Growing your own food can be a daunting task, and it is difficult to know when or how to get started. More experienced gardeners start their own seeds; however the easiest way to start growing vegetables is to buy starters, or small vegetable plants from a local nursery or greenhouse.
When to Plant Your Cool Weather Vegetables
Now is the time to get all your cool weather vegetables in the ground, even though it’s August and the weather is still hot. In Maryland, it’s a lot easier to grow cool weather veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards and spinach in the fall than it is in the spring. Here, spring can be a little unpredictable and is usually a much shorter time frame than fall. Winter here is mild, and fall eases us into it. Most of the plants listed above could take a frost, in fact they taste better, a little sweeter, after a frost.
What Cool Weather Vegetables to Plant
Getting back to the plants, we have 4 pack starters available starting this week at Patuxent Nursery, including: arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green and red cabbage, cauliflower, chard, collards, kale and lettuce. That means you get 4 plants when you buy 1 pack, this time of year the important thing to planting something so small is keeping it watered and alive. July and August are the driest, hottest months of the year.
Amending Your Soil
It’s a good idea to amend your soil at this point, before transplanting. A granular, slow release organic fertilizer would work well in this case, like Espoma Organic BioTone or Espoma Organic GardenTone, or even leaf compost would work to add soil nutrients for the plants without burning them. Simply follow the directions on the back of the bag and mix the fertilizer or compost with the existing soil. Gently flip the starts upside down, nudge one out of the container and shuffle the roots a little before placing it in a small hole so that the soil level matches the soil level in the old container. Try to firm the soil near the plant so that the roots make good contact with the soil. When you transplant them into the ground or a large container, remember to water them thoroughly.
Spacing Your Vegetable Plants
Spacing depends on the type of plant, but for the bigger ones listed (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and collards) try to give them 12”-18” from the center of one plant to the center of the next. The smaller plants (arugula, lettuce, kale, spinach) can be spaced closer together, probably 6”-8” apart. Keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be in a straight line; you will be able to fit more plants in if you alternate them or zigzag.
In the next week or two we will have the cool weather root vegetables available, like beets, carrots, radishes, and turnips. If there’s anything in particular you’re looking to grow this fall vegetable season, let us know if you can’t find what you’re looking for, because here at Patuxent, we’re growing to serve you!