Wintertime in North Carolina is a great time to start prepping your veggie garden, pulling out, finishing up excellent seeds and stuff from the fall. And you can do additional seasonal plannings and cover them, or you can do cover crops, which is a perfect way to get green manure back into the soil.
When I do a cover crop, I usually do rye or like annual ryegrass or oats or, or white Clover, medium red Clover. The one thing I wouldn't do that sometimes you'll see in books is Crimson Clover, tall and beautiful in a field. It's beautiful on a farm, but it's big for a, for a residential garden.
Joe: And when you say cover crop, I'm not familiar with that. That means when you're not using it as a garden; you put something over the whole thing. [00:01:00] And what's the benefit of that.
Keith: You're pulling nitrogen out of the soil. So you're holding the nitrogen at the top level of the soil.
So you're, you're pulling nitrogen up into the plant, and then you're creating green manure. So the, in the early spring, you go back in, and you cut it back down, and then you dig it around in, or you don't even have to cut it back down. If it's low enough, you dig it back into the.
Joe: So it's better than just leaving it as open dirt.
Exactly. Which doesn't look good if it rains and gets all over your lawn. Anyway, that's the one thing I was going to say
Keith: sometimes, I'll dig everything out. I'll turn the soil a little bit. I'll rake it smooth. And then I'll take something like oats, winter oats, or annual rye, and I'll broadcast it across the garden.
And then I just kind of rake it in with my hands or rake it in with rake water. It well. The other thing about it is it's just watching something grow is nice. And, and so all of a sudden, you, instead of having a garden, that's got an old, dead tomato in the middle of it. You've cleaned it up, and you've seeded it.
And then you've got all this incredible green lush growth coming up in the wintertime. So it's nice, it's a nice view too. It's [00:02:00] like watching, you know, new green grass grow in your, in your lawn after the summertime. Instead of a cover crop, the other option you can do is go in. Plant lettuce, mustard, collards, some of the cool season stuff you would typically do in mid-August or February 15th is when you would do things like broccoli and that kind of stuff that needs a cool season to get going, to be able to root in.
But going in and doing lettuce, you do the same thing this time of year prep. You prep the soil, you, you rake it out. You, you plant your lettuce, you plant it heavy and then cover it. And the lettuce comes back up. You've got some greens to harvest through the wintertime, and then when you cut it before, you've still got that green manure that you can kind of dig back into the soil, and it keeps the earth alive.
It gives the microbes something to break down and start rereleasing nitrogen. The other thing this time of year is the soil test is probably one of the things that I would say 90% of the people don't. [00:03:00] It's perhaps one of the more important things to perfect the soil and optimal plant growth.
And that's landscape plants and garden plants. But it's just one of those things. People, you know, data, and another day goes by. And I can't tell you the last time I've done a soil test in my yard, but it does make a difference if you're a new gardener or an older gardener and want to do something exciting.
And, and, and something that you'll see. Great results from going ahead and doing a soil test. Then once you get the soil test, people will bring soil tests to us, and we'll go through them with them there. They're not highly complicated if you've got a science mind, but many times, people look at them and glaze over and they don't understand what they're looking at.
But adding lime limes, probably the biggest thing that you can always add lime to, to North Carolina soil and, and almost most, I'd say 90% of the soil needs. But knowing the quantity of lime that you need is the thing. And so a lot of times you'll need [00:04:00] 20, 20 to 30 bags, an acre. Most people will buy 40 pounds, put half of it out, and think they've done something.
And they haven't. So it's just, it's a good indicator of how much time you need. And kind of a starting point. And so you, if you do a soil test, you put 20 bags of lime out two years later, you may need ten more loads. It's, it's something that's constantly changing. You get a baseline, and then you can go from there.
The other thing besides Lyme is fertilizer to, to the Mix organic fertilizer you can put out throughout the year, putting it out in the wintertime gives it a little bit of time to break down the microbes, start to break it down when we have warm weather. And give you a little bit more punch to the garden in the early spring.
I wouldn't recommend doing a chemical fertilizer this time of year because you don't want to push new growth. You don't want to make them if you have garden plants in them. And then and then we have a real cold snap, and foilage gets burned, or flowers get burned, 90% of the people don't plant [00:05:00] cool-season vegetables at the right time. So prepping right now, you're preparing for a February 15. Plant date for cool-season vegetables, and we'll get vegetables at that time of year. We get a few trays. We don't sell many, and then two or three weeks pass, and we sell a few more, and we get a few more in people are still planting them on up until April, but to be successful, I like to plant right around February 15th through about March 15th.
And then I cut it off. I think it's almost a waste of time after that. But we, you know, people are still coming in. They're looking for something to put into their garden. They're finally out moving around, and you know, they want to plant something. We still have them that time of year, but February 15th is like a great target date for cool-season stuff like broccoli and cauliflower and things that need time to root in and then push flowers at a later date.
The target date for the warm season stuff is like Ms. Moore, like April 15th. That's our last freezer. But there, I think a lot of people push that date. I [00:06:00] usually I'm planting tomatoes like the first you know, in, in middle of March, you know, we get a warm spell, and it looks like it's going to be friendly for two weeks.
I'll go ahead and start putting some stuff in the ground. But I don't see many great results from early planning, the tomatoes. I think they need that heat. To push growth. So they'll sit there, and they make grow roots. Still, they're not going to put a lot of top growth on, so things like tomatoes and peppers I'd usually wait until at least the 15th, and maybe even the end of the month when we have some heat. The other thing with tomatoes is that they like the warm weather when they're.
So if you put a tomato in the middle of April, into April. Stagger, the planning. So you plant, you know, a couple of plants a month later, plant a couple more plants, you'll have tomatoes throughout the season. And then from those plants, I like to, you know, if you buy a four-inch plant, you've got a giant plant going in, you can get more variety.
So you have, you know, if you buy for four-inch plants, you're paying a little bit more for them, but [00:07:00] you, you get a bigger start when you put them in. And then you've got more variety of types of tomatoes. You can grow. You can grow more petite cherry tomatoes. You can produce a giant sandwich of tomatoes.
And then, later in the season, you can take a cutting off of that plan. And just actually literally cut the plant, but a little rooting hormone in it, and then stick it straight into the soil and the tomato root. And then you've got tomatoes going into up until frost or after for.
So you can do things like fried green tomatoes, and that kind of thing, which is just fun, and green tomatoes will last, you know, well into the winter. So, you know, you put them in your cool drawer in the refrigerator or a back room, you can put a green tomato on the window sill and have it ripen up.
So that's a nice way to have tomatoes going on into the wintertime. And then the last date, the second excellent season crop, is around August 15th. Cool-season veggies. It's the coldest part of the year. And the hottest part of the year is when you're planting them.
[00:08:00] So it just doesn't make, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to most people, and it's, and it doesn't feel comfortable to be out there in the garden, but it's not a long project, and it's, it's fun to reap the rewards later on. So August 15th, you know, again, you're taking out some of your older, older plants, things that have spent some of the cooler season stuff.
You might have cucumbers that have dwindled. You rake that stuff up. And then go ahead and start getting your broccoli and, having a good broccoli crop going into the wintertime again is another, another one. That'll last a long time, and you don't have to cut it all at one time, get your cuttings, and then come back in a couple of weeks later.
You don't want it out there. Broccoli or cauliflower. You don't want out there is a hard, hard freeze. So it'll go down to about 25 20. So what 26 degrees. But I wouldn't go, you know, wouldn't let it go a whole lot cooler than that. And then you just kind of reap the benefits going into the fall.
From there, we're starting that season over again. It's a perfect [00:09:00] growing season in North Carolina. And, and for those who haven't done gardening, start small and start in a bag. We're doing a lot of soft bag gardens. You can grow potatoes in a bay. You can grow.
All the lettuces and cools these and stuff in a bag larger bags, you can do peppers and tomatoes. So for those people that don't have the space or that haven't gardened before, it's a great way to start a small garden. So get out there this year and enjoy veggie gardening. Stop in. If you have questions, we've got tons of people to help you out.
And we'll see you soon.