Tend the cool-season garden

Although this is winter, the garden beckons. New plantings of cool-season vegetables may now be started, perennials need tending and annuals require fertilizer.

It’s time to brave the cold and grab a spade!

Start your vegetable garden by removing winter debris, adding compost to the soil and making repairs or adjustments to your irrigation system, which should consist of drip hoses to maximize water efficiency and minimize diseases.

According to Texas Gardener Magazine, vegetables that may be started now include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kohlrabi, kale, leeks, Brussels sprouts and onion transplants.

Seeds that may be planted include lettuce, spinach, beets, carrots, mustard, radishes and turnips.

Other cool season crops include English, snap and snow peas as well as potatoes.

Late January through February is generally the time to plant asparagus and artichoke crowns in the garden. Other veggies, however, should be started indoors, such as the seeds for tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Herb seeds may also be started indoors with the exception of warm weather performers, such as basil. All seedlings require plenty of sunlight or artificial light to grow well.

Finish planting most cool season crops by the end of February.

Exceptions include Swiss chard, radishes, turnips, beets and selected greens. These veggies are suitable for late winter or early spring planting as they mature relatively fast.

Cold-tolerant annuals such as violas, pansies, alyssum, ornamental cabbage and kale, nasturtium, calendula, snapdragons and stock may be planted in the landscape or in containers. Fertilize them with a mild liquid soluble fertilizer every 4-6 weeks. Annuals will perform well unless the temperatures drop well below freezing for a prolonged time. Protect them with freeze cloth during exceptionally cold weather if possible.

Begin clearing debris from perennial beds and add compost and mulch, being sure not to cover the plant crowns. Remove dead foliage. Prune back freeze-damaged woody stems. Collect seed to spread in flowerbeds. And adjust drip irrigation to allow for existing plant growth or new additions to the garden.

For answers to your horticulture questions, call the Texas AgriLife Extension, Hood County at 817-579-3280 and ask to speak to a Master Gardener or visit the website at hoodcountymastergardeners.org.