Cool- Season Vegetable Gardening

cool season veggiesMarch is here and spring is around the corner, and if you are anything like me, then you are longing for some flowers and dreaming of spring planting. Although it’s still a bit early for many plants, now is definitely the time to be planting cool-season vegetables in your edible gardens.

Cool-season veggies grow best at temperatures averaging 15° cooler than those needed by warm season types. Many have edible leaves or roots (lettuce, spinach, carrots, and radishes); others (artichokes, broccoli, cauliflower) are grown for their immature flowers. A few (peas, broad beans) produce edible seeds. Most can endure short periods of frost.

For best results, you need to grow them to maturity in cool weather; otherwise, they can turn bitter tasting, or bolt to seed rather than producing edible parts. Except in coldest climates, plant them in very early spring so the crop will mature before summer heat settles in, or in late summer for a crop in fall in winter.

Here’s a few tips for successful cool-season vegetable gardening this month.

Indoor Transplants

If you started transplants indoor from seed, you will need to harden these home-grown transplants before moving them into the garden. Hardening is a procedure that prepares indoor-grown plants for the rigors of the outdoors. Reduce watering and set them outdoors during the day. Bring them inside at night. Continue this for 3-4 days. If the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, take the plants inside. After four days, allow the plants to be outside all day and night. After about a week or two, the plants should be hardened off and ready to be transplanted with a minimum of shock.

Helpful Hint- Rotate Your Garden

Rotate your vegetables by not planting the same vegetable or related vegetable in the same location year after year. Rotate at least once every three years. If you have to, and if space permits, rotate the entire garden to a new location and allow the original garden to remain fallow for a year. By rotating vegetables from different families you can prevent the buildup of insect and disease problems. Refer to the following list of vegetable families when rotating your garden.

  • Carrot Family: carrot, chervil, celery, coriander, dill, Florence fennel, parsley, and parsnip
  • Goosefoot Family: beet, spinach, and Swiss chard
  • Gourd Family: cucumber, gourd, cantaloupe, watermelon, pumpkin, and squash
  • Grass Family: popcorn and sweet corn
  • Lily Family: asparagus
  • Mallow Family: okra
  • Mustard Family: bok choi, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, collards, cress, kale, horseradish, holrabi, mustard greens, radish, rutabaga, and turnip
  • Nightshade Family: eggplant, pepper, Irish potato, and tomato
  • Onion Family: chive, garlic, leek, onion, and shallot
  • Pea Family: beans and peas
  • Sunflower Family: endive, chicory, globe artichoke, Jerusalem artichoke, lettuce, salsify, and sunflower

Potatoes

Piedmont gardeners can buy seed potatoes and cut them into egg-sized pieces containing one or two eyes. Allow the cuts to dry and callous for a day or two before planting. Plant them when the soil temperature remains above 50 degrees F.

Asparagus

Plant asparagus crowns before new growth emerges from the buds.

Fertilizing

Some vegetables have heavier demands for nitrogen than others and need extra nitrogen during the growing season. These heavy-feeders benefit from an application of primarily a nitrogen-containing fertilizer applied along one side of the row, about 4-6 inches from the plants. This is called sidedressing. Use a nitrogen fertilizer, such as calcium nitrate, bloodmeal, or cotton seed meal.

Sidedress beets and carrots four to six weeks after planting. Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower benefit from an application two to three weeks after planting, and again four to six weeks later. Sidedress lettuce soon after the seedlings emerge and grow. Fertilize English peas when they are 4 to 6 inches tall.

Herbs

Plant perennial herbs such as chives, oregano, and thyme as they become available. Also dill and parsley are okay to sow or set out at this time.

Warm-Season Vegetables

For those of you wishing to get a jump start on your warm-season vegetable gardens, try sowing warm-season vegetable seeds indoors for transplant outdoors later. In flats or trays, try eggplant, New Zealand spinach ( a heat-tolerant substitute for spinach), pepper, and tomato. Tender-rooted vegetables such as cucumber, muskmelon, summer squash, and watermelon should be sown in individual pots or peat pellets.

For more gardening tips, be sure to visit the garden center. Our friendly staff is on-hand seven days a week with answers to all your gardening needs.

Fall Guide to Herbs & Vegetables

Garden Supply Co.- Cary, NC

Now that the season has changed and cooler weather is arriving, it’s time to think about harvesting the last of your summer vegetables, and start work on your fall and winter gardens. Here’s a few of our top tips for getting the most out of your seasonal herb and vegetable gardens this month.

Planting

Extend the gardening season well into the winter by planting fall and winter vegetables now. Good candidates for winter harvest include lettuce, radish, spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, pak choi, swiss chard, collards, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.

Plant garlic now for harvest in late summer. It likes a sunny, well-drained spot. Set bulb tips 2 inches beneath the soil surface.

For the most successful winter gardening, we suggest using cold frames when planting. Cold frames are simple bottomless boxes with a removable glass or plastic lids that protect plants inside from excessively low temperatures, wind, snow, and rain. In doing so, it creates a micro-climate that is a zone and a half warmer than your garden. The result is a harvest of fresh vegetables all winter long.

Harvesting

Listen for frost warnings and be prepared to cover tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and other tender vegetables. The weather often warms up again after the first frost, so this protection can prolong the harvest for weeks.

When there is a threat of frost, harvest your cucumbers, eggplant, okra, pepper, and summer squash before the vegetables become frost-damaged.

Bring in tomatoes for ripening when the daytime temperatures are consistently below 65 degrees F. Pick only those fruits that have begun to change color.

Harvest sweet potatoes before frost as well as gourds, pumpkins and winter squash. If you’d like to store pumpkins, be sure to pick only solid, mature pumpkins that are deep orange in color. Try not to injure the rind as decay-causing fungi attack through wounds. Dip them in a chlorine solution of 4 teaspoons bleach per gallon of water. Allow to dry, but do not rinse until ready to use. Cure them at room temperature for a week to harden the rind, then store in a cool place. They will keep for about two months.

When you can no longer protect your plants, pull them and add them to the compost heap.

Herbs

By now, most herbs have lost their best flavor. Discontinue drying for winter use at this time. Exceptions, however, are chives and parsley, which thrive now and taste better than ever in cool weather.

Chives, coriander (cilantro), dill, and parsley can be direct-sown in the fall in the milder areas of the Piedmont for harvest in the fall and winter months.

For more gardening tips, stop by the garden center and speak with one of our friendly experts. We’re open 7 days a week to help with all your gardening needs!

Planting for Transplant

Garden Supply Co.- Cary, NC

For those of you interested in getting a jump start on the spring growing season, now is the time to start those seedlings for transplant in the garden next month. With a little careful planning and preparation now, you can have any number of flowering annuals, herbs, and vegetables ready for planting, weeks ahead of a regular direct-sown outdoor planting schedule. And we’ll tell you how.

Planning

Plan to organize your seed packets this month to create a sowing schedule for your seeds. Look up the date of the last expected freeze in your area, and use that as a guideline for planning. You can find information on frost dates for most cities in North Carolina from the National Climatic Data Center website. Then check the instructions on the seed packets to find the number of weeks of growth required before each seedling can be transplanted to the garden outside. Count the weeks back from the last expected freeze to know when to sow your seeds.

Planting

Here’s a few tips for sowing seeds for transplant.

1. Moisten a sterile, seed-starting mixture and fill your pots or trays to within 1/4 inch of the top.

2. Sow very fine seeds with vermiculite or sand. Mix the seeds with the vermiculite or sand and pour the mix into the center of a folded piece of paper. Tap the paper gently over the medium to sow the seeds.

When sowing medium to large seeds, use the end of a pencil to create a hole in the mix. Plant seeds no deeper than recommended. Drop one or two seeds in each hole.

3. Press extremely fine seeds lightly into the medium, or water them in with a fine mist spray. Cover the seed if light is not required for germination. A thin layer of vermiculite is enough. Otherwise, leave the seed uncovered, exposed to light.

For medium to large seeds, cover seeds to a depth equal to twice their diameter.

4. Label the pot or flat with the name of the plant and the date it was planted. Read the packet and make note of the date the seed is expected to germinate so you will know when to expect sprouts to appear.

5. Spray mist the seeds to water them in. If watering from the top may disturb the seeds, place the entire container into a tub containing a few inches of water. Allow the mixture to become saturated, then set  the pots or flats aside to drain.

6. Cover the pots or trays with plastic wrap, or put them in a plastic bag secured at the top to retain moisture.

7. Unless the seeds require cool temperatures, move them to a location between 65 and 75 degrees F. in bright but indirect light. When the seeds have sprouted, expose them to bright light. Remove the plastic covering and put them under fluorescent lights. Two 40-watt fluorescent lights are a good choice and provide the quality of light required by the plants. Set the trays on your light stand and lower the lights so they’re barely touching the topmost leaves. Keep the lights on for sixteen hours each day. An automatic timer can help here. As the seedlings grow, raise the lights.

Watering

Determine the need for watering by squeezing the top 1/2 inch of medium between your fingers. If water squeezes out easily, there’s plenty of water. If the medium feels moist but water is difficult to squeeze out, add water. Just remember to water the seed flats no more than necessary.

Fertilizing

Seedlings growing in soil-less mixtures need to be fertilized when the first true leaves appear. Feed at every other watering with a water-soluble fertilizer to promote faster growth until the plants are ready to be transplanted outdoors.

For more information and all the supplies you need to start your own garden indoors this month, be sure to stop by the garden center. Our friendly experts are on hand 7 days a week to help with all your gardening needs. Hope to see you soon!

Root Vegetables and Bare Roots

Hello everyone!  This is such an exciting time of year at Garden Supply.  Although Winter hasn’t quite relinquished its hold on us yet, Spring is arriving on a daily basis at the garden center.  Every time I pop by, I am wowed by the new plants and decor items that have appeared since my last visit. I am SO in the mood to plant!

Just in to the Greenhouse is a new shipment of bare root fruits and root vegetables.

In bare-root, we’ve got black raspberries, red raspberries, blueberries, and 3 types of grapes- Concord variety, Caco variety, and Niagara variety.  Also in are both Ever-Bearing and June Bearing strawberries plants. With 10 plants per bag, you are going to love the value of these strawberry packages.

We’ve also received a huge variety of root vegetables that is sure to please even the most discerning of gardeners.

There are  rhubarb roots, horseradish roots, shallots, red onions, yellow onions, white onions, sweet onions, garlic, and elephant garlic. Many are available in either convenient packages or bulk so you can mix and match.  Phew………….

And there’s more!  How about some potatoes?  We have packaged seed potatoes in Red Norland, Kennebec, Russets, and Red Pontiac varieties.  Asparagus in Purple Passion and M. Washington varieties as well as our handy-dandy bundles with a whopping 12 plants per bundle.

And don’t forget our other cold-loving vegetable plants already in, like carrots, Chinese cabbage, spinach, and mix-leaf lettuces.  They are moving out fast, but we still have some left.

Although all today’s plants and vegetables thrive planted directly in the ground, many also do very well in the container garden for those with little or no yards.  Even potatoes!  We have the perfect above-ground potato planter for the home gardener, that was featured in this month’s Cary Living Magazine.

With the Bosmere Potato Planter Bag, there’s no need for a garden.  No digging required.  You can plant between 3 to 5 seed potatoes per bag.  There’s a flap at the bottom that allows you to check your potatoes.  When the vegetables are ready, simply empty out the bag and enjoy the real taste of home-grown potatoes.  Garden Supply owner, Keith Ramsey, recommends planting potatoes, parsley, and chives all in one bag for an instant potato-bar garden.  That’s just brilliant, in my book!

We have lots more new items arriving every day!  Stop by and pay us a visit.  Our gardening experts are on hand to answer all your questions.  And I’ll see you back here tomorrow for more snippets from the garden.