Plant Long-Season Winter Crops Now

I know you’re just getting your tomatoes in the ground, right?

As we eagerly prep for a summer garden, winter vegetables are likely the farthest thing from our minds. But right now is a great time to get a few long-season winter crops in the ground.

January King Cabbage

The veins of January King cabbage get more magenta in cool winter weather, and it even gets sweeter after cold or snow.

Focus a bit of attention on crops of the cabbage family, for instance. But also consider a couple of root crops that need a much longer season to develop.

The list, with recommended varieties, includes:

  • Brussels sprouts – Long Island Improved, Roodnerf
  • Cabbage (late) – January King
  • Leeks – Blue Solaize, Giant Musselburgh
  • Parsnips – Cobham Improved Marrow

If your soil temperature is up to the 60 degree range (possible, with a raised bed and/or a season extension covering like a cloche), you can start any of these in the ground and expect them to come up in one to two weeks. Parsnips are notoriously slow to germinate, but be patient.

If you are still dealing with cool soil, all of these except parsnips can be started in pots in the house, then transplanted when there are two sets of true leaves,

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or when the leeks are swizzle-stick size.

Parsnips

Parsnips are cultivated in a similar way to carrots, but they take a long time to germinate

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and a very long time to mature. Plant now and you’ll be digging them in December.

Find some spots in your garden where these long-season crops won’t bother your summer growing, but also consider locations that will be easily accessible in winter, and will be somewhat protected against winter winds.

Remember to give them enough space to reach their ultimate size. Because these plants are slow to develop, however, you might be able to space them in rows that are a bit wider and interplant some quick-growing crops like salad greens, which would be harvested before the plants have sized up.

The sweet reward, once the last tomato is just a memory, will be worth pulling your attention away from the summer crops to attend to a bit of winter planting.

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