Growing cold crops

Monday, April 13, 2009

What is a cold crop?

Sometimes called cole crops, cold crops are vegetables that thrive in colder weather. These crops are grown in early spring or fall. Vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and collards are the most common cold crops grown in Putnam County.

Potatoes, onion and peas also like colder temperatures too, but they usually are only sown in the spring.

We are going to discuss cold crops that can be sown in the spring and fall.

Cold crops tend to be fairly easy to grow. They like well-drained soil; the optimal pH is around 6-6.5. To amend your soil to better grow cold crops, add some organic matter to the soil. This organic matter can be in the form of rotted manure or compost. It is always a good idea to get a soil test done and amend your soils according to the test.

When fertilizing cold crops, don't use a combination fertilizer containing herbicides, because it can kill the vegetable plants.

Starting cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower indoors can help you get a jump on the growing season. Depending on the variety of cold crop, you can sow seed approximately four to six weeks before transplanting the plants into your garden.

You can also purchase transplants to put in the garden.

Remember, our last frost date in Putnam County is around May 9. After that date the threat of frost is minimal.

Cold crops can be planted a few weeks earlier than the last frost date, weather permitting.

For a fall crop you can sow seed directly in the garden around mid-July or early August. Cold crops do need consistent water. Most of the time, Indiana spring weather gives us plenty of water until the onset of summer.

If not enough water is available make sure to water the soil deeply. Vegetables need about 1 inch of water a week. This amount can be easily measured by placing an empty tuna or cat food can where you are watering. When the can is full of water, you have watered approximately one inch.

When you start your own vegetables you can experiment with different varieties that are not available at the local garden center. When harvest time comes around it's always exciting to see your hard work pay off.

Cabbage should be harvested when the heads reach a useable size. Cut off the head above the outer leaves. The cabbage heads will split if they are left too long or receive two much water during the last few weeks before harvest.

Some varieties of cabbage crack easier than others.

Cauliflower can be a little tricky because the heads need to be blanched. That means excluding the sunlight from reaching the head when the florets start to form. Blanching the florets is done when you tie the leaves of the plant over the curds. It is best to do this when the florets are no larger than 2 inches.

When harvesting cauliflower, cut the heads when they reach useable size, otherwise the heads get mealy and discolored.

Broccoli, on the other hand, can produce useable heads for weeks. The lateral shoots will develop after the central head has been harvested. Harvest before the heads flower.

Brussels sprouts are harvested from the bottom up. Every time you harvest brussels sprouts from the bottom, more are produced at the top.

Harvest kale and collards from the ground line or pick one leaf at a time to prolong harvest.

There is nothing like having your own vegetables fresh from the garden. Enjoy!