Cool Weather Vegetable Planting
Cabbage is a hardy vegetable and fairly easy to grow. Cabbage is easily transplanted or seeded directly in the garden. Late cabbage must be started during the heat of mid-summer, but it develops its main head during the cooling weather of fall. In summer, if possible, place seed flats or seedbeds where some protection from the sun is available. Thin the plants so they are spaced 18 to 24 inches apart. If they are to close together your cabbage head will be small and won't grow to full potential. Fertilize with nitrogen fertilizer when planting and again when plants are half grown. When your cabbage is ready to be harvested, you will know by pressing your hand firmly on the head and feeling the texture and resistance to pressure. Be careful not to wait too long to harvest or the heads can split. Harvest them before they heads split, as the damage to cabbage plant attracts disease and pests.
Broccoli is one the best liked dark green vegetables and is easy to grow. Broccoli doesn't need a lot of sun, around 5 hours a day can be enough. Set your plants at least 18 inches apart to ensure plants will develop full sized heads. Warm weather or soil that doesn't drain well may also inhibit full head growth. Mulching plants to cool them can reduce the impact of warm temperatures. Broccoli is not a heavy feeder, work in a slow release or organic fertilizer at planting time and again every 4 weeks. The green buds of the head start as one big head, and shortly afterward you will see smaller side shoots below the head that are edible as well. Harvest when the broccoli head is about 5 inches wide. Be sure to harvest the head before the small buds start to flower. Cut the stem a few inches below the main head. After you pick the main head the side shoots will start to grow faster, and you can harvest these for several weeks after the main head is taken.
Lettuce is a delightful cool weather crop. It can be divided into two categories; head lettuce and leaf lettuce. Seeds of both type can be started by directly sowing into your garden. Loose rich well drained soil is optimal for lettuce. Lettuce needs light to properly germinate so just lay seed on top of soil and lightly sprinkle with soil to cover. Plant no more than 1/8" deep as the seed are very small and difficult to sow. When seedling have emerged thin to 8" apart. Seedlings can also be transplanted in the your garden. Take care removing seedling from pots. The stems are very fragile when young. Be sure the water the potted seedling well before transplanting.
Start harvesting leaf lettuces as soon as they're big enough to use. Cut leaves from the outside of the plant, letting the inner ones continue to develop. You can also take the whole plant, cutting it off about an inch above the ground, and letting it re-grow. Harvest head lettuces when they're firm and fully formed. Slice them off at ground level with a knife. Store lettuce in sealed plastic bags in your refrigerator to keep it crisper. Depending on the variety, it will last from a few days to two weeks.
Always follow the directions on seed packets or plant tags for your specific plant variety.