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Natural Awakenings of the Coastal Carolinas

Cool Season Planting Guide: Consider a Healthier New Year Opportunity

by M.G. Shelton

I have been gardening year-round for many years now and l look forward to the cooler weather that offers a more enjoy-able garden-work experience. Yes, all the work is there, but it's just easier. It’s easy to do, but not totally mindless. Pay attention to the weather forecasts and Mother Nature’s surprises. And the payoff is picking and eating an abundance of fresh vegetables and a great way to start off a healthy 2019. 

To grow fall through spring, follow these basic steps:

• Choose the right plants; select cold-hardy varieties.
• Plant in containers, in the ground, or in cold frames.
• Be ready to protect some plantings in cold snaps.
• For edibles that prefer cool weather, I suggest:
• Lettuce: choose varieties that are cold-hardy
• Brassicas: broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, cabbage, collards, kohlrabi, mustard, mizuna, kale, tatsoi and others
• Alliums: onions, garlic, leeks, shallots
• Specialty Greens: cilantro, chard, dill, chervil, Belgium endive, fennel, mache, sorrel, radicchio, hardy celery, upland cress, parsley, spinach
• Root Vegetables: beets, carrots, radish, rutabaga, turnips

Location is important. Place containers in a sunny, protected location such as beside the home on the ground, in groupings or large pots. Do not use hanging baskets. If in the garden, plant in a sunny location as well and add row covers to retain the warmth of the earth and encourage growth. 

Invest in a cold frame. It can extend your garden season no matter what part of the country you live in. You’ll find that you can have ample greens for good salads throughout much of the winter in all but the coldest climates by using a cold frame. 

Cold frames are basically little houses where plants can have a head start in spring and extra growing time in the fall and early winter. You can purchase a cold frame or make your own. If you have an old storm window and some planks or scrap lumber, you can put together an easy cold frame. Nail the wood together to fit under the storm window. Instead of cutting the sides on a slant, just build the frame as a box and simply top it with the storm window. Skip the hinges. 

On hot days, slide the window to the side to let heat out; on cold nights, put the window squarely over the top of the frame and cover it with an old blanket. In the summer when you don’t need it, it’s easy to store. Cold frames are great for extending the growing season of all cool season leafy crops. Keep a thermometer in the cold frame to help monitor temperatures. Vent the frame when daytime temperatures go above 50° F for cool season crops. Close it back up when temperatures drop below 45° F. 

M.G. Shelton is the owner/operator of Shelton Herb Farm, located at 340 Goodman Rd., in Leland. The farm has a deep tradition and history and the distinct honor of being listed as a North Carolina Century Farm. Of the 52,000-plus statewide farms, only a few more than 1,800
have this honor. For more information, visit See ad, page 21.



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