Cool season vegetables are ready for planting

  • Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013 1:05 a.m.
These young cabbage plants are ready to go in the garden.
These young cabbage plants are ready to go in the garden.

SALISBURY — Cool season vegetables are gradually appearing in garden shops and other retail outlets throughout Rowan County. Local greenhouses are stocked. Our unusually cold, wet winter has delayed much of soil preparation, however, now is the time to plant cool season vegetables.

Cool season vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, lettuce and onions are best set out as transplants. Transplants allow a quick start in the cool soils in the spring. Direct seeding is not recommended in the spring due to cold, wet soils. Seeds will decay in the soil under these conditions.

Transplants should be hardened off before planting. Sometimes plants for sale at retail outlets are just out of the greenhouse and tender. Tender young plants will not survive hard frosts. Harden transplants by gradually exposing trays or flats outdoors in cold weather. Do not fertilize the plants during the hardening off period. Let the soil dry out, but not enough to kill the plant. A few days of cool weather acclimates transplants for harsh conditions that exist in early spring vegetable gardens. Monitor weather forecasts and move plants inside for protection if the weather becomes bitter cold.

Onion “sets” are actually bulblets that are planted directly in the soil. These bulblets mature into larger bulbs or “spring type” onions depending upon the variety, weather and maturity of the bulb.

Transplant solutions generate rapid root growth and expansion. An application of house plant fertilizers with a high phosphorus ratio such as 10-30-15 or 9-45-0 are recommended as transplant solutions for vegetable plants. A cup of this house plant food solution should be poured around the plant to help initiate good root growth in cool soils

Vegetable transplants face another obstacle when planting into a cold plant bed. When temperatures warm the soil and transplants start to grow, immature insects will be searching for an easy meal.

A soil insecticide may be needed in conjunction with a transplant solution for soils with high organic content or leftover plant stubble. Often, cutworms, wireworms and seed corn maggots will destroy an entire early crop.

Cool season crops need to be planted soon. A late planting will produce poor quality vegetables. A short spring can also pose problems. Keep your fingers crossed for a warm, normal spring. More complete information on transplants can be found at

Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about Cooperative Extension events and activities by calling 704-216-8970 Facebook or online at

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