Compost, Kale Chips, and Winter Weather Predictions

With winter looming, these raised beds are covered with reinforced plastic, stretched over PVC hoops. Bases are then secured with large paper clips and screwed-down strips of wood. Where access is still needed for in-ground crops, ends are left open. At least for a while. (Marion Owen photo)

Have you ever wondered what’s the long-range forecast for winter 2019 is?

Hold onto your hats. As I recently learned through KTUU, Alaska is forecast to see warmer than average temperatures this winter according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center (CPC).

NOAA issues long term forecasts, and this 2019 prediction covers December, January and February (2020).

The outlook notes that there is “the greatest chance of warmer-than-normal conditions are in Alaska and Hawaii, with more modest probabilities for above-average temperatures spanning large parts of the Lower 48.”

Not good news to someone who loves to photograph snowflakes and hopes her Tibetan blue poppies receive the proper amount of cold snap to create brilliant blue flowers next year.

Of course, the Climate Prediction Center offers a disclaimer: “Even during a warmer-than-average winter, periods of cold temperatures and snowfall are expected.”

Traveling to Hawaii?


Speaking of wet stuff, we can also expect wetter-than-average conditions in Alaska and Hawaii this winter. And if you have friends and family residing across the top of the U.S., this wetness includes parts of the Northern Plains to the Northeast.

As for the U.S. in general, below-average temperatures this winter are not expected. In weather techie terms, “neutral conditions are noted this year.”

So what does this mean for your garden? Life?

For one thing, as Pasteur so boldly declared, “Chance favors the prepared.” Or something like that.

We finished covering our raised beds: Plastic secured over PVC hoops and fixing them into place with strips of wood-lath. Not to protect soil, spinach seedlings and garlic from freezing temperature, so much as to prevent winter rains from rinsing all the nutrients away. It’s a lot of work to make compost: collect ingredients, blend together, mix, turn, add water. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

How to prepare your garden for a forecast?

This week’s column will re-emphasize a couple things (can you hear my voice getting louder?) and I’m tossing in a recipe, some compost tips and a different spin to kale chips. (By the way, have you disconnected your garden hoses, yet?).

Plant spring bulbs


Here’s where my voice gets louder because weather forecasts notwithstanding, the bottom line is that you just never know if or when cold will hit. I mean, whoever thought we’d have such a warm and dry summer?

In past years, planting bulbs in early to mid-November was considered late, late, late. This year however, you’re likely to get away with planting your daffodils, tulips and crocus bulbs even now. (While you’re at it, dig a few crocus bulbs into your lawn for a colorful surprise next spring).

Protect your rhododendrons!

Rhodies have known a gentle existence these past few years, putting out tons of new growth, followed by exquisite pom-pom blooms. While we probably shouldn’t worry, these members of the heath family are the national flower of Nepal and as such will no doubt do fine.

Still, how well the make it through the next six months, depends on how well you prepare them for the winter. Our maritime location, close to the mainland but nestled in the Gulf of Alaska, is fraught with freeze-thaw temperature swings, which can damage even the hardiest of these shrubs. Protect plants residing in northwest exposures where they are subjected to cold, dry winds. Surround them--at least the lower areas of the plants--with a breathable material such as spruce branches or burlap bags secured to stakes.

For added measure, mulch with leaves piled around the base of the plants, but not stacked up against the trunk. Then anchor the leaves by setting spruce boughs on top.

Clean garden tools


It’s a thankless chore but look at it this way: What better thing to do while watching football than to clean your gardening hand tools? Local gardener Pat Holmes offers these step-by-step cleaning tips:

1. Hose off any dirt and then dry the tools completely.

2. Remove rust with steel wool.

3. Hone the tool’s working edge with a sharpening file.

4. To prevent rust, coat metal parts with a lubricating oil or store the working ends of hand tools in a bucket of sand mixed with a little vegetable oil.

Kale popcorn!


After a hard freeze, lettuce turns to mush and annual flowers sag to the ground. But not kale. Kale bounces back like those Roly-Poly Tippy Toy Clowns that spring back to an upright position after you push them over.

Because of their ability to bounce back, many gardeners leave kale in the ground so as to enjoy a longer harvest. This is not a good idea. You’re only inviting a root maggot and cabbage worm outbreak, like many gardeners experienced this summer.

How to make kale chips

Forget the olive oil. I like simple and less messy. Which means, kale chips dried in a food dehydrator. The Excalibur is my favorite food dryer and this time of year it resides in my kitchen.

To make kale chips, rinse, de-stem and roughly chop kale leaves. Place in a food dryer and set the temp to about 130 degrees F. Should only take a couple hours, if that, before they are crunchy. In the oven, use the lowest setting possible. Convention ovens are best.

When dry, drizzle with a little low sodium soy sauce or Dr. Braggs aminos and sprinkle with nutritional yeast. Eat like popcorn.

Meanwhile, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center does not project seasonal snowfall accumulations, but it will issue the next three-month outlook on November 21. Stay tuned.


Marion’s new 2020 “Goodness from Kodiak” wall calendar will be available at the AAUW Bazaar, Saturday, November 9, from 10 to 4. A beautiful 28 pages of gardening tips, recipes, puzzles, and photographs suitable for framing. Learn how to grow stuff in Kodiak, subscribe to the Kodiak Daily Mirror, talk with local growers and join the Kodiak Growers Facebook group.

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