Time to plant cool season vegetables

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 22, 2011

Now is the time to plant the cool season vegetables in Louisiana. Some of our favorite vegetables can only be grown in Louisiana from October through April. Cooler mornings in October make it a joy to get out and work in the home vegetable garden. The many vegetables that can now be planted include: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips, mustard greens, carrots, beets, shallots and a few others. These vegetables may take 40–75 days after planting until they are ready for harvest. Other vegetables that you can plant now, that will take longer until they are harvested, include onions and garlic, which may take 100-200 days until harvest. Radishes are another cool season vegetable to plant, and they can be harvested in less than 30 days.

Before planting, make sure that you remove any weeds that may have grown in the bed. You may want to spray a glyphosate (Roundup) product to kill the weeds, or you may want to just till them under. Spraying glyphosate helps to kill the weeds and this helps to stop their life cycle if you spray them before they seed. If you do apply glyphosate to the weeds, wait at least two weeks before you turn the soil. Turn the soil and add at least a 3-inch layer of compost, rotted manure, leaf mold (partially decayed leaves) or other organic matter, if available.

Horse or cattle manure needs to be partially decayed before adding it to the soil. Leaves may also be added to the soil. Adding organic matter to the soil helps prevent compaction

of the soil, and it increases the ability of the soil to hold water. After mixing everything in the soil, you

can now build your rows. Make sure your rows

are wide and high. This helps to prevent your garden from flooding. Also, remember

to fertilize before you plant. Follow the recommendations in the Vegetable Planting Guide.

When planting your cool season plants, you can find transplants at the local garden center or nursery. Make sure you harden-off the transplants before you put them in the garden. If the transplants are not hardened-off, the sun will dry them up and kill them. Plants are hardened-off by putting them in partial sun during the day and by only lightly watering them. This causes the stems of the plant to get harder and allows them to withstand the heat of the sun. Plants that are grown from seed directly in the garden do not need to be hardened-off, as they will adjust to the heat as they grow.

Broccoli is an easy-to-grow and productive fall vegetable. Space transplants 12 to 18 inches apart in rows or beds. The closer spacing will produce smaller heads, but

total production is greater because you have more plants. Broccoli heads are harvested when the largest flower buds in the head are about the size of the head of a kitchen match. It is common for

gardeners growing broccoli for the first time to leave the heads on

the plant too long. Never allow the flower buds to begin to open into yellow flowers; this reduces the quality of the head. After the main head is harvested, the plant will

produce side florets that you can continue harvesting for several weeks.

Cauliflower is a bit more challenging than broccoli, but it’s still a good choice for your fall garden. Cauliflower transplants should be spaced 18 to 24 inches apart; closer spacing will greatly reduce the size of the head. A cauliflower plant produces only one head, so after harvesting remove the entire plant from your garden to make way for planting something else. For white heads, blanch the cauliflower by pulling the leave up over the head when it is about the size of a silver dollar. Fasten the leaves with a clothes pin and check the head frequently. Harvest before the curds of the head starts to separate.

Cabbage and collards should also be planted from transplants, while the other vegetables can be planted from seeds. When planting small seeds, do not cover them with soil; just press them into the soil. You may also mix the small seeds with some sand to make sure they are evenly spread on the row. Shallots or green onions may be planted from bulbs.

Garlic may be planted now through November by pressing individual cloves – big end down – into prepared soil so the tip of the garlic is about one-fourth an inch below the soil surface. Space the cloves 4 to 6 inches apart in rows spaced about 15 inches apart.

Garlic growth is slow, and the 15-inch space between rows can be used for intercropping. Intercropping is a term used when two or more different vegetables are grown in the same bed at the same time. The garlic plants will not use the 15 inches between the rows for several months, so a quick-growing vegetable can be planted in that area and harvested before the garlic needs it. Good choices would include radishes, leaf lettuce, beets, kohlrabi and spinach. These vegetables are not large growers and will be harvested long before the garlic is ready next May.

Intercropping may also be done with other vegetables that are initially spaced far apart, such as cabbage and cauliflower. Other vegetables that can be planted this month include celery, endive, leeks, lettuce, rape, rutabagas, Swiss chard and many herbs such as thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano, French tarragon, lavender, chives, cilantro, dill, mints and parsley.

If you have any questions you may contact David Pichon, St. John

county agent at 985-497-3261 or online at dpichon@agctr.lsu.edu. For more information on growing vegetables, contact your local LSU AgCenter Parish Office and request a free copy of their Louisiana Vegetable Planting Guide. You may also order the publication on the LSU Ag Center’s website at www.lsuagcenter.com.

If you have any questions, please contact your local LSU Ag Center County Agent. You can contact David Pichon, County Agent-St. John Parish at 985-497-3261 or by email at dpichon@agctr.lsu.edu.