Time to Plan Your Cold Weather Crops

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Time to Plan Your Cold Weather Crops

It’s a long time until tomato season, but in the south, we’re already frothing at the starting gate to plant our cold crop veggies.

Even if you live further north, did you order your seeds? If not, no matter. You can still get seeds locally and from some of the online sites or catalogs, but think act quickly. I buy much of my seed from a local nursery which still has a row of antique boxes along the back wall. They also know what performs well in my area.

Here, we direct sow seeds of spinach, radish, lettuce, kale, chard, carrots, turnips, beets, onion sets and even Asian greens, like bok choy or tatsoi. Potatoes should be planted by St. Patrick’s Day which is a good way to remember. For a full list of vegetable planting dates, check the local guides from your County Extension office. Where I live, we have such a short cool season even in a normal spring, it is best to start with cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as plants. You can probably find if you didn’t already start seeds indoors. There will be more freezes so have row covers ready. Row covers also discourage insects.
Now is also the time to start your tomato, eggplant and pepper seeds indoors. Some years, I start seeds, while in others, I buy plants. We’re lucky to have numerous local sources for tomatoes, but I find the eggplant pickings pretty slim. To start eggplant seeds, purchase a heat mat to warm the seeds from the bottom for better germination.

Kamala Vegetable Garden

Here are some of my seed mainstays along with a few, new-to-me varieties. I’m putting varieties in single quotes to make them easier to differentiate although many vegetables are open pollinated heirlooms and not truly cultivars.

  • Peas: For shelling peas, I grow the heirloom ‘Alaska.’ It’s a very early variety my grandmother grew with great success, and I get good yields too. Try dusting seeds with bean and pea inoculant for better crop vigor. As for snap peas, I like the hybrid ‘Super Snappy’ because its powdery mildew resistant vines are short and don’t need staking. For snowpeas, I’m trying ‘Oregon Giant’ this spring.
  • Turnips: ‘Purple Top’ is a good consistent variety if you want to eat the roots instead of turnip greens. For something new this spring, I’m planting the Italian variety ‘Rapa da Orto.’
  • Kale: ‘Dwarf Siberian,’ an heirloom, is blue and curly. It works well in a smaller garden.
  • Chard: ‘Ruby Red is simply one of the most beautiful vegetables ever. It tastes good too.
  • Spinach: ‘Bloomsdale Long Standing’ seems to grow better in my garden, although I’ve tried ‘Bordeaux’ and ‘Monstuex de Viroflay’ and many others.
  • Lettuce: Always some type of Mesclun, a mix of seeds grown and eaten early. Now, there are so many different types you simply choose one which has the types of lettuce, herbs and other greens you like. ‘Wine Country Mesclun’ is my choice this year. ‘Black-seeded Simpson,’ with its lime green leaves and mild taste is an essential as is ‘Speckles’ or ‘Speckled Trout Back, a/k/a ‘Forellenschluss.’ Also, ‘Red Leaf’ and ‘Ruby Sails’ are beautiful.
  • Carrots: The soil in my state is not conducive to carrots even in a raised bed so I grow little round carrots like ‘Romeo’ or ‘Paris Market.’ Otherwise, I get a stunted crop. I’ve tried adding sand to my soil. It seemed to make little difference.
  • Beets: ‘Detroit Dark Red’ or ‘Chioggia,’ I love them both. Get them in early, remember to thin seedlings, and they are easy to grow.
  • Radishes: ‘French Blush’ because they are two-toned. This spring I’m also growing an heirloom, ‘Watermelon.’ I tasted one recently, and it was almost sweet. Delicious.

These are just some my personal favorites, but the list of varieties you can grow goes on and on. I hope everyone tries a bit of cold crop gardening this spring.

When I plant the vegetables, I also plant alongside them some cooler weather flowers like borage, fragrant stock, violas, poppies, calendula, nasturtiums and larkspur. Vegetable gardens need flowers too.