Get growing now: Cool season veggies a good place to start
By Darrell Blackwelder
For the Salisbury Post
Cool season vegetable transplants are now in abundance at garden shops and retail outlets throughout Rowan County.
Early spring is the time to plant cool season vegetables. Vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, lettuce and onions are best set out as transplants. Transplants offer a quick start and grow best in the spring.
Check the roots of the transplants before purchase. The plant should easily pop out of the tray and have healthy, white roots. Avoid plants that are overgrown with roots that are dark and unhealthy.
Direct seeding is not recommended in the spring because the seeds decay under cold, wet soils. These crops grow best in soils that are well-drained. You can improve both heavy clay soils and lighter sandy soils by adding organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost.
Transplants should be allowed to harden off before planting. Some plants for sale at retail outlets may be tender and do poorly with hard frosts.
Home gardeners can 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 the transplant 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. Make sure that the soil has been properly tilled, limed and fertilized before planting. An hour or two before transplanting, thoroughly water the soil in which the plants are growing. Handle the plants carefully to avoid disturbing the roots and bruising the stems.Transplant solutions generate rapid root growth and expansion during cool weather. An application of a house plant fertilizer with a high phosphorus ratio such as 10-30-15 or 9-45-0 are recommended as transplant solutions for cool season vegetable plants. Simply mix the solution as to feed house plants. A cup of this house plant food solution should be poured around each newly set plant.
Vegetable transplants face another obstacle when planting into a cold plant bed. When temperatures warm, the soil and transplant start to grow and immature insects will be searching for an easy meal. Cutworms, wireworms and seed corn maggots can destroy an entire crop. Deep plowing a few weeks before planting, exposing immature insects to cold weather, reduces these insect problems
Cool season crops need to be planted as soon as gardeners can till the soil. Those with raised planters have an advantage since soils in raised beds till easy and dry out more quickly than conventional plantings. Another advantage of raised planters is the soil warms more quickly, allowing optimum growing conditions for these plants.
Darrell Blackwelder is an Extension Agent-Horticulture for the Rowan County Center, North Carolina Cooperative Extension; call 704-216-8970; http://www. rowanmastergardener.com;http://rowan.ces.ncsu.edu; http://rowanhorticulture.blogspot.com/
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