Are you Growing Cool Weather Vegetables?

If you missed my recent seminar on cool season vegetables, here’s a recap.

Many gardeners miss the opportunity to plant cool weather vegetables or plant them too late and are disappointed. For best results, you need to grow them to maturity in cool weather; otherwise, they can turn bitter tasting or bolt (go to seed) rather than produce edible parts.

Crops such as cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, collards, cauliflower, kohlrabi, brussel sprouts), greens (lettuce, spinach, arugula, Asian greens, mustard, strawberry spinach, endive, radicchio, mache, mizuna, dandelion, chicories), root crops (rutabagas, beets, carrots, turnips, parsnips, potatoes, radishes), as well as peas, celery, cilantro and parsley all prefer cool weather.

Don’t forget, cool weather gardening also includes fall. The best advice I can give is to plan ahead. I use the University of Maryland Extension’s publication for planting dates in Maryland – here it is. I use three different colored highlighters to mark off what I will plant in the spring, summer and fall.

Speaking of fall, I prefer the taste of some vegetables – broccoli, kale and spinach – in the fall. I also like to save space in my garden by planting some root crops in the fall and leaving them in the ground over winter to harvest in early spring. Those would include parsnips, garlic, turnips and rutabagas. Likewise, spinach, chard and kale will go dormant over the winter and start to leaf out again in early spring.

When you are on the hunt for seeds this spring, buy what you think you will want to plant in the fall. Most garden centers don’t carry a wide variety of seeds in the fall. Catalog and internet sources may be sold out of certain varieties.

Products such as floating row cover, cloches, plastic covered hoops and cold frames can extend the growing season even further. For the more frugal gardener, try using inverted plastic milk jugs or cardboard boxes on those unexpected cold nights.

The days are getting longer so get out there and try your hand at some cool weather vegetables!

by Lisa Winters