Sunday, March 14, 2010

Time to Plant Early Vegetables

Photo credited to University of Illinois Extension

Spring weather seems to have finally arrived here in the Southern Appalachian region. While the weather has changed for the better. Night time temps have remained above 30° F over the past 8-9 days. Spring frosts in the morning are common in this region into early May. More snow showers will likely occur, so it is wise not to stow away the snow shovel just yet.

St. Patrick's Day (March 17) signals the traditional start for planting early veggies, called the cole crops, within USDA zones 6-b to 7a. Night temps in the mid-20's are unlikely to injure these cool season vegetables.

Why the early start? Well-rooted young plants in March better cope with the warm 70°F days ahead in April and May. Poorly established vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower get "heat stroke" on hot days and likely will bolt (go to seed).

Plant your greens - lettuce, mustard, spinach, chard and kale. Turnips provide both greens and edible roots. Root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes and radishes are part of the early spring agenda.

For carrots to develop well, they require a loose, friable soil. Most of us garden in a tight, clay soil. I advise planting carrots in a raised bed, mixing generous amounts of compost into your soil, creating a porous and deep-rooting grow medium.

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