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Don Trotter

Hello Fellow Earthlings and welcome to the second installment in our series on cool season vegetable gardening. This time we will be talking about which plants work well during the cool season and where to find seeds and plants.

Cool season vegetable gardens can produce an abundance of different kinds of fresh food. They are also very colorful places that can be ornamental as well as tasty. This is also a time of year when children are in school, and the garden can be valuable learning experience they can share with classmates. Natural/ organic gardening teaches children how Mother Nature works. It is also a great way to get them to eat their veggies. Sitting in the garden eating fresh foods that they helped to grow is a rewarding experience for children and the sense of accomplishment is a great self-esteem builder. This is also a good time to immerse them in the dynamics of how natural gardening helps the environment by encouraging biological diversity. Your kids will dig it, I promise.

Plant choices are only limited by your tastes in the cool season vegetable garden. Some plants are also really fun to grow because they are so quick to mature. Some choices for the winter/ cool season harvest are radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, celery, kohlrabi, cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, spinach, lettuces, peas, and beans. An abundance of culinary herbs can also be planted in the cool season vegetable garden such as anise, dill, fennel, oregano, mints, winter savory, marjoram; the choices boggle the mind. Find the variety of plants that you like best and go for it! When planning out where you are going to locate particular plants in the garden it is good to remember that at this time of the year the sun is lower on the southern horizon. Plant taller crops toward the northern edge of the garden to eliminate shading the shorter crops.

One of my all-time favorite cool season vegetable gardening projects for the kids are bean and pea tipis. Select pole bean or climbing pea varieties that you like and plant the seeds at the base of a tipi made from 6 foot, narrow wooden stakes or bamboo poles. A minimum of five stakes should be used to construct the tipi, and durable twine that doesn't decompose too quickly will work perfectly. These tipis make great garden forts for the kids, and I guarantee they will try eating the food produced by the plants while playing inside the tipis.

Last time we got our garden ready. Now the soil has begun digesting all of the wonderful organic matter and is ready for planting. There are several ways to lay out your garden. You can use the typical furrow method or a number of other planting techniques. My favorite is called French Intensive which is basically a close planting style that maximizes use of space. This is a good practice for those of you with limited gardening space. For those of you that garden in containers, cool season vegetables make wonderful potted gardens. French Intensive gardening utilizes larger beds (4 to 6 feet wide) that are slightly raised above the surrounding grade. Watering is done by sprinkler, hose, or soaker hose in this type of layout.

When planting you cool season vegetable garden it is a good thing to include some herbs and flowers that will attract beneficial insects into the garden. These "companion plantings" will add interest to the garden ornamentally and will provide you with a natural pest control method for those uninvited visitors to your plants. Herbs like dill are very good at luring good bugs into the garden and flowers like yarrow are also efficient at bringing in the beneficial insects that eat pests.

Selecting seeds is very easy and fresh seeds are available at most garden centers. When selecting starter plants at the nursery pick sturdy plants that are not overgrown and root bound. There are a lot of places to find seeds. Be sure to look at the package and find the information that says this seed is packaged for 1999 growing season. This ensures that you are getting fresh seed that will germinate readily.

Next time we will be discussing pest and disease control in the cool season vegetable garden. We will also further touch on the subject of companion planting. See you in the Garden!

Got questions? Fax the Doc at 760.632.8175 or Email him: email

Don Trotter's natural gardening columns appear nationally in environmentally sensitive publications.

Look for Don's book Natural Gardening A-Z from Hay House at bookstores everywhere and at all online booksellers and check out Don's columns in Hearst's Healthy Living Magazine coming soon.

Enjoy some of Dr. Curly's past gardening articles from our growers archive.

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