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Time to think ahead and start those cool weather crops

Published July 13. 2012 05:01PM

Have you noticed the summer clearance ads in the newspapers lately?

"Wait," you say, "summer is just starting."

Merchants know that it's time to stock and sell back to school and fall merchandise, so they think ahead.

It's time to think ahead to fall harvest in your garden. Start cool weather crops like lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and kale in flats, peat pots or open cold frames.

Once established, you can transplant them when the seedlings are about four inches tall. They will need to be hardened off for about a week, before planting them in your prepared garden beds.

Hardening off means gradually moving the plants from the seedling indoor environment or greenhouse, to the outdoor garden rows. Remember when you are setting them out to rotate your crops by not planting the same plant in the same spot it was in last year.

You may want to provide row covers over them, especially the cabbage. The pretty white cabbage moth lays her eggs on the cabbage and when the hungry larvae hatch, they munch away on the tender plants.

Row covers are lengths of fabric, placed over metal hoops that hold the fabric adequately above the plants, allowing for growth. Rain passes through the fabric easily.

Mulch your plants and use soaker hoses to provide adequate moisture, if you can. Otherwise, water from the bottom on a regular basis. Remember that weeds will also thrive under the row covers, so you will have to be diligent about weeding.

Wet black and white newspaper is good mulch and is cheap. Be aware that slugs like to hide under the paper. Set out some flat plastic plates with beer as bait. The slugs can't resist the "happy hour" and they are soon just a memory.

You can direct sow crops like beets, radishes, leeks, green beans and carrots for a second harvest.

So if you're feelin' hot, hot, hot in the record-breaking heat this summer season here in the Pennsylvania Northeast, think cool. Plan ahead and you'll be savoring a bowl of rich potato leek soup come November.

Editor's note: This article was written by Penn State Extension Master Gardeners, Julie V. Foley and John Kupec. Keep checking the TIMES NEWS Lifestyle page for more gardening articles from the experts.

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