Home Grown: Cold Hardy Crops
It’s time to get growing! If you’re like us, that sunshine and warm spring weather make us a little antsy to get outdoors and begin planting. Although it’s still too early for annuals and most vegetables, there are a few crops that prefer cooler temperatures. For annuals, pansies continue to be a spring favourite. However, if you are wanting an edible garden; there are a lot of options available. In fact, now is the perfect time to plant fruit trees, raspberry and blueberry bushes, and cold-hardy vegetables.
The following is a guide on a few species that not only will survive the cooler months, these veggies actually prefer it.
High in iron, this hardy crop likes the temperature to be under 23 degrees Celsius (75 Fahrenheit). In fact, it tends to go to seed when the weather gets too hot. So, plant broccoli early for maximum harvests (yes, the same plant can produce up to three harvests). Did you know that each harvest of broccoli looks a little different? For the first harvest, broccoli produces a large centre head. However, once cut the broccoli will continue to produce smaller side heads for several weeks.
Pro Tip: For the best flavour, harvest the broccoli before it flowers. Once the flowers bloom the broccoli can become very bitter.
Add some intrigue to your vegetable garden by growing brussel sprouts. The delicious little cabbages grow along a thick 30-inch stalk creating almost a palm tree effect, with the leaves blooming at the top. If you are adding this vegetable to your garden, be patient, it can take about 80 days until they sprouts can be harvested. However, the taste of this freshly grown produce is well worth the wait.
Pro Tip: Harvest when the sprouts become the size of marbles.
Cabbage doesn’t’ like the heat, so get this crop into the ground (or your containers) early so that you can harvest it before those hot summer days. This crop prefers temperatures that range from 7 to 24 degrees Celsius and can even tolerate brief amounts of frost. Similar to broccoli, cabbage will go to seed once temperatures exceed 80 degrees. Its compact size makes it the perfect plant for both raised beds and containers.
Pro Tip: Garden Gallery Organic Container Mix is the perfect base to give your patio vegetables a great start.
Perfect for salads, soups or just something to crunch on, celery is an ideal cold-weather crop. One of the reasons that celery continues to be a fan favourite is for its high-water content. However, to get that crunchy consistency means making sure that celery gets a lot of water. Take advantage of the rainy spring weather, by planting your celery in the ground early.
Pro Tip: Did you know that young celery tastes just as good as the larger, older stalks? That’s not all, picking the stems often will actually help increase the amount of celery that the plant produces.
Cauliflower is another cruciferous vegetable that prefers cooler temperatures. In fact, the best time to get this plant into the ground is about two to four weeks before that last spring frost. Harvest cauliflower when the head of the plant is approximately 6 to 8 inches in diameter.
Pro Tip: Although most cruciferous vegetables prefer cooler weather. Keep those frost blankets handy, and cover up your cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, kale if frost is in the air.
Kale doesn’t mind the chillier weather, in fact, a minor frost can actually sweeten the taste of the leaves. The compact size of this superfood makes it a great container vegetable. But that’s not all, its eye-catching foliage makes kale the perfect plant to pop right into your flower garden.
Pro Tip: The secret to harvesting kale successfully is to cut the outer leaves of the plant first. This technique will allow the smaller, younger leaves (near the centre) to keep growing.
If you’re just breaking into home growing, why not start with a few containers of lettuce? The shallow root system of plants in the lettuce family makes it the perfect patio plant. Did you know that lettuce seeds can germinate in temperatures as low as 4 degrees? However, its ideal climate is between 16 to 18 degrees, which makes late April the perfect time to get lettuce into the ground.
Pro Tip: Harvest the plant as a baby green by picking the younger leaves as it grows.
If you’re thinking of adding onions into your home-grown garden, get them into the ground early. Here’s why, the tops of onions grow in the cool weather and once the weather warms up, the plant will concentrate on growing the bulbs.
Pro Tip: Yellow onion tops is a tell-tale sign that the bulbs are almost ready to be harvested. When this happens, tilt the plant horizontally so that the plant defers all of its energy to help bring that bulb to maturity. Once the tops are brown (usually a day or two later), it’s time to harvest.
This sun-loving plant is comfortable with a bit of cooler weather, but that’s only one reason to plant spuds in the spring. Potatoes are a thirsty crop so planting them during the rainy season will help get them off to a good start. Harvest potatoes when the leaves turn yellow, usually 18 to 20 weeks after planting.
Pro Tip: If you don’t have the room in a raised bed, try them in a container. Yes, patio potatoes are possible just make sure to use a large pot with lots of drainage.
Give your new plants the best start by removing any weeds or old growth from both the gardens and containers. Then top it off with a new layer of soil so that the growing roots will have the nutrients and moisture that they need. Our preference for raised beds is Garden Gallery’s Organic Triple Mix and Garden Gallery’s Organic Container Mix for containers. Growing your own fruit and vegetables is not only a fun hobby, it’s healthier for you, the planet, and your wallet.