How to Grow Vegetables in the Cool Season

Vegetables can be easy to grow – especially now that the cooler season is upon us.  So maybe call this Cool Season Vegetable Gardening – Tips & Tricks.

Yes, it is time now for a cool season vegetable garden in the Southwest.  Or maybe less than a garden.  Maybe just some pots on the patio. Thing is, days are cooling off in the Southwest and that means it is time to get your “winter” vegetable garden going.

Cool Season Vegetables

You need to plan and plant before any frost comes along, and this year we have been getting some beautiful autumn rains to soak the ground and encourage growing.

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The reason for doing this now – in October – is that some plants need warm soils to germinate, but then grow better in cool temperatures (lettuce and cole crops are two examples) and such plants are ideal for a cool season or “autumn” or even “winter” garden.

Which Cool Season Vegetables?

Most of the crops in the winter garden are from northern or eastern Europe or other similar cool parts of the world. Genetically they are well adapted to our cool season, but they may still struggle with our low humidity. [[This Cool Season Vegetable List is a “Resource” and is on the main menu – here]]

There is an entire post about chard – here.

Cool Season Soil

Buying a seed-starting mix is well worth it. You spend a little money to save you a great deal of time and potential disappointment.

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Beet seedlings. Yes, they are too close together. You can thin these with scissors – and into the salad bowl!

For the wither garden a nice dark colored seed-starter mix helps warm the seeds in the cool months. Seed-starter soils are also lighter weight that garden soil, which makes it easier for sprouting seedlings to fight their way out of their seeds and grow their little heads up above the ground.

Water

Keep seeds moist when they are sprouting. This seems a no-brainer, but it is critical in our arid climate. Twice a day water is not out of line for seeds sprouting when it is still hot out. Once young plants have three to four sets of leaves, they will have enough roots that they can stand a less frequent watering.

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Transplants = AKA Seedlings

Some plants are easier to grow from transplants due to soil temperatures, others due to space. Think how much of a crop you want and how much space you have available. I could freeze and use about a quarter acre of broccoli, but I don’t have that much space, so 4-pack from the nursery has to suffice. Finally, some plants are easier to grow from transplants due to their nature. Onions grow best from “sets” (but wait until January here in the Southwest).

Cool Season Continual Harvest

If you plan and plant with attention, you can harvest your cool season crops over a long period of time. Radishes are a good example of a crop you want only a few of at a time! Succession planting is the key. Succession planting is the process of planting the same plant, in successive weeks, through the growing season. Beets, carrots, chard, choy, kale, and lettuce join radish on the list of good candidates for succession planting.

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Harvest

Most vegetable crops are ready at a specific time. Look for the “days to maturity” on the seed package or nursery label. Save this data! It will help you planning your succession planting and harvest time (beets left too long become woody).

For tips on cooking with your harvest, I invite you to visit a site I write for called Savor the Southwest. (.net)

Crop Rotation

Some plants need to be moved where they grow in the garden each year. This is because these vegetables  are highly susceptible to soil-borne diseases. By moving where you plant them from year to year you avoid ever having the problem develop. Or grow these susceptible crops in large pots and provide them with new potting soil each year.

Good Luck! and watch this website for more information on individual crops.

Thanks for reading – Jacqueline

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