by Cathy Bylinowski, M.S. Horticulture, Horticulture Instructor
University of Missouri Extension
It might be hard to believe now, but the cold winter weather will be over in the weeks to come. It is time to start thinking about spring vegetable gardening!
Begin the garden season with some planning. You can use the MU Extension Vegetable Planting Calendar to help guide you to success: https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/g6201
This publication will help you know what to plant when and other helpful gardening planning information.
If you want to start your own cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts transplants, now is the time to begin. These cold tolerant cole-crops (cabbage-related crops) take about 5-8 days to germinate when in a warm (75-77 degrees) conditions.
As soon as they germinate, move the seedlings to a well- lit location. You will need a sunny south window, fluorescent lights set up on shelving units to create a bright propagation area, or a greenhouse. Seedlings that do not get enough light, get too tall and often fall over. They will not mature into plants that produce good crops.
If you do not have adequate light to start your own transplants, you can wait and purchase cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower transplants at garden center stores soon. In Central Missouri, transplants for cole-crops can be planted outside in a sunny spot in the vegetable garden, from mid-March through mid to late April.
If temperatures below freezing are predicted, you can cover them with newspaper, sheets of plastic, even bed sheets overnight for protection. Or you can cover the plants with floating row cover that can be kept on the plants to help keep insect pests out. Floating row cover is a spun polyester fabric that lets light and rain in and creates a microclimate underneath next to the soil that is several degrees warmer than the outside temperatures.
When the snow and ice melts, and garden soil is moist and crumbly, you can direct-sow cold tolerant crops such as arugula, lettuce, radishes, and sugar snap peas outside. Onions are a good spring crop, too. They will be available at garden centers in early spring, as onion sets, which are small onion bulbs, or as onion plants.
Early spring is also a great time to plant ornamental cabbage and kale, pansies, and violas. These visually attractive plants love the cool weather and can be planted along flower bed borders, among the vegetables, and in containers. They will provide a wide range of color until the temperatures get hot in late June and July.
Do you have more gardening questions? The Gardener Hotline is another way to get reliable gardening information. It is staffed by trained Extension Master Gardener Volunteers of Greater Kansas City. The phone number is 816-833-TREE (8733). You can also email gardening, landscaping, and other horticulture questions to them at email@example.com.
Also, feel free to contact Cathy Bylinowski, MU Extension Horticulture Instructor, firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have more gardening questions or need more information on MU Extension Horticulture programs.