Following the Seasons: Veggies for your Sierra Garden
It may only be February, but it’s not too early to start thinking about your summer vegetable garden! If you are growing vegetables in the Sierra foothills or Reno, it’s worth keeping in mind that many vegetables can be grown outside during even the coldest winter months. When expecting a hard frost (below ?2 °C or 28 °F), all you need to do is put a fleece blanket over your crop. However, with March only a few days away, let’s dive into what you can already start planting for the spring and summer.
Cool season vegetables are ones that perform best during the cool weather of spring or fall; they will germinate in soil temperatures between 40 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. I usually plant extra seeds because some simply won’t germinate, and I also keep extra seedlings just in case a few plants die after they’ve emerged.
Onions, shallots, garlic, peas, kale and lettuce and pak choi will germinate with soil temperatures as low as 35 degrees; they can also handle light frosts and a little bit of snow after germination. These vegies do best when as much plant development as possible takes place before the heat of summer. Some will mature in 60 to 70 days, so you may have some nice vegetables to eat by mid-May when you are planting your summer crops. Other nice cool-season crops include: asparagus, broccoli, broad peas, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, leeks and parsley. Off all the vegies, I’ve listed, kale is one of my favorites since it stands up well in soups, stir fries and or simply sautéed alone. Super-ruffled 'Winterbor' is a strong grower that is fine in cold temperatures and the leaves turn sweeter after a bit of frost. To keep chard, kale, and mustard greens producing, you should pick the outer leaves once the plant has produced about eight leaves.
My green onions survived in Reno all last summer and I am still harvesting the green stems through the winter. However, most cool -season crops will be done by mid or late June. If your plants seemed happy in their location in your garden, and you’re remove the withered stems and stalks of your cool-season crops, you may want to let the earth “rest” for a month and then replant with the second planting of cool-season crops in mid-July to August. You can then continue to harvest fresh vegetables into late fall or early winter. You could use another section of your garden for your hot weather, mid-summer crops.
Paying attention to cool season versus warm season vegetables will really extend your growing and harvesting season, and it's particularly fun to adapt your cooking to the seasonal crops from your garden rather than just getting what you want from the grocery store that receives crops from both hemispheres. It makes it all the more exciting when your special vegetable for the season appears!