Cool weather crops for your vegetable garden
Early spring is a great time for gardening. But what can you grow in those early days when the nights and days are still relatively cool? Try this list of cool weather crops for your vegetable garden.
Lettuce is hardy and can be planted as early as the soil can be worked. In general, lettuce is a cool weather crop that makes its best growth at temperatures of 60-65 degrees F. Lettuce can be grown in warmer weather too, but careful variety selection is important. Otherwise, lettuce will bolt and become bitter very quickly.
There are a plethora of fantastic lettuce varieties on the market. When choosing a variety it is important to decide if you want head lettuce, leaf lettuce, or lettuce grown for a micromix. A few varieties that grow well in Flagstaff include Black Seeded Simpson, Red Sails, Oak Leaf, and Rouge D’Hiver, Marveille Des 4 Saisons, Grand Rapids.
Lettuce can be direct seeded or transplanted into your garden. Regardless of what method you choose, your density and spacing will depend on what type of lettuce you are growing. Head and Romaine lettuces need more space than wild and loose-leaf type lettuces.
Carrots prefer cool weather for the best germination and growth. They tend to take a long time to germinate, sometimes as long as two weeks to push through the soil. Many people will seed radishes and carrots together. Radishes grow much more quickly and help mark the rows so you can weed the carrot bed while you wait for them to germinate. The radishes also push and break up the soil so that carrots, which are weaker in stem strength, can push up more easily and readily through the soil.
Carrots prefer not to be grown in compacted soils, so growing them in raised beds can be a good idea. Carrots also prefer a sandy soil, so adding some sand to the soil is a good bet. Carrot seeds are small, and generally need to be thinned to ¾-2” apart, depending on desired root size. Carrots take two to three months to fully mature but can be picked early as baby carrots.
Unless your soil is a deep, loose, sandy loam, it is probably best to choose varieties that are suitable for shallow or heavy soil. The size and shape of Nantes and Chantenay’s make them good choices for most Flagstaff gardens. Ball or round varieties, such as Tonda Di Parigi work as well.
Cole Crops (Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, Kale)
These cool weather crops are grouped together because they are very similar in culture and growth. These plants often grow to be two or three feet high and just as wide, so give them space when you plant them. They will tend to wilt on warm, sunny days. If you keep them watered regularly, they should perk back up when the sun starts to go down. They all require a fertile soil with good moisture-holding capacity. Though some varieties can tolerate heat, these crops are generally best grown as spring and fall crops.
These plants tend to do best when transplanted from flats or six-packs. They can generally be put out about 4-6 weeks after seeding.
Some suggested varieties for Flagstaff include:
Broccoli: Early Dividend, De Cicco, Marathon, Premium Crop, Early Green
Cabbage: Golden Acre, Early Mountain Wakefield
Oliver, Long Island Improved, Jade Cross
Toscano, Red Russian, Dwarf Siberian, True Siberian
Early Snowball, Snow Crown, Graffiti, Cassius
There are many different types of peas, including the snap peas and the pod peas. The pod peas are peas that need shelling when they are mature. The snap peas have edible pods. They can be left on the plant to swell and be used like pod peas, or they can be stir-fried or eaten raw in salads.
Peas like nitrogen-rich soil but most times the nitrogen in the soil has to be fixed in a form that is usable by plants. This is usually done by bacteria in the soil. Some pea gardeners use inoculants (bacteria that are added to the soil to help nitrogen fixation). For best yields ensure abundant phosphorus and potash.
Peas will vine and generally require support. You can buy a pea fence or you can make one yourself using garden stakes and some garden twine.
A few varieties you could try include: Oregon Sugar Pod, Montana Marvel, Cascadia, Early Snap, Sugar Snap, and Maestro
Other Cool Weather Crops and Suggested Varieties
Onions: Super Star, Bianca Di Maggio, Candy, Walla Walla
Spinach: Space, Bloomsdale Long Standing, Tyee
Swiss Chard: Bright Lights
Beets: Detroit, Early Wonder, Chioggia
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