Cool Season Vegetable Gardening with Uncle Luke’s

What are Cool Season Vegetables?

If you are an avid gardener, you will be happy to know that you don’t have to wait for tomato season to get busy gardening. In an attempt to create seed heads or seed pods, certain vegetables move from leaf or vegetable production to reproduction when the weather gets warm, causing greens to get bitter, broccoli to flower and radishes to get that “woody” taste. These vegetables love the cooler weather of spring and fall. Depending on where you live these seasons can be from March through the end of May, and the last week of August through the end of November, respectively. If you are especially eager to get your spring crop planted following a long, cold winter, then using a cold frame can let you get started earlier and prolong your vegetable production in the fall.

Top Ten Cool Season Vegetables

  1. Radishes are always a good start to a spring garden. They can be planted as soon as your soil can be worked; loosen the soil to a depth of roughly 10”, and plant rows of radish seeds about ½” deep. Try several different varieties to see which ones do best in your area as well as suit your personal taste buds! Radishes mature in as little as 25-30 days, so you will see a return on your labor quickly. If you want a continuous supply of radishes through the end of May, plant a new row or two every two weeks, starting in March—don’t worry, a bit of frost won’t slow your radish plants down a bit.
  2. Lettuce can be planted either from seed or from transplants, and you can start planting in mid-March. As with radishes, loosen your soil to approximately 10”, and plant the lettuce seeds ½” deep. Once the seedlings are 2” tall, they can be spaced out so there is a minimum of 6” between each one, giving them plenty of room to produce a lettuce head. Most lettuce types can withstand frost, and can even freeze, as long as they don’t stay frozen for days at a time. If you cut the mature lettuce head off at ground level, the roots will usually grow new leaves.
  3. You will rarely see spinach transplants, so plant your spinach from seed, at a depth of ½” into fully-loosened soil. As with lettuce, frost and freezing are rarely a problem, and if you are a true spinach lover, plant a new crop every couple of weeks through April, and you will have lots of tasty, nutritious spinach.
  4. Beets, Parsnips and turnips are all root crops which must all be planted directly from seed. Although these vegetables are similar, beets and turnips are round, and can be anywhere from the size of a golf ball to baseball-size, while parsnips are more carrot-shaped. Plant ½” deep and ½” apart and cover with fine soil, then when they are about an inch tall, thin to a couple of inches apart. These root crops grow much slower than radishes, taking between 65-85 days to reach full maturity. Frost won’t bother these veggies, but they are slow to sprout, so don’t be alarmed if you haven’t seen your new plants peeking through the ground after a week—it can take two weeks, or even a bit longer.
  5. Peas come in two basic types—the edible-podded type such as sugar snap and the non-edible pods which you remove the peas from the pods, and just eat the peas. Peas like well-loosened soil, and should be planted about 1” deep and 2” apart; they will climb, so you will need some sort of support for them. Peas can handle a light frost, but not serious freezing. If you want to have plenty of fresh peas to eat, freeze and can, plant at least two times, two weeks apart.
  6. Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage should be planted from transplants, especially if you live in the north, otherwise they will fail to mature quickly enough before summer’s warm weather arrives, and will bolt and flower, making them inedible. Raised beds are great for these cool-season veggies, and all three can handle frost and a certain amount of freezing. Make sure they are spaced at least 10-12 inches apart, giving them plenty of room.

Carrots are also a good cool-season crop, as are kale, kohlrabi, chard, onions sets and green onions. Onion sets can be planted early, then again with your warm-weather crops, so you will have a continuous supply.  Garlic also grows well when planted in early spring, or in the fall. Ideally, garlic will be planted in September and harvested in July with little care needed in between, but garlic can also be a spring cool-season crop. If you are itching to get out into your garden and begin your vegetable-growing, Uncle Luke’s is your one-stop local shop to find an incredibly wide variety of cool-season vegetables. We cater to our local customers, meaning our high-quality vegetable varieties have been time-proven for our local growing conditions.

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