Contributed by Connie Schultz, Extension Master Gardener/Composter (Johnston County Extension Services)
“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “to speak of
many things; of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of
cabbages and kings….” (excerpt from The Walrus and the
Carpenter by Lewis Carroll)
I don’t know about cabbages and kings but it’s definitely time to talk about planting cabbages and kale. With our mild eastern Carolina winters, we’re able to work the soil year round and the time from February to March is the time to plant vegetables that do their best in these cool temperatures. This niche in the year-long cycle of growth lets these plants get the jump on the warm weather veggies like tomatoes and peppers by getting up and growing before the trees leaf out or the other plants have sprouted so there’s less competition for light, water, and nutrients. Before the warm weather plants are ready to perform, these cool competitors have already performed and are ready to give way in the garden for the warm weather plants until cool fall weather returns.
While you may prefer to wait until the vegetable 6-packs are available at your local nursery or hardware store (which usually happens a little later in the season), this cool season is the perfect time to plant vegetables from seed. If you consider planting your garden from seed, don’t worry about if or when they will germinate, the seeds know when to come up because they rely on soil temperatures and day length to time their germination. These cool crops don’t do well during hot weather because they tend to bolt to seed or wilt easily or just not grow as well or produce a good crop. They are also less bothered by pests during the cooler seasons of the year.
The list of vegetables that do well in cool weather is long! It includes some favorites like: kale, chard, cabbage, and broccoli; leafy greens like kale, lettuce, and spinach; delicious peas, sugar snap peas and Chinese snow peas; and root crops like carrots, turnips, and beets. For a chart that shows varieties and planting times and other information, contact the local Ag Extension Services for your county.