Gardening Advice: Southern Vegetable Garden

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Gardening Advice: Southern Vegetable Garden

October 3, 2001
11:41am

Q: One of the reasons I moved to the sunbelt was to be able to grow vegetables year round. But now that I’m here, I don’t know where to start. Can you help? Jong Kim, Austin, Texas

A: Winter vegetable gardening in the deep South is chancy, but it’s well worth a try. In fact, many cool-season “Yankee” vegetables taste better when grown through a Southern winter. A few light frosts bring out flavor, while extended cool weather preserves it. You should be able to find transplants of cole crops — cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and broccoli — and chinese cabbage in your local garden center. Plant them now for a late-winter harvest. While you’re at it, pick up a bundle of young onions. You’ll be able to snip them for salads and seasoning all through the winter. Stock up on seeds, too. You can direct-sow peas, rutabagas, parsnips, celeriac, spinach and chard now. Then continue sowing quick-maturing crops such as lettuce, radishes, arugula, and turnips every few weeks. Cool-season herbs — cilantro, dill, fennel, and parsley — thrive in the Southern winter garden, whereas in spring and summer they bolt (go to flower, sacrificing flavor ) almost immediately. Should a heat wave hit, harvest what you can. If a hard frost is predicted, cover the plants with floating row covers. These polypropylene sheets allow sunlight through and soften the blow of a severe cold snap.

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