Now’s the time to plant a winter garden

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 15, 2008

VIDALIA — Even though the weather can get a little nippy, green-thumbed people and those who want to learn have a perfect opportunity to plant a winter garden this month.

“We can continue to plant vegetables through the (winter) season,” Assistant Professor of Consumer Horticulture at LSU Dan Gill said. “There are crops that are planted throughout the year.”

The first step to winter gardening is the same as the first step to spring, summer or fall gardening — bed preparation.

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“That is typically done by tilling the soil by 6 to 8 inches and incorporating generous amounts of organic matter,” Gill said.

Organic matter can include peat moss, chopped leaves, old manure or homemade compost.

Fertilizer can also be used, but Gill advised growers-to-be use a soil test to determine what kind to use.

Next comes plant selection. All winter crops can be grown from seed, but root crops like radishes, carrots and turnips have to be grown from the seed state, Gill said.

“Novice gardeners can buy transplants for broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and even greens at local nurseries,” Gill said.

Some of those plants — lettuce, broccoli or turnip greens — can only be grown during the cooler months in this area, and the reason that they can be grown here during that time is because of the temperamental Miss-Lou weather.

“(These plants) can tolerate freezes very well,” Gill said. “This recent freakish weather with the snow, if you take the snow away from it the temperatures were not that severe — I wouldn’t expect that any of our cool season vegetables would be affected.

“It is very typical to have a week of mild weather punctuated with a couple of days of cold weather.”

And while growers might get cold fingers working out in their garden, there might be another benefit for them down the road.

“There are a few cool season vegetables that people say are sweeter if they get frosted,” Gill said.