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Timeline for Growing Greens

Nine tips on planting and harvesting.

broccoli can produce new shoots if you take the first harvest near the crown.

Broccoli can produce new shoots if you take the first harvest near the crown.

Planting

1.Find the average date of the first hard frost in your area. The county extension agency is the best source, but local nurseries may have this information as well. For directly sowing seed, find the number of days to harvest listed on the seed-packet. Subtract this number of days from your frost date to estimate the last best date to plant.

2. Before planting, amend garden soil with well-aged compost. Keep garden soils evenly moist—a shade cloth or lattice may be helpful in sunny and hot areas.

3. At 12-14 weeks before the first hard frost, this is your last recommended opportunity to plant seeds of cilantro and radishes, some cabbages, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. However, with all plants, you can buy yourself more time by planting seedlings.

4. At 10-12 weeks before the first hard frost, this is your last recommended opportunity to plant seeds of beets, carrots, collards, leeks, parsley and scallions. A finely ground mulch around seedlings can help keep weeds out, while keeping in moisture and warmth.

5. At 8-10 weeks before the first hard frost, this is your last recommended opportunity to plant seeds of arugula, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, lettuces, turnips, spinach, mustard, pac choi, tastoi and other Asian greens, kohlrabi, radishes and daikons (also called a white radish).

6. At 6-8 weeks, before the first hard frost, this is your last recommended opportunity to plant seeds of spinach, kale and mache.

Harvesting

As your winter plants ripen, here are a couple of tips for harvesting;

1. Harvest the leafy greens as they are available. Cut outside leaves and let interior leaves remain to keep the plant growing. After a light frost, many leafy greens will still be OK, but don’t cut when the leaves are frozen or they will thaw to mush. Instead, wait until the temperature warms the leaves before harvesting.

2. Harvest cabbages and broccoli by cutting high on the stem. The plant will send up side shoots and smaller crowns for a later harvest.

3. Many gardeners and farmers prefer to harvest collard greens after the first hard frost for a sweeter tasting leaf.

It’s recommended to “research” before you grow. County extension agencies are a great resource for finding what vegetables perform well in your area, though a tastier course of study can be found in farmers markets.

Patty McManus and Nash Huber of Huber’s Organic Produce in Sequim, Wash., have spent over 30 years perfecting winter vegetables for their demanding customers. “Our customers’ favorite, hands down, are our carrots that just get sweeter as the season progresses,” Patty says. “We have worked on a variety of Winter Bloomsdale spinach that is now pretty well suited for our region, and people say it’s the best they ever tasted.”

Note that all planting information is based on plantings in open air. Planting in cold frames, tunnels and green houses will allow for a longer growing season.

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