Plant cool season plants now

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By Dennis Morgeson

Spring has started and it seems to have started all at once - the birds are chirping and the sting of cold has been replaced by mild, fresh air.  I don’t know why, but spring just smells better, sounds better, and feels better this year!  It must be because winter felt like it lasted ten years.  We are still going to have some cold weather, frosts, and freezes but there are a lot of plants that can and should be planted now in the vegetable and flower garden.

In the vegetable garden there are numerous crops that should be planted now to give you a great spring crop of fresh, delicious, and nutritious veggies.  Crops such as peas, radish, potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, spinach, kale, collards, mustard, beets, and lettuces should be planted now through April.  These crops are cold hardy and actually prefer or require cool weather to thrive.  There is no need to run out and cover them when frost is forecast nor is there any need to keep sprinklers running over them to keep them from freezing.  These crops are at their peak when the weather is cool and it actually improves their taste and nutrition.

In the flower garden there are a lot of plants that can be planted now or should be up and growing actively.  Most people see the flowers such as crocus and daffodils blooming now with hyacinth and tulips coming on as well.  Again, these are cold hardy.  There may be the odd year where it can get freakishly cold in April like it did a few years ago when daffodils got their blooms burned off but according to meteorologists that was a once in 100-year freeze! You may have also noticed peonies coming up this past weekend, and again there is no need to worry.  Peonies are hardy this time of year and will bloom again this spring just like they have in years passed.

Others spring garden plants that you can plant now are pansies, ornamental cabbage and kale, stock, and snapdragon.  I bet many of you hadn’t thought to plant snapdragon now since we use it in May and June as an annual bedding plant.  Pansies will grow just fine planted now but in Kentucky you can plant them in the fall and they generally survive the winter and bloom again now.  However, if you missed the fall planting, they are just as beautiful planted now.  The ornamental cabbage and kale should be purchased as larger plants which will give you a better display because the cool weather causes them develop a deeper color.  If you plant small plants, they won’t develop the deep color because by the time the plants get large the weather will be heating up and the plants won’t color up.

The one thing the cool season crops require is full sun, no matter if they are vegetables or flowers.  It seems odd that plants that like cool weather would also require full sun but they do.