For The Answer
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
Week of November 21, 2005
If you listen to the Gardening show I do with Jerry Parsons on KLUP radio on Saturdays and Sundays you know that we argue about the merits of rutabagas in the garden. I love them and he says they have no merit! If you want to judge for yourself, now is the time to plant them. Seed may be hard to find at your favorite nursery, but it is inexpensive and readily available on the Internet. Just search for rutabagas. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, spinach, carrots, and greens should also be planted now. They are easy to find at your favorite nursery.
Broccoli is the favorite winter garden vegetable. The plants are easy to grow and they produce a large crop of nutritious, tasty heads. It can be planted from September through February. Use transplants and place them at least 18 inches apart. Fertilize all the foliage crops heavily, one-quarter cup per plant at planting and one-half cup every four weeks. Use a slow release lawn fertilizer such as 19-5-9. Water broccoli when the soil dries to one inch after it is established by watering every two days for the first ten days.
Cabbage is nearly as quick as broccoli to produce its crop. Plant transplants 14-18 inches apart. Other cole crops such as cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts should be planted now. They are slower to produce a head. Harvest them next February. Allow at least two feet between plants. Grow the other cole crops just like broccoli
Spinach is even more nutritious than broccoli and nearly as easy to grow. The Coho variety is resistant to rust, the major problem with spinach. Rust is a disease that shows up in warm weather and kills the plants. Plant spinach transplants 1-1.5 feet apart. Care for them the same as you would broccoli. Harvest the fresh leaves, as you need them, never taking more than one-third of leaves if you want them to produce until late spring.
Carrots can tolerate nearly as much cold weather as broccoli and spinach if they are well established before the freezing temperatures arrive. Harvest carrots as you need them from the bed throughout the winter. I plant my carrots by spreading the seed on the surface of a well-prepared row one foot wide. Do not cover the soil. A water wand is the best way to water. Wet the soil every day until the seed germinates, and then water as you do the other vegetables after that.
Leaf lettuce works well when planted by the same method as carrots and harvested just like the spinach. Lettuce is more cold sensitive then the other vegetables and may freeze in mid-winter. Leaf lettuce is a great crop for containers.
Beets are very nutritious and productive. Plant them by seed every two inches in a row. Use every other plant for greens and allow the rest to produce roots. Beets make excellent greens. They are more cold sensitive then carrots, but not as sensitive as lettuce.
There are a large selection of other greens that will provide nutritious vegetables all winter. Swiss Chard is available in plain old green or try “Bright Light” which has yellow, red, orange, and even blue stems. Mustard is tasty and productive with considerable heat tolerance. Kale and collards are especially good if you like cabbage and prefer to harvest leaf-by-leaf visited of a whole head.