MASTER GARDENER: Cool-weather veggies extend planting season

lifestyle_homegardenMany gardeners in Northeast Mississippi tend to grow summer gardens and then close up shop for the winter months. Why not consider planting cool-weather vegetables to extend your fresh vegetable growing season? Some possibilities are cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, peas, chard, lettuce, spinach and, of course, mustard and turnip greens.

Some summer vegetables will continue to bless you with produce until frost if you care for them properly. Gardeners need to control insects and weeds in their extended summer garden as well as their cool-season garden. Be sure to keep your vegetables watered and fertilized. As you consider your fall garden, remember that some of your existing vegetables, such as okra, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, can still be a part of your harvest.

Good, pliable, composted soil is always important in growing vegetables. Raised beds are more conducive to cool-weather vegetables. They are easier to cover should you experience an early frost and you can control the water and weeds more easily. But, it is certainly possible to grow them in any good garden spot. Some cool-weather vegetables can be grown in large pots such as a variety of lettuces.

Know your early frost date so you can plant early enough to have mature vegetables before that date. The early frost date in Northeast Mississippi falls between October 27 and November 7. Using transplants for many of these varieties will help assure a quicker harvest and they’re great when it’s a little late to plant seeds for some of these cool-weather vegetables.

Mulching will protect the plants from temperature and moisture changes. Using wire hoops which can be draped with fabric or plastic will further protect plants and extend the harvest during early frosts. Some use PVC pipe to construct hoop frames and then cover them with plastic. Be sure to remove these covers when the cold has passed and the warm sun returns.

I hope you will experiment this fall with some cool-weather veggies in your garden and will be rewarded for your efforts. Happy fall gardening!

Kay Martin, a Master Gardener, is a trained volunteer of the Mississippi State University Extension Service. For gardening questions, call the Help Center at (662) 620-8280 in Lee County or (866) 920-4678 outside Lee County and leave a message.