Not all cool season vegetables are created equal. At least that’s what I’ve been realizing. Just because a plant prefers cool weather doesn’t mean I can just stick it in the ground in the fall and/or spring and expect it to perform. Nor does it mean that I can plant a cool season crop when it’s cold out and expect it to grow. Some prefer to start out in the cold while some languish. And then there’s the issue of pests. Scheduling plantings around pests can really save you a lot of headaches. So here’s what I’ve learned about various cool season plants in my area:
Beets – So far I’ve had the best luck planting them in September. It’s just starting to cool off enough for them to sprout.
Brassicas – Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, broccoli and other related plants do best when planted in August. Planting in September is pushing it. From what I’ve learned, they need the heat of August and September to get going. Then they grow slower when the weather cools down. Planting them then also helps reduce the damage from slugs and snails when they are young (it’s still too hot for them) and then when it gets colder the aphids and mealybugs stay away.
Carrots – Plant around August. They like warm soil to sprout but benefit from the cooler, wet weather to follow.
Garlic – Plant in the fall, preferably right after the first rain. This will help them get nice big cloves.
Lettuce – Plant it any time really, but it will take longer to bolt if you plant in fall. They also will not germinate if it’s too warm.
Onions – Plant in spring. Planting in the fall tricks them into thinking they are 2 years old so when the weather warms up they start to send up flowers – thus ruining them for storage.
Peas – Plant in the spring. They produce more and don’t succumb to powdery mildew as quickly as fall planted peas.
Potatoes – Plant in spring. Planting in fall can kill your tubers. They sprout and then the frost comes in and freezes them. Heavy rains cause them to rot in the ground.
Spinach – This seems to do well any time I plant it when it’s cool out. Does best in the spring though.
Swiss chard – Also a fall crop. It can go in a bit later than the brassicas. When you plant it in the fall it will take longer to bolt and also the leaf miners will be reduced because of the cold.