UNITED STATES—Last autumn, it was unpleasant to remove warm season vegetable plants to relinquish space for cool season vegetables, particularly since some still seemed to be productive. Now the cool weather that the cool season vegetables crave will soon be getting warmer. It is still too early for warm season vegetables, but it is time to get ready for them.
If space allows, seed for a quick last phase of certain fast growing cool season vegetables can be sown. Radishes, carrots and beets still have time to mature before the weather gets too warm, although the beets will be the small tender sort. There probably is not enough time to grow big beets for canning. Leafy lettuces can still be sown to replace what might be running out early. Large vegetable plants like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage grow too slowly to mature before spring weather gets too warm, so will need to wait until next autumn.
Peas are odd vegetables that like to grow in autumn and spring, in between warm and cool (or cool and warm) season vegetables. The first phase of peas can be sown now, and followed by subsequent phases every two weeks or so until the weather gets too warm for them.
Even though it will soon be getting too warm for cool season vegetables, it is not yet warm enough to sow seed for warm season vegetables directly into the garden. Fast growing vegetable plants that get sown directly, such as beans, corn and most squash, will need to wait until the weather is warm enough for them to grow efficiently, and the cool season vegetables finish and get out of their way. However, seed for vegetable plants that can get planted as seedlings, such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, can be sown into flats or cell packs in greenhouses or cold frames.
Tomato, pepper and eggplant seed sown directly into the garden when the weather gets warmer will be more likely to get eaten by snails or succumb to rot as they germinate than seedlings that got an early start in a greenhouse or cold frame (although snails and rot are not problems in every garden). For those who do not want to start growing seedlings at home now, seedlings will certainly be available in nurseries when it is time to put them out into the garden. However, the advantage to growing them at home is that there are many more varieties of seed available from catalogs and online than any nursery could stock with seedlings.
If their dormant bulbs were planted back in October or November, ranunculus will soon be blooming. Those of us who missed the bulbs last autumn can already find blooming plants in nurseries. The bright yellow, orange, red, pink or white flowers are about three inches wide and seem to be outfitted with too many petals. They stand about a foot to a foot and a half tall, a few inches above the basal foliage that can get half a foot to a foot deep. The light green leaves resemble parsley, but are not as finely textured. Although perennial, ranunculus are most popularly grown as annuals because they tend to rot soon after bloom. They perform best with no more than a bit of shade, and rich but very well drained soil. They are more likely to survive as perennials if allowed to get rather dry as their foliage deteriorates after bloom.
By Tony Tomeo