add more organic material.
The idea is that you plant the cover crop in the fall or winter and cut it shortly before you’re ready to plant your main crop in the spring. After leaving it to dry on the surface for a couple of days, you dig in the dead vegetation as you prepare the soil for your main crop. If you do sow seeds now, consider protecting them for a week of two with some “floating” row cover—basically any sort of translucent, water-permeable fabric that you can stake on top of the soil. This will keep the soil a little warmer encouraging your seedlings to germinate, and also protects them from birds—pigeons love to snack on peas in a newly seeded plot.
Then reward your hard work with these tasty chocolate chip cookies, as baked by Lucy Fisher for the garden’s anniversary party in October.
THE $250 COOKIE RECIPE FROM NIEMAN MARCUS (VIA THE NEW YORK TIMES)
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2½ cups oatmeal
- 2 cups flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 12 ounces chocolate chips
- 1 4-ounce milk chocolate bar
- 1½ cups chopped nuts
- Heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Cream together butter and both sugars. Stir in eggs and vanilla.
- Finely grind oatmeal in a blender or food processor. Combine the oatmeal, flour, salt, baking powder and soda in a medium bowl, and slowly add it to the wet ingredients. Beat just until combined. Grate chocolate bar using a microplane grater and add it, along with chocolate chips and nuts to the batter. Mix just to combine.
- Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart, on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes