What vegetables to plant in december?

By Dan Gill, LSU AgCenter horticulturist and Times-Picayune gardening columnist

The recent freezes were not severe, but they were likely enough to put an end to most warm-season fall vegetables, though I know some gardeners who covered in-ground tomatoes and moved container tomatoes inside just to squeeze out a little more harvest.

The warm-season vegetables that we planted in August and grew over the past few months — such as tomatoes, snap beans and cucumbers — will produce until hard freezes occur. These vegetables may produce through this month if the weather cooperates.

But if you have cold-damaged or dead vegetables in your garden, it’s time to throw them in your compost.

Although we hate to see them finish, there is a silver lining. As you remove these crops, you now have space to plant more vegetables.

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

Swiss Chard

Swiss chard is grown for its delicious, nutritious foliage. It’s actually a type of beet selected to produce foliage rather than an edible root.

The mild-flavored, nutritious leaf blades (rich in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants) can be separated from the leaf stems and cooked like spinach, whose flavor cooked chard resembles. The stalks may be prepared separately, steamed as you would asparagus, or chopped with the greens. Young, tender chard leaves can be eaten raw, adding a beet-like flavor to salads and sandwiches.

Chard’s large, fleshy leaf stems are most commonly either white or red, but there are types with shades of gold, pink and orange. Bright Lights has leaf stems that come in a variety of brilliant colors. It’s an attractive plant and can make a colorful addition to ornamental flowerbeds or ornamental containers.

Cole Crops

Broccoli and cauliflower, pictured in first image, belong to a group of vegetables called the cole crops. Seeds of broccoli and cauliflower may be planted in flats or pots now to produce transplants to plant in the garden in January.

Those transplants will provide harvest this spring.

Planting transplants of broccoli or cauliflower now is a little risky. The plants are hardy and will tolerate temperatures well below freezing. But, the flower heads that we harvest are more susceptible to cold damage.

Transplants planted now will produce heads during the coldest part of winter when chances are good that freezing temperatures may occur. So, it’s best to plant seeds of these crops now so they’ll come into production after the coldest part of the winter is past.

Plant them 12- to 18-inches apart in rows or beds when your broccoli transplants are ready to plant (or if you purchase transplants in January or February). The 12-inch spacing will produce smaller heads but total production is greater. Broccoli heads are harvested when the largest flower buds in the head are about the size of the head of a kitchen match. After the main head is harvested, side florets will be produced, and harvesting can continue for several weeks often double the production of each plant.

Cauliflower transplants should be spaced 18- to 24-inches apart. Cauliflower produces only one head, so after harvesting, remove the entire plant to make way for planting something else.

For white heads, blanch the cauliflower by pulling the leaves up over the head when it is about the size of a silver dollar. Fasten the leaves with a clothes pin and check the head frequently. Harvest before the curds of the head starts to separate.

Cabbage, pictured above, and Brussels sprouts are cole crops that can be planted now using transplants. We eat the foliage, not the flower heads, of these vegetables, so cold is not an issue.

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

Root Crops

Root crops are excellent for the cool-season vegetable garden. Root crops should always be direct seeded where they will grow and never transplanted. The tiny root eventually develops into the edible vegetable. If this is damaged, as generally happens when you transplant seedlings, the result is a deformed root.

Plant the seeds rather thickly to make sure you get a good stand, and then thin the seedlings to the proper spacing. The following are some commonly planted root crops and the proper spacing: beet, 3-4 inches; radish, 2-3 inches; turnip, 3 inches; carrot, 2 inches; and rutabaga, 4 inches.

Leafy Greens

A variety of delicious and nutritious leafy green vegetables can be planted now using seeds or transplants, including lettuce, spinach, mustard, Swiss chard, arugula and endive.

A complete listing of vegetables that can be planted in December and through the winter includes beet, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, Chinese cabbage, collard, endive, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, mustard, onion, peas (English and snow), radish, rape, rutabaga, shallot, Swiss chard and turnip, and many herbs such as thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano, French tarragon, lavender, chives, cilantro, dill, mints and parsley.

For more information on growing vegetables, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office and request a free copy of the “Louisiana Vegetable Planting Guide,” or fact sheets on many specific vegetables. You also can access them at lsuagcenter.com.

Dan Gill is a horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter. Email questions to [email protected] or add them to the comment section below. Follow his stories at www.nola.com/homegarden, on Facebook and @nolahomegardenon Instagram.

Photo: Justin Russell

What should you be sowing in your climate zone?

Let’s start in the bush with the arid and semi arid zones. Heat is likely to be your main issue as spring fizzles into summer, so focus on those crops that like proper warmth. Think melons, pumpkins, capsicums, chillies, beans, cucumbers, eggplants, sweetcorn, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and zucchinis. Make sure you keep the water up to the plants as they mature, mulch well to retain moisture in the soil, and use shadecloth to cool things down a bit on very hot days. I’m sure that when your watermelons are ready to harvest, the local cricket team could do with a refreshing slice during the lunch break.

Up north, the wet season is firing up, which means it’s a good time to get in things like snake beans, capsicums, chillies, eggplants, ginger, sweetcorn, sweet potato, basil, okra, and pumpkins. You can also lift and divide perennials such as taro, arrowroot, cocoyam, and bananas. Replant into soil mounds enriched with lashings of compost.

In the subtropics, go for all of the above plus radishes, zucchinis, loose-leaf lettuces, bush and climbing beans, cucumbers, melons, Malabar spinach, kangkong, amaranth, and spring onion.

Those of you in warm temperate Australia are in the summer veg pleasure zone. Plant anything from the arid zone above, plus beetroot, carrots, Mediterranean herbs, kale, potatoes, radishes, leeks, spring onions, lettuces, tomatillos, and silverbeet.

In cold temperate areas your latest frost date is likely to have passed so it’s time to make hay, so to speak. Get in your sols (tomatoes, chillies, capsicums, eggplants, tomatillos, potatoes), using the assistance of a polytunnel or greenhouse in the coldest areas. Outside, sow cucurbits (zucchini, pumpkins, melons, cucumbers, squashes), leafy greens (such as lettuces, Asian cabbages, kale, silverbeet and mustard), roots (carrots, parsnips, beetroot) tubers (such as oca) and a plethora of herbs (such as basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, and chives).

November is a massive month across the country. Get outside and grow!

By: Justin Russell

First published: October 2016

Herbs

Not only are herbs good for you, but having a fresh source of herbs at your disposal this summer will ensure your meals are flavoursome. Try planting dill, sage, basil, parsley, coriander, thyme, mint or rosemary.

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Vegetables

If you live in a warmer part of Australia, November is the perfect time to plant lettuce, silver beet, zucchini and pumpkin. Cooler climate will produce better capsicum, beetroots, carrots and sweet corn. Vegetables that can withstand most climates include cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant and rocket.

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Flowers

Marigolds are made of sturdy stuff and won’t mind copping the heat from the hot Aussie summer sun, and November is also a good time to plant dahlias, pansies, petunias and ageratum.

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Lawn

Once the summer weather hits it’s important to give your lawn a little feed with some lawn food and give it a thorough watering regularly. November is a good time to fix any bare patches in your aw by planting some new seeds, and be sure to give your lawn a good weed.

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As the chill in the air gets chillier, it’s easy to forget to visit the garden. Many people don’t think of November as the season for gardening, but there’s always something to do or harvest in the garden.

This article may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

We focused on harvesting, maintaining active gardens, putting inactive gardens to bed for the season, and planting garlic and fruit crops in October. This month includes many of the same activities: harvesting, preparing the garden for winter, sowing garlic, and planting fruit plants. Following are some ideas for prioritizing what to do in the garden in November.

Remember, these November garden tasks are based on my gardening in USDA hardiness zone 6a. You may need to make adjustments for your climate.

1. November Harvest

The growing season is coming to an end (or may be over depending on where you live) so I always harvest and process first before doing anything else in the garden.

Harvesting Cool Weather Crops in November

  • Beets & beet greens (Here are my tips for harvesting beets plus a ton of beet recipes)
  • Brassicas
    • Broccoli
    • Collards
    • Kale
    • Kohlrabi
    • Radishes
    • Rutabagas
    • Turnips (Greens are super tasty, too)
  • Carrots
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard

I love fall carrots!

Harvesting Warm Weather Crops in November

  • Dried (Soup) Beans
  • Peppers
  • Sweet potatoes (Here’s how to harvest, cure, and store sweet potatoes)
  • Tomatoes

Harvesting Herbs in November

  • Parsley
  • Rosemary (Learn how to keep your potted rosemary alive over the winter)
  • Thyme (Here are a few suggestions for using thyme)

Harvesting Perennial Crops in November

  • Apples
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Pawpaws (Asimina triloba)
  • Pears
  • Persimmons
  • Quince
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries (everbearing)

Would you like more resources for planning and maintaining your garden through to harvest?

You’ll find loads of information just like this in my award-winning book, The Suburban Micro-Farm.

In fact, with your purchase, you’ll get FREE bonus resources such as calendars, checklists, and planting worksheets to help you get organized.

2. November Garden Maintenance

Here are the things I do in my garden to put the garden to bed and prepare for the winter months.

Cleaning Up

  • Cut spent flowers, or leave seed heads to feed the birds through the winter.
  • Leave vegetable flowers for bees, then save the seed. Here are some other fall flowers I grow for the bees.
  • Put (non-diseased) dead plant matter in the compost. Cut plants at the base and leave their roots intact.
  • Remove diseased plant matter and dispose in garbage.
  • Mulch beds. Here are some mulching tips.
  • Add soil amendments to inactive gardens with a digging fork. It’s the perfect time of year to improve soil.

Extending the Season

Set up a cold frame for fall and overwintering crops. Here are some cold frame tips.

Fertilizing

  • Cut back herbs and use them as fertilizer. Here’s how I use comfrey and how I use other herbs.

Seed Saving

  • Collect and save herb, flower, and vegetable seeds. Here’s how I save cilantro seeds and here are my tips for collecting calendula seed heads.
  • Be sure to store your seeds properly.

Weeding

Weeds can overwhelm even the most patient gardener so be sure to spend some time weeding. Here are five weeds you want in your garden and learn more about when weeds are good.

3. November Planting

Once my garden is under control, then I plant for the future! Don’t forget I’m gardening in USDA hardiness zone 6a – you may need to make adjustments for your climate.

Sowing Outside in November

  • Garlic (Music hardneck variety is one of my favorites)

Planting Outside in November

  • Berry bushes (Plant aronia shrubs and grow your own superfood!)
  • Fruit trees (Here are my fruit tree planting tips)
  • Rhubarb (Try a beautiful red rhubarb)

Are you harvesting lots of good stuff this fall or are you putting the garden to bed?

Photo: Justin Russell

In temperate, arid and subtropical climates it’s time to get seriously stuck in. The soil is warming (and in some areas, already warm) and if your last frost date has passed, there is a plethora of summer vegies that can now go in the ground. Think tomatoes, potatoes, capsicum, eggplant, chilli, bush and climbing beans, sweetcorn and maize, zucchini, cucumber, pumpkins and melons. If you’re in a very cold location, plant the true heat lovers (such as eggplants and melons) later in October or early next month.

In the tropics and frost-free subtropics, it’s a great time to plant banana suckers, ginger and its relatives such as galangal, cardamom and turmeric, along with sweetcorn, taro, cassava, yams and okra.

October is a great month to plant evergreen fruit and nut trees almost anywhere in Australia. Give citrus, macadamias, guavas, avocados, grumichama, sapotes and mangoes a try, choosing the right plant for your garden by taking into account factors such as heat, frost and rainfall. As a rule of thumb, water in newly planted trees using the day/week/month/year method – water once per day for a week, once per week for a month, and once per month for a year. Make sure each drink is a good soaking, and if the soil is dry to start with, rewet it using a soil wetting agent such as EcoHydrate.

Don’t forget to plant vines. They’re versatile, often highly productive and in many cases, beautifully ornamental. Try the usual favourites such as passionfruit and grapes, but don’t overlook more unusual plants such as kiwiberries, hops and akebia (aka chocolate vine). Note that for some – I’m pointing at you kiwifruit – you’ll need a strong trellis to support heavy growth plus male and female plants for pollination.

Photo: ‘Lazy Housewife’ climbing beans – super productive and perfect for October planting.

By: Justin Russell

First published: September 2017

Sadly, drought conditions continue in many parts of Australia. Only grow pumpkins and other members of the melon family if you have plenty of water. Limited water or erratic watering results in the part of the fruit opposite the stem becoming yellow and soft, and the crop fails to mature.
Drought conditions are tough on young seedlings. Check them daily, as punnets, seedling trays and small seedlings can dry out quickly, especially when weather is windy. Steps you can take to ensure your plants in garden beds can thrive in windy weather can be found here: Windy weather
Light applications of organic liquid fertiliser can help seedlings to establish quickly, but too much high-nitrogen fertiliser will result in too much soft growth that is very attractive to pests.
The following advice on what to plant in October is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs for Australia and New Zealand. A comprehensive monthly guide that includes planting times for the entire garden, as well as when to fertilise, prune, weed, take cuttings or divide plants, can be found in the diary section of my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting, 2017, with moon phases and best days 2017–2022.

* For gardeners who do not use moon planting: sow or plant out any of the following list for your climate zone at any time this month, although you may find germination rates are lower when the Moon is in Last Quarter phase.

WARM CLIMATE – South of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, suitable grain crops, suitable lettuce, silver beet, NZ spinach and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of cowpea, pigeon pea, lablab, millet, Japanese millet, sorghum, mung bean, or soybean. Parsley, spring onions and sweet basil can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, eggplant, pumpkin, rockmelon, rosella, sweet corn and watermelon can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, cucumber, summer squash, tomato and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot, radish and can be sown directly into beds, and asparagus seed, banana passionfruit, passionfruit, pawpaw, lemongrass and chives can be sown or planted out. Avocado, banana, citrus, tropical and cherry guava, macadamia, sweet potato, marjoram, mint, oregano, and sage can be planted.

WARM CLIMATE – Rockhampton and northwards
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, suitable lettuce, NZ spinach and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of cowpea, pigeon pea, lablab or millet.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, eggplant, sweet corn and watermelon can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum and tomato can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot and radish can be sown directly into beds, and banana passionfruit, passionfruit, pawpaw and can be sown or planted out. Banana, citrus, tropical guava, macadamia, passionfruit, pineapple, lemongrass and sweet potato can be planted.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, suitable Chinese cabbage, grain crops, rocket, NZ spinach, tatsoi and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of clover, buckwheat, millet, Japanese millet, pigeon pea, soybean – or sorghum late in October. Cabbage, celery, leek, lettuce, silver beet, spring onions, basil, dill and parsley can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, pumpkin, rockmelon, summer squash, tomato, watermelon, zucchini and rosella can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, asparagus seed, banana passionfruit, beetroot, carrot, Jerusalem artichoke, passionfruit, pawpaw, potato, radish, sweet potato, chives and lawn seed can be sown directly into beds. Avocado, blueberry, citrus, tropical and cherry guava, macadamia, mango, pawpaw, marjoram, oregano, sage, rosemary, French tarragon, thyme and evergreen trees, shrubs and vines can be planted, and turf laid.

COOL CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, headed and open Chinese cabbage, bulb fennel, grain crops, radicchio, rocket, tatsoi, coriander, dill and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of clover, barley, cereal rye, millet or wheat. Cabbage, celery, leek, lettuce, parsley, silverbeet and spring onions can be sown or planted out. In very cold areas, also sow Brussels sprouts.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans can be sown directly into beds. Capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, tomato and chamomile can be sown or planted out, and pumpkin, rockmelon, summer squash, watermelon and zucchini can be started in a cold frame.
During Full Moon phase, carrot, Jerusalem artichoke, potato and radish can be sown directly into beds. Also sow or plant out asparagus seed, beetroot, globe artichoke and chives. After frost, blueberry, potted grapes, cherry guava and evergreen shrubs, trees and vines can be planted. Also sow lawn seed or lay turf.

The nights are drawing in and October will see the clocks going back. There may even be a sprinkling of frost on some parts of the country. October is a busy month in the garden as we plant spring bulbs, clear borders and pot up winter containers. Here are my top ten gardening jobs for this month.

My ten gardening jobs for October

Think about bringing in any houseplants that have been outside. Acclimatise them slowly if you can, as some plants may get a shock if they are moving into a centrally heated room. Citrus should be moved into a bright room before the cold sets in.

2.

Sweet peas can be sown into pots to over-winter in a sheltered position or a cold frame. October is still a good time to sow lawn seed and repair bare patches that have arrived during the summer – if you have any areas of lawn that have been damaged by pets, try cordoning off the area of lawn to allow it to recover and allow the seed to set down strong roots.

3.

As the garden is tidied in preparation for winter, lots of material is generated for composting. To encourage it to rot down quickly, turn the contents regularly to stir it up and allow in lots of air. If your garden has trees it is worth saving the leaves to make leaf mould which is an excellent mulch for the garden.

4.

Tender herbs, such as, basil, coriander, parsley, dill and mint cannot withstand frost and it is best to bring under cover before any autumn chill. Mint, parsley, thyme, and rosemary can be left in the garden and harvested throughout the colder months in some parts of the country.

5.

After clearing and cutting back the borders, it is a good time to spread a mulch to help the more tender plants through the winter and to improve the organic structure of the soil.

6.

From now until early winter is the time to prune roses, especially climbing roses. Reduce the size of the plant by about a third to prevent wind rock

7.

Throughout the autumn and winter months you can plant or transplant both evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs. During these months of dormancy, you can move shrubs and tree with minimal shock to the plants. During the colder months, plant new roses and hedging.

8.

After you have finished harvesting your summer vegetables, plant a crop of green manures, for ploughing into the soil next spring. These nitrogen producing plants will provide good organic matter and food for your garden crops next year, as well as helping to control weeds over the winter.

9.

Spring bulbs for forcing can be potted up now and stored in a cool, frost-free place until it is time to bring indoors, usually 12 to 15 weeks. There are lots of choices available to buy in garden centres; including Hyacinths, Narcissus and Amaryllis.

10.

In the cut flower garden Dahlias and Chrysanthemums should still be producing lots of flowers. Roses may also produce their last flush of Autumnal blooms. Take advantage of the seed heads, hips and haws in the garden and hedgerow – create striking vase arrangements by mixing them with stems of perennials; for the “last floral fling”.

For more where this came from follow Petersham Nurseries (@petershamnurseries) on Instagram.

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