The best answer is the simplest answer. When it gets warmer the plants move from leaf or vegetable production to reproducing. Radishes get woody. Greens get bitter. Broccoli flowers. They do this to typically create seed heads or seed pods. The cool weather is the time for them to grow and mature. The warm weather is time for them to bolt and produce seeds. Some vegetables will grow all season long but can handle the cold and frost, so why not get them in the ground and to your table as soon as possible!
What are the cool weather months in Maryland?
|Vegetables that Like The Cold - The Rusted Garden Blog|
- Lettuces of every type and don't forget Spinach.
- Kale and Collard
- Swiss Chard
- Broccoli, Cauliflower and Cabbages.
There are more cool weather crops. Some of these plants are best planted directly from seed and some are best planted as transplants. This varies a little based on your planting zone. Maryland is zone 7. You can purchase transplants from your local nursery or garden center. You can also grow them indoors from seeds. In the case of lettuces, I plant both seeds and transplants. Seed starting in doors or using transplants helps get garden produce to your table as soon as possible. Transplants will mature to table as your seeds take hold. March is the time to plant. You don't have to wait for the warm tomato weather to start planting your garden.
Yes and no. All of the vegetables I mentioned can handle frost as seeds. Most of them can handle frost as seedlings. Many of them can handle light frost as plants. Some plants can actually freeze. Some of them taste better with a light frost. I have kale, spinach and onions that made it through the entire freeze of winter. As we go through how to plant each vegetable, I will talk a little bit about frost and freezing.
The real risk of damage is consecutive days of all day freezing temperatures. Even a little snow won't matter. Your are looking for mostly 35+ degree night and 45+ degree days as the starting signal to plant. A couple hours of freezing temperatures at night and frost won't do much damage. It is extended freezing periods that cause harm.
Preparing your garden
Radishes need loose soil to about a depth of 8-10 inches. They can be planted once the soil can be worked. Most radish types mature within 25 to 30 days. Radishes should only be planted as seeds and there are dozens of radish seed types at your local garden centers. I recommend buying several varieties.
|Basic Radish Rows - The Rusted Garden Blog|
Plant your radishes in rows at a length of your choice. Plant them about 1/2 inch deep. You should cover them with fine soil. Just make sure the soil isn't too clumpy. The seed packets will have directions if you want exact details. I plant each seed 1/2 inch to 2 inches apart across the entire length of the row. The variance in spacing is based on the size of the mature radish. Smaller radishes can be planted more closely together.
I space my rows about 6 inches apart. I have never had trouble with radishes maturing this way. The trick is to harvest some radishes early and harvest every other plant. This way you get to enjoy some baby radishes and you give the others space to fully mature. You can crowd the seeds a bit and thin if you want.
|Different Types of Radishes - The Rusted Garden Blog|
Some radishes grow bigger than your basic round radish such as 'White Icicles'. You can plant larger growing radishes the same way as I described but you will need to thin the plants earlier to be 1-2 inches apart when the plants reach about1-2 inches in height. I would check the seed packs of larger radishes for information on thinning and spacing.
If you want to have radishes through the month of May, plant new rows every two weeks starting in March with your last row being planted during the first week of May. You don't want to sow so many radishes in one planting that you end up with too many to eat in one harvest. The good news is radishes last longer in the ground when the day temperatures are cool. Once it get's warm they get woody.
A little frost typically isn't an issue with radishes. Even it is, by planting every two weeks you will get a good crop if the first fails. I have never had a crop fail even with a frost.
I plant the seeds this way because lettuces grow fast when the weather hits the right temperature. When the seedlings reach 2 inches tall, I carefully dig them up when the soil is more dry then wet. I space the seedlings out using a minimum of 4-6 inches between plants and I tuck the transplants into spaces all over my garden. Wherever there is space there goes a lettuce transplant I grew from seed. This is just one way to plant lettuces. My transplants are the thinned out lettuces.
|Lettuce, Chard & Radishes - The Rusted Garden Blog|
Because lettuce can withstand some frost and leaf freezing, I also buy lettuce transplants from my local garden center and grow my own. I look for different varieties and get them out as soon as possible. The lettuces you buy as transplants should be healthy looking (of course) and 3-5 inches tall. I plant them about 6 to 12 inches apart in my garden. The larger spacing is because I am growing them to full maturity. If you want to grow baby lettuces or 'cut and come again lettuce' you can plant them closer.
I also plant them closer together, as mentioned, because I harvest a lot of lettuces when they are young as 'cut and come again'. A good tip is to cut the lettuce off at ground level and leave the roots in the ground. Most lettuces will grow new leaves and you can get several harvests from them.
Mixing up seeds and transplants will get you more produce. As my lettuce seeds I planted first, grow to 2-3 inches, the transplants from the garden centers are maturing for harvest. This way I get more lettuces to my table through the cool spring season. There are many ways to plant lettuce. I am just suggesting a few ways that work for me.
The best way to plant spinach is to turn the soil to a depth of 10-12 inches and plant seeds. I poke a hole in the ground with my finger to about 1/2 inch. Again, the seed packets will give you details but they usually say plant rows. I don't plant them in long rows.
|Over Winter 'Red Russian' Kale - The Rusted Garden Blog|
|Picked Kholrabi - The Rusted Garden Blog|
You should thin them to the directions on the seed packet when the plants are 1 to 2 inches tall. The get quite large. They like the cool weather so you can get them in the ground in later March. I plant my transplants 4-6 inches apart as top get a nice large apple sized root. It is above ground remember.
They like loose soil. I plant my peas 1 inch deep and space them 2-4 inches apart when putting them in the ground. I use my index finger to make the holes. I typically plant them along a chicken wire trellis as peas MUST have something to climb up. I also plant peas in containers and I have a video that shows you how to do that. Containers are great to use because you can plant them sooner while the garden beds warm up and dry up. Peas don't do well in cold soggy earth. They rot.
Peas can handle light frost but really can't handle freezing. But they too can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked and really only pop when the time is right. Two plantings of peas, 2-3 weeks apart will work best for continued production.
Planting Swiss Chard
I grow 'bright lights' swiss chard. It is a great green that will grow spring till fall. It doesn't bolt either and you can keep harvesting it the entire growing season. I typically start them indoors or buy transplants. They can handle a light frost and can go in the ground as soon as it can be worked.
They grow quite large and should be planted with spacing like you would use for kale and collards. I plant mine at about 12 inches. In the above picture, they are the 4 plants closest to the front. I have 4 plants in a 4 foot row. They look like leafy greens with some red on the stem. The stem is great in a stir-fry too!
Planting Cauliflower, Broccoli and Cabbages
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