Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Meet the "Cool Crops" of Spring!

Think greens for spring!  Some of the "super" foods of  nutrition are among the crops you can plant in early spring. To have a successful spring garden plan and prepare now.   These cool season crops have certain common characteristics.

A bed of peas, carrots, beets, cabbage, and broccoli.

Characteristics of Cool Season Crops:

  • Seeds from cool season crops germinate when soil temperatures are between 40-75 degrees.  
  • They tolerate light frosts
  •  A frost actually improves the flavor and sweetens up most greens.
  • The ideal temperature for vegetative growth is 60-65 degrees.  (Vegetative growth is green leaf growth)
  • Warm temperatures stimulate reproductive growth or the development of flowers and seed.  Chemicals that help in the development of flowers often produce a bitter taste in greens.
  • Many are biennials meaning they need two seasons to produce seed.
  • Not fond of warm temperatures and tend to bolt or get aphids in the summer

Cool Season Crops to Direct Seed in the Garden:

 Peas, Carrots, Beets, Onions, Radishes, Cilantro

Cool Season Crops to Transplant or Start Indoors:


 Lettuce, spinach,cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, chard, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, celery, kale

All of these can be seeded directly into the garden or started indoors or put in as transplants.  If you start seeds indoors it needs to be 6-8 weeks before your average last frost date.

New Harmony's Last Frost Date
May 11th or Mother's Day

Use the link below to determine your average last frost date:

When To Plant:

Soil temperature is the determining factor for when to begin planting.  Most seed packets tell you the ideal soil temperature for germination.  With cool season crops that is between 40-75 degrees. To find soil temperature go outside in the afternoon and stick a regular thermometer a few inches in the ground.  Below is the schedule I use.  I'm in zone 5.  Springs are fairly fickle so have a way to protect your crops.

Valentine's Day:  Start seeds indoors Feb 1st thru Valentine's Day

Saint Patrick's Day: Direct seed peas

April Fool's Day:  Put transplants out.  I put them under a low tunnel or have a row cover on hand to protect from frosts.

April Fool's Day:  Direct seeds cool season crops 

April 15th Tax Day:  Plant potatoes
Chard and Kale in the Spring Garden.

Quick Guides for Planting Spring Crops

 Below are the most common spring crops.  I do another post on the less popular springs greens and root crops.

Orange Fantasia Chard

Pink Lipstick

Cardinal Chard

Bed of Chard including White Fordhook


Jericho Romaine
Lettuce under a low tunnel.  The forks are to keep my cats from lounge in the low tunnel.

At this point tie the leaves shut so the cauliflower stays creamy white.  The Ceddar and Graffiti (purple) varieties are fun to grow because you don't have to worry about tie the leaves shut.


Pac Choi is a early fast growing cabbage and so good in stir fries.

Chinese cabbage is a fast growing early cabbage good in stir fries and cole slaw.

Tuscan Lacinato or Nero Di Toscana  Kale is milder in flavor. 

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