The weather is finally cooling and hopefully going to stay that way. You know what that means—time for a “green” winter! It’s time to be sowing and planting those lettuces and kales and collards and chards and mustards… I could keep going but you get the idea. The cooler weather is the perfect time to get those leafy greens in the ground. Even if you don’t like cooked greens, many of them are wonderfully delicious raw when in salads, on burgers, or straight out of the garden.
Giant red mustard was one of my favorites last year. I put it in my garden, as well as used it in containers at home and in the Zoo. The gorgeous, dark burgundy leaf was a beautiful contrast to the other winter flowers. I could just step out my front door and harvest a few leaves for that evening’s meal without disturbing the look of the container arrangement.
Bright lights Swiss chard is another green that doubles as a beautiful container plant with its bright pink, orange, and yellow stems, as well as being a tasty addition to the dinner plate. What’s even better is that the mustard and chard need no protection from frost or the winter cold. Even if they look black on a chilly morning, give them a couple hours to warm up and they are back to their splendid colors.
Leaf lettuces, like Bibb and red leaf, are great because you can continually harvest all season long. Carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage should also be on your list to plant this time of year.
After all these veggies, you don’t want to forget about the strawberries! They also like the cold weather, and now is the time to get them in the ground. Remember to mound up the area before you plant them. Strawberries like to have good drainage and raising the soil or putting them in containers also helps get the fruit up off the ground.
Most of these plants have no problem with the cold, but if you are in an open area that is known for regular heavy frosts, you can use cardboard boxes or empty nursery pots to easily cover your plant babies for those nights that Jack Frost visits. Just remember to uncover them for their daily dose of sunshine.
Side note: there’s still a limited supply of compost available for free at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. It’s not too late to start your cool weather garden!