What fresh vegetables can the home garden provide now?  Check these instructions for growing them |  Home / Garden

What fresh vegetables can the home garden provide now? Check these instructions for growing them | Home / Garden

The autumn and winter garden can provide lots of delicious vegetables. We start making its first plantings in August (autumn crops of vegetables from hot season) and go through October (vegetables in cool season).

The hot seasonal vegetables that we planted in August and grew over the last few months, such as tomatoes, peppers, schnapps and cucumbers, will produce until the freezing point occurs. This year we have been lucky and have not experienced a hard freeze so far. As a result, vegetables from the hot season can still be produced.

Tomatoes do not ripen so well when the temperatures are cool and the nights are in the 40s or 50s. If you find that fully developed fruits do not turn red, harvest them and they will ripen nicely at room temperature. Harvest all the fruit if temperatures are expected in the low 30s and most should ripen indoors. Or you can use less green fruit fried or in relish.

When cold weather puts an end to the hot season vegetables, it’s time to remove those plants and throw them in your compost.

Although we hate to see them finished, there is a silver lining. When you remove these vegetables, you now have room to plant more vegetables. It’s not too late to add a wide variety of cool vegetables now.

Your kitchen garden should produce fresh food for your table all year round. And the vegetables grown here during the winter are some of the most delicious and nutritious that our home gardeners can produce.

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SWISS CHARD: Chard, grown for its delicious, nutritious foliage, is a type of beet selected to produce large, vigorous foliage rather than edible roots.

The mild leaves are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The leaf leaves can be separated from the leaf stalks and cooked as spinach, the taste of which boiled chard resembles. The stems can be cooked separately, steamed as asparagus or chopped together with the green. Young, tender chard leaves can be eaten raw and add a beet-like flavor to salads and sandwiches.

Chard’s large, fleshy leaf stalks are most often either white or red, but there are types with stems in shades of gold, pink and orange. Bright Lights have leaf stalks that come in a variety of brilliant colors. It is an attractive plant and can actually be a colorful and unique addition to decorative flower beds or decorative containers.

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It’s time to plant broccoli in the fall kitchen garden. Related vegetables include cauliflower, kale, romanesco, kohlrabi and collards.

COLE CROPS: Broccoli and cauliflower belong to a group of vegetables called the cole crops. Broccoli and cauliflower seeds can be planted in flats or pots now to produce transplants for planting in the garden in January. Seeds started in December and January will produce transplants that will yield harvest this spring.

It is a bit risky to plant transplants of broccoli or cauliflower now. The plants are very hardy and will withstand temperatures well below freezing, but the flower heads that we harvest to eat are more susceptible to cold damage. Transplants planted now will produce heads in the coldest part of winter when there is a good chance that temperatures that are cold enough to damage them may occur. You may decide that it is worth the risk, but it is more reliable to plant seeds of these crops now so that they come into production after the coldest part of winter is over.

Plant them 12 to 18 inches apart in rows or pray when your broccoli transplants are ready to plant (or if you buy transplants in January or February). The 12-inch spacing will produce smaller heads, but the overall output is larger. Broccoli heads are harvested when the largest flower buds are the size of the head of a matchstick. After the main head is harvested, side bouquets will be produced and the harvest can continue for several weeks, often doubling the production of each plant.

Cauliflower transplants should be placed at a distance of 18 to 24 inches apart. Cauliflower produces only one head, so after harvest, remove the entire plant from your garden to make room to plant something else. For white heads, blanch the cauliflower by pulling the leaves up over the head when it is the size of a silver dollar. Secure the leaves with a clothespin and check the head often. Or choose self-blanching varieties to plant. Harvest heads before the curd begins to separate.

Cabbage and Brussels sprouts are cole crops that can be planted now using transplants. We eat the leaves, not the flower heads of these vegetables – so cold is not a problem.

Other excellent vegetables that belong to the cole crops include kale, kohlrabi and collards. All of these can be planted from seeds or transplants now through February.


METRO SOURCE PHOTO – Plan now and you will be harvesting carrots for the fall.

ROOTS: These are also great for the cool kitchen garden. Root crops should always be sown directly into the garden where they will grow and never be transplanted. The small root that the seed first sends out eventually develops into the edible vegetable. If this is damaged, as usually happens when transplanting seedlings, the result is a deformed root.

Plant the seeds quite thickly to ensure you get a good stand, and then dilute the seedlings to the right distance. The following are some commonly planted root crops and the correct distance: beets 3-4 inches; radish 2-3 inches; turnips 3 inches; carrot 2 inches and rutabaga 4 inches.


Photo provided by MetroSource – spinach

BLOOD GREEN: A variety of delicious and nutritious green vegetables can now be planted using seeds or transplants, including lettuce, spinach, mustard, Chinese cabbage, arugula and endive.

You will find lots of useful Louisiana appropriate vegetable garden information on the LSU AgCenter website at www.lsuagcenter.com.

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Dan Gill is a retired consumer horticulture specialist with LSU AgCenter. He hosts the “Garden Show” on WWL-AM Saturdays at 9. Send an email with questions about gardening to gnogardening@agcenter.lsu.edu.


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