Plant These Vegetables in the Cool Season
Some of our favorite vegetables only grow well with cool temperatures. As soon as the weather heats up, they get bitter, go to seed, or melt out. Find out how to grow “salad days” crops.
If you think about your favorite salad, you probably have an idea of which crops are grown in cool weather conditions:
- baby beets
- green onions
- baby carrots
- mesclun greens (a mix of lettuces and green, leafy salad plants)
Sowing and Reaping in the Garden
As might be imagined, planting seeds takes place early in the growing season. If you start late, baby greens and veggies can still be harvested. You can also prepare for a fall season garden, when cooler temperatures aid the growth of these same crops. Because these plants tend to be fast growing, they can be interplanted with vegetables that we expect to harvest during the height of the summer.
Quick Growing Tips for Your Favorites
Leafy Greens, Lettuces and Mesclun
Leaf Lettuces, Mesclun, and other leafy greens like Spinach and Chard are direct sown into the ground, as early as you can work the soil. They are the easiest of crops to plant, and just as simple to harvest. I like to use scissors to cut leaves and leave plants to grow another set of leaves for another time.
The seeds are varying sizes, but if you work up the dirt to a fine tilth, plant them shallowly in blocks or rows. Firm them into the ground and watch for the seedlings to sprout, thinning as needed. Space the plants to recommended distances and harvest until hot temperatures arrive.
Then once they bolt or become bitter, simply remove and compost the old plants; put another crop in their place, like beans, peppers or tomatoes.
Arugula is just a fancy green that is grown like lettuces. Plant into the soil, them the plants, and grow during the cooler temperatures. Pull them out after hot weather hits, which causes bitterness. Germination in about 5-7 days.
Beets and Root Vegetables
You can make succession plantings of beets until temperatures reach 80°F. Carrots should be planted a few weeks before the last frost date. Root vegetables, because the crop forms underneath the surface, benefit from loose, friable soils.
Follow seed packet directions on how deep to plant the seeds, and then be sure to think the new sprouts to give the roots plenty of room to grow. Some of these, like turnips and beets, have edible foliage for salads- so nothing is wasted! Otherwise enrich the compost pile with excess seedlings.
Radishes are root crops that grow quite quickly, and that makes them ideal for marking a row for something slower like the carrots or beets.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts, as well as cabbages, etc. grow best in cool weather. I usually plant young starts from the nursery, but you can start your own inside.
Cauliflower, for example, takes 4 to 5 weeks before the last spring frost date to start for the garden. The weather at that time is much too cold to try to grow outdoors.
These crops are all resistant to frosts.
Add Some Lime
A useful tip for most soils is to add some lime to the soil. Many vegetables grow better when the pH is between 7 and 8, which is more alkaline. It is easier to add during dry conditions before planting. Because it takes time for this amendment to incorporate into the soil, add it regularly at the beginning and end of the growing season.
A good reason to remember September and the end of August is to plant these cool season crops for a fall harvest. It may be necessary to keep the plantings moist until the seasonal rains begin, but the weather will be ideal for this later vegetable harvest. The root vegetables may be harvested until the ground freezes.