Eastern North Carolina is blessed with a climate that favors year-round gardening, but you need to know what to plant when. With spring rapidly approaching, now is the time to put in vegetables and herbs that prefer cooler temperatures. These are ones that will mature quickly before the summer heat and humidity cause them to bolt or go to seed.
Greens are definitely a cool season crop that grow easily this time of year so go ahead and plant seeds of leaf lettuces, head lettuce, arugula, mustard, spinach, and kale. Mesclun mixes offer the gardener several varieties in one package with a choice of spicy or mild selections.
Other plants that can be grown from seed in February are carrots, Swiss chard, snow peas, and radishes.
The herbs cilantro and parsley prefer cool weather and can be grown from seed or from transplants. Other transplants for this time of year include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and collard greens.
Growing your own transplants of these crops should be started six to eight weeks before transplanting them into the garden. If you missed that date, transplants are available from local nurseries and big box stores.
These greens, herbs, and vegetables can be planted directly in the ground or in containers if you have limited space. In the ground, you will need a site with good soil and good drainage.
For containers, use potting soil because garden soil will compact and drain poorly. Also, potting soil reduces the chance of weeds and soil-borne diseases.
For transplants, read the labels for planting information. For seeds, read the back of the seed packet for planting instructions, including when to sow, planting depth, seed and row spacing, days until plants emerge, and thinning recommendations.
If it doesn't rain, water seeds and transplants until established and then water as needed. While most vegetables need full sun, many greens can grow in high shade.
Vegetables planted from seed should be thinned when plants have one or two pairs of true leaves. Thinning allows the remaining plants to grow bigger.
All of these plants can be sown again in early fall for a second crop. Using a cold frame or a frost covering can extend their growing season through the coldest winter days.
Your greens and vegetables will never be fresher than those harvested from your own garden so start planting!
Written by: Joanne Kollar, Extension Master Gardener volunteers