Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cool Weather Crops

Just a few short weeks ago I posted on starting my cool weather crops. For me this consists of broccoli, cabbage, lettuce starts, onions, and  bok choy, I started these seeds in a standard black tray and insert system with a clear top that I purchased many years ago and sterilize at the end of the season and reuse from year to year. I find that these trays were relatively cheap when I bought mine and the seedlings usually only stay in them for a few weeks until potted to larger pots.  Once my cool weather crops are repotted then I can start my warm weather crops in these same trays. 

Under lights my seedlings emerged in just a few days looking for nourishment and sunlight. Snugly tucked under standard fluorescent lights then it is usually simply a matter of keeping them warm (but not too warm) and not over watering them. I allow them to dry slightly between waterings and mist slightly with a recycled spray bottle if necessary. I put a small fan on them during the day because I think this helps to make them stockier and provide about 14 hours of light. I like to keep my light no more than 3 inches above the top of my plants. 

This is Tom Thumb lettuce. This is an open pollinated heirloom lettuce dating back to the 1800's. It is a crisp butterhead that makes a small head about the size of a softball. great for individual salads with a wonderful taste.   Once set in the garden it will mature in about 35 days. I like to stagger plantings through the season. 

Remember last year I had these little head lettuces tucked in between the chives and daisies in my flower gardens. A great fill in early in the season and since they are ready in 30 days once cut they allow room for larger annuals while still providing food for the pantry. Remember to let a few go to seed as this variety can be hard to find sometimes. 

And this year I am trying a new romaine called Jericho. It is a tall upright open pollinated romaine. You harvest these a few leaves at a time allowing the plant to continue to grow and produce more leaves. This is a new variety for me and I will try to remember to keep you updated. My original seeds came from Pioneer Seed Company.

And for those spring stir fries Bok Choy is the highlight of the season. Another cold tolerant grown like standard cabbage but more upright. The original seed for this came from Seeds Of Change  seed company.

An excellent vegetables for stir fry and easy to grow. Just remember to keep a little Bt handy for those cabbage worms. This plant has a good tolerance for cooler temperatures also and came up in 2 days from seed with no bottom heat at all.  

This is also a wonderful plant to allow to go to flower and collect seeds from. 

And we cannot forget those Early Jersey Wakefield Cabbage. Another open pollinated heirloom making small conical heads. This has been a great performer in my garden and with the smaller heads seems much less prone to splitting than the giant head cabbages that many prefer.  It is great fresh and I use it for sauerkraut as well.

And with the right soil and good weather those heads can even rival the giant headed varieties. 

And lets not forget the broccoli. I have a tray and a half potted up of a new F1 variety for me called Premium Crop. It was a 1951 American Selection Winner and a F1 Hybrid. After 2 years of poor crops with a popular open pollinated variety I am planting a hybrid and will be on the look out for a new open pollinated variety that performs well in my climate. I do like the open pollinated varieties and the option of seed saving but not at the risk of no broccoli crop at all. This hybrid performed wonderfully for my neighbor and I am going to give it a try.  

So with my plants ready to harden off and my seed potatoes and small onion sets ready to go I am simply waiting on the weather to stabilize. The snow has melted but temperatures are yoyoing all over the place. We got a huge rainstorm over the weekend that melted the snow but the mud is knee deep right now. We are hoping with 60 degree days predicted for this weekend that it will help to dry the garden out enough to get my potatoes in the ground for my traditional St. Patricks Day planting. If not there is always another day. 

The small green pea seeds are awaiting their planting time as well. The first plantings are always potatoes, green peas, onions and lettuce. From there will be the mustard, spinach, beets and more leaf lettuce. Then the cabbage and broccoli. In zone 5A my average frost free date is April 15th. So any time between now and then and as soon as weather and soil conditions permit the planting will again begin.  

Are you ready for those early spring cool weather plantings?

Blessings from The Holler

The Canned Quilter  


  1. Lots of great photos and info here ! Thanks for sharing ! Have a good day !

  2. Wow, wonderful head start.

    Don't even know if we will garden this year. There should be some volunteers come up.

  3. all your starts look wonderful, amazing, thrilling, exciting...!! can you tell we too are ready for spring...?? we have planted Early Alaska peas and your Champion of England for the first time... also we have our spinach and onions in the ground here in zone 7a... tomato starts (Brandywine, Black Krim, Mortgage Lifter and Ananas Noire varieties all new to us) are looking great inside under lights as is the Calabrese broccoli... but now I am SO worried... I believe myself to be one of your most faithful readers but I surely did not remember your posts about that being a sprouting broccoli... :(( years and years ago we had the most huge broccoli heads the size of dinner plates... I credited their success to mushroom compost we used in the West Tn garden that year... never have had access to that kind of compost since we moved back to Kentucky... and looks like we sure won't this year with that sprouting kind... oh well, we will try and get it in the ground this weekend and like you say, live and learn... thanks for all the sharing you do... consider us inspired...!!

  4. Premium Crop has been my faithful stand-by broccoli here in zone 4b. I always plant it and at least one other variety every spring. On my planting schedule, the cole crops are started next week. I also start more broccoli seedlings in July for transplanting at the beginning of August for late September harvest.

  5. I need to get myself busy and get things started.. Although our last frost date is around May 1st.. we usually cant get into the community garden I garden in until around Memorial weekend.Only once have I known them to open early.. sigh.. we do what we must. I can and do plant a few things around the house.. I have garlic growing in my front bed, and I had a chard plant go to seed last year and it reseeded all over the place.. so Im assuming there will be thousands of baby chard plants in addition to the hundreds of "Gardeners Delight" cherry tomatoes that come up all over my tiny front yard garden.. literally, hundreds.
    Sure wish I had about 2 acres outside my back door to do my playing in the dirt.. ;)


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