Cool Veggies for Cool Weather
Does gardening never end? Not complaining: I love planting, harvesting, enjoying my little beds and containers pretty much through all seasons, even in the heat of summer and mid-winter’s chills. Still, sometimes it’d be nice to sit down awhile, take it easy.
But no…there are all sorts of stuff I can and should be doing to keep my small garden productive for as long as possible. Trying to be a busy ant, not a lazy grasshopper.
Enter cool-season veggies and herbs. I’m starting seeds and looking for pots of plants that love the cool, short days of fall, many which will also survive hard freezes to bridge my garden from summer until spring. Even in the vegetable garden.
They are called cool-season plants, these lettuces and collards, onions, broccoli, cabbage, garlic, parsley, and the like, because they thrive in cool or even cold weather and suffer or die in hot weather. This means they have a fairly short growing season and even smaller small window of opportunity for planting.
Of course, some of them can be planted in the spring in parts of the country with very mild summers. My English garden has a summer that is ideal for stuff I normally plant for winter back home in Mississippi. Ditto for big swaths of the U.S. and Canada, where summers rarely get so hot the tomatoes drop their flowers, and lettuce can grow all summer.
But for the most part of the country they are planted in late summer or early fall to be harvested before really cold weather sets in, or in late winter or early spring to get going and done with before hot summer nights make them wilt or go to flower.
Luckily, they grow in a time when insects are less active, and generally when there is more natural rainfall to reduce watering needs.
So I am:
- Digging up my faded pepper plants, pulling out the weeds that took over the corn rows, and working more compost into the soil.
- Adding lime as recommended by a soil test to an acidic garden site so it will be working full strength by spring
- Seeding some fast-growing greens like lettuce, chard, beets, and edible-pod peas.
- Setting out small transplants of collards, cabbage, and broccoli.
- Pushing garlic cloves into small hills so they will not stay too wet in the winter rains.
- Watering new plants and seeded areas frequently at first, to ensure they get off to a strong, deep rooted start.
- Covering stuff with netting to help reduce insect pests which are more rampant in the late summer, to protect them until cool weather slows them down.
- Using natural insecticides to reduce pest problems without using chemicals on tender edibles.
- Overstuffing containers with attractive veggies and a few edible flowers.
- Sowing seed for overwintering “green manure” plants such as clover and ryegrass, to reduce winter erosion and to build up the soil for next summer’s garden.
Main thing is, I am not sitting on my summer laurels. Too much that can be planted in the fall to get me through the winter and well into next spring - by which time hopefully my attitude will be more grateful for the ability to garden all year.