Ever wish you could get your kids to eat more broccoli? You might be surprised at what vegetables kids are willing to eat when they get to pick them fresh from the garden. Can’t stand Brussels sprouts? You’ve probably never eaten a fresh one. Most of these vegetables lose flavor and become bitter, as well as lose nutritional content, soon after they’ve been harvested. What you buy at the grocery store may be a week or two old and will never taste as good as fresh homegrown produce.
Someone recently said to me “I thought there was nothing we could do in the garden right now because it’s too cold.” After I picked my chin up off of the floor, I let them know that here in North Texas we are lucky enough to have a year-round growing season! Our cool season garden is often more productive than the summer garden. Cool season vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard and collard greens are easy to grow in our climate and don’t require much space in the garden.
You have through about mid-November to set out 4-inch transplants of broccoli, cabbage, greens and the like. Choose a sunny location with about five to six hours of sunlight. Then simply plant the transplants in lose well-draining soil and mix in an organic veggie food at planting time. Any of these crops can be planted in pots as well. Don’t forget about cool-season herbs like dill, fennel and cilantro. Plant right now to enjoy through the winter.
You can also direct seed lettuces, carrots, radishes, beets, spinach, Swiss chard and sorrel into the garden or containers now. Root crops like radishes mature quickly and so make for fun gardening projects with the kids. All of these seeds are going to be small so don’t bury them too deep. No more than a quarter of an inch deep. Keep the soil surface moist for 7 to 10 days until germination. Remember, lettuce seeds need light to germinate so you will not bury the seeds under the soil. Simply sprinkle them onto the soil surface and pat them down. Because they have no soil cover, you’ll have to take extra care that they stay moist until germination. You’ll need to thin the seedlings after they emerge so that you don’t have too many plants too close together.
Our first average frost is around November 17th, so you may need to protect new transplants or young seedlings with frost cover. Make sure to water in your plants before a freeze. You can start planting more of these cool season crops again in February for spring harvest.
Leslie Finical Halleck is currently the General Manager for North Haven Gardens in Dallas, Texas. She was formerly the Director of Horticulture Research at the Dallas Arboretum. She earned her Master’s in Horticulture from Michigan State and a B.S in Biology & Botany from the University of North Texas. She writes regularly for regional and trade publications and provides lectures on a variety of horticultural topics. Leslie is an avid organic gardener and grows most of her own vegetables as well as plenty of perennials, bulbs and roses.