Cool Weather Vegetables

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The last couple months of summer were blazingly hot this year. Coupled with the heavy rains in June and July, your vegetable garden probably struggled with higher incidences of fungus, mildew, and pests this year. So if your cukes and tomatoes didn’t do particularly well this season...join the club. But, the good news is that you have another few months of vegetable gardening left with cool-weather vegetables!

When most people think about the vegetable garden, they immediately think of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, etc. They do extremely well in the brutal heat and humidity of summer, but fade around September. At that point, we start to receive cool-weather vegetables at K&B True Value. That includes lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and other vegetables that thrive as the evenings get cooler and the days get shorter. Planted now, you will have a steady harvest into late fall and, in some cases, right up to Christmas. Then, come March, we’ll have more cool weather vegetables come in and you can start all over again until it is time to plant the summer garden in May.

There are a couple of things that you have to consider when planting cool-weather vegetables. First, is to remember to keep up with the watering. As the temperatures cool, it is easy to forget that your plants will dry out relatively quickly, especially in containers and raised beds. And, cool-weather vegetables tend to have shallower roots than other vegetables, so they need to be watered relatively frequently. It’s easy to forget this, especially when you turn your outside water off as the frosts approach in November. Shredded leaves, once they begin to fall, make a fantastic mulch in the vegetable garden, keeping the moisture from evaporating and adding organic material to the soil as it slowly breaks down.

And, as summer fades to a memory, it is easy to forget that there is still an army of critters who will nibble at your vegetables until the leaves are literally skeletal remains. Cabbageworm, the Cabbage Looper, Beet Armyworm, and myriad nasty little munchers can make quick work of your garden in just a few days. We offer many organic solutions, such as insecticidal soaps, that are perfectly safe for humans, yet keep the critters away. It is extremely important to examine your plants, especially under the leaves, every few days. Because when pests strike, they move FAST!

When it comes to frosts, you should be okay right up through the holiday season, since we don’t generally get a hard frost until late December or early January. Not only do cool-weather vegetables shrug off light to moderate frosts, but they actually improve their flavor. If a hard frost is on its way, covering your gardens with a light sheet or frost blanket will keep them safe from damage.

If you like fresh romaine lettuce, roasted cauliflower, or a hearty broccoli casserole, you have to give cool-weather gardening a shot. In many respects, it is easier than summer gardening, as you have fewer problems with weeds and pests are easier to contain. If you think about it, with two cool-weather seasons and a summer season, you can keep your vegetable garden productive for most of the year!

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Guest April 24, 2017