The Green Thumb Almanac

YOUR ONLINE GARDENING INFORMATION CENTER

Vegetables

Nothing tastes better than fresh produce straight from your very own vegetable garden.  Not only will you get tasty, nutritious food but vegetable gardening can be a fun and rewarding activity for the whole family.  Vegetable gardening can be broken down into two types; cool season vegetables (like  potatoes, cabbage and peas) and warm season vegetables (like tomatoes, peppers and squash).  This page will give you some hints and tips for when to plant and how to have a productive vegetable garden in your very own backyard.
 

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On This Page!

  • Cool Season Vegetables
  • Cole Crops
  • Planting Your Fall Vegetable Garden
  • Potatoes

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Cool Season Vegetables

Cool season vegetables grow best when temperatures are between 60 & 70 degrees F., and most can endure light frosts without injury.  Many cool season vegetables are grown for their edible leaves (lettuce, cabbage, spinach) or roots (carrots, radishes, potatoes).  Some are grown for their edible immature flowers (broccoli, cauliflower).  While others produce edible seeds such as peas.  These vegetables must be grown to maturity in cool weather otherwise they may turn bitter tasting or they may "bolt" and produce seeds instead of edible parts.  Cool season vegetables may be planted in early spring or in late summer for a fall crop. 

Here is a short list of vegetables for your cool-season garden!

 

Arugula, Beets, Bok choy, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Collards, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Cilantro, Chard, Fennel, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Mizuna, Mustard Greens, Onions, Peas, Potatoes, Radishes and Spinach.

Cole Crops

Cole crops (not cold crops) is a term used to describe several vegetables in the same plant family - Brassica.  This plant family includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kohlrabi.  Cole crops require high levels of fertilizer and frequent watering because they have relatively shallow root systems.  Application of an all-purpose garden fertilizer is recommended at the time of planting.  Plants should be watered weekly if you do not get at least one inch of rain per week.  About three weeks after planting apply a fertilizer high in nitrogen to replace nutrients that may have washed away during heavy spring rains.  As always adding organic matter to your soil and mulching will be very beneficial.

What to Plant When?

Harvesting

 

Broccoli - may be ready for harvest from early to mid June.  Cut the heads when they are blue-green in color.  Cut the central stem several inches below the main head but leave the side shoots for harvest later.  These side shoots will produce until hot weather arrives.

 

Brussels Sprouts - A light frost will improve the flavor of Brussels sprouts.  The sprouts should be harvested from the bottom up as they become firm.  The sprouts should be 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter and green.  Please do not remove the lower leaves as these are needed for growth.

 

Cabbage - should be harvested when the heads are firm.  They should feel solid and heavy before you cut them.  Mature cabbage heads are prone to splitting if they are too mature or if they receive excessive water such as after a heavy rain or watering after a dry period. 

 

Cauliflower - will be ready for harvest in mid to late June.  Cut while the heads are still tight and about 5-6 inches across.  If the flower buds begin to separate (or become ricey) it is past its peak.  Cauliflower must be bleached or blanched to produce a pure white head.  To do this pull a few of the larger leaves up and over the head when they are a few inches across and secure with twine or rubber bands.

 

Pests & Diseases - The most common problems affecting cole crops are cabbage worms and buttoning. 

 

Cabbage worms are small green caterpillars that become more active as the weather warms.  They can be manually removed but easily hide in dense foliage (such as cabbage leaves).  A spray containing Baccillus thurengensis (a deadly bacteria to the worms but harmless to us) can be used.  Floating row covers, a light-weight fabric material, can also be used to cover the plants and prevent the moths and butterflys from laying their eggs on the plants.

Buttoning occurs when broccoli and cauliflower plants are exposed to stressful growing conditions and produce heads prematurely.  This can be prolonged periods of temperatures blow 50 degrees F., dry conditions and poor soil.

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Planting Your Fall Vegetable Garden

Late July and August is the perfect time to put out your fall vegetable garden.  The warm soil temperatures and cool air temperatures are ideal for planting several types of vegetables.  As a rule many of the early spring vegetables can be planted at this time.  When choosing what to plant, read your seed packets and pick varieties that will produce in 55 days or less as this is the number of days until freezing temperatures arrive.

When planting your fall garden remember to plant your seeds slightly deeper than you would in spring.  This will keep the seeds cooler.  The ground will dry out more quickly in late summer so you can also cover your seeds to shade them until they sprout.  This can be done with a board or an empty flat from the garden center.  Remember to water frequently in the warm days of late summer.  As in the spring, you should also fertilize your cole crops with about 4 tablespoons of a high-nitrogen fertilizer per 10 feet of row.  This should be done about 4 weeks after seeding or 2 weeks after transplanting.  Covering your vegetables with floating row covers or frost blankets will protect them from frost and extend your growing season.

What vegetables can tolerate frost?

Tender Crops - Damaged by First Frost

Beans
Cucumbers
Summer Squash
Semi-hardy Crops - Can Stand Light Frost

Beets
Chinese Cabbage
Collards
Irish Potatoes
Bibb Lettuce
Mustard
Radishes
Spinach
Swiss Chard
Leaf Lettuce
Hardy Crops - Can Stand Several Frosts but should be used before temps reach low 20's F.

Cabbage
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Brussels Sprouts
Carrots
Turnips
Kale
Frame It All - Simple Modular Gardens

Plant Your Veggies in a Pot!

Thinking you don't have space for a fall garden?  Of course you do!  Plant your fall vegetables in a pot!  Plant lettuce, swiss chard and other leafy greens...throw in some pansies for color...and you have a decorative  and edible container garden!

The Family Tree Nursery Edibles Catalog!  Eighty-three pages of valuable information on planting an edible garden! Everything you need to know about fruits, vegetables and herbs!  Detailed information about fruit, vegetable and herb varieties, when to plant, days to harvest and plant care. How to plan and plant your garden, starting plants from seed, growing in containers and more!

Download now...it's Free!

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Potatoes

If it's St. Patrick's Day then it is time to think about planting potatoes.  Mid-March to Early April is the ideal time to plant as long as your soil is not too wet.  Potatoes like cool temperatures and plentiful moisture.  These plants, whose ancestors came from South America's Andes mountains, prefer well-drained, loose soil.  Heavy, wet soil simply will not do.  Purchase your "certified" 'seed' potatoes from your local garden center and cut them into small pieces with at least two 'eyes.'  Dig a hole about 3-4 inches deep, plant the seed potato and cover with soil.  As the potato grows pull loose soil up around the stem.  This is called 'mounding' or 'hilling' your potatoes.  Mound your potatoes to about 12 inches. Your new potatoes will grow off of the stem just above your 'seed' potato.

Potato Varieties

Potato varieties are separated into three groups depending on the color of their skin; white, red and russet-skinned varieties.  The best varieties for the heartland are:
White:  Superior, Norchip, Irish Cobbler, Kennebec
Red:  LaRouge, LaSoda, Norland, Red Pontiac
Russet:  Norgold Russet, Norkotah
Potato varieties are also used differently.  White-skinned varieties are better for baking or mashing.  Red-skinned varieites are best for boiling.  Russet-skinned varieties can be baked or boiled.
  • Do not use potatoes from the grocery store.  They have been treated to prevent sprouting.
  • Let your cut seed potatoes 'heal' or dry for a few days to prevent rot.
  • Apply an all-purpose, balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) to your planting bed in the fall.
  • Do not plant your potatoes in the same area each year.  Use a 3-year rotation to reduce pest problems and to replenish soil nutrients.
Harvest your potatoes in July when the tops have yellowed or died.  Dig up the plant using a spading fork.  Be careful not to damage the potatoes.  Clean the potatoes thoroughly and store them in a dark, cool area such as a basement.  Do not  expose the potato to light.  When exposed to light potatoes will turn green.  The green portion contains an alkaloid, solanine, which may be harmful if eaten.

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