Freeze Wallops the January Vegetable Garden
And just like that the hard freeze arrives and wipes out a good portion of my January vegetable garden. Happy new year to you too mother nature!
Like many of you, I’ve been gardening like crazy up until a few days ago and enjoying constant harvests from just about everything. I was even picking okra! But not anymore. All those tender vegetables and herbs are blackened and shriveled from the hard freeze that hit my Austin garden. I’ve been paying attention to the weather so went out and harvested everything I could. I’ve got garbage bags full of greens and even a few snap peas stuffed into my refrigerator.
A few things that took a hit should bounce back. In my experience, the fava beans, arugula, broccoli, and turnips may lose some top growth but will sprout from the roots. To my surprise the spinach that I cut way back a few days ago didn’t die …yet.
Year of the Salad Greens
If you need inspiration for your next planting, the National Garden Bureau has declared 2022 The Year of the Salad Greens.
There are two big plant families that you can choose from when planning which greens to grow right now. The Asteraceae family is the source of most of the traditional greens like lettuce and chicories (endive and radicchio.) And let’s not forget dandelion greens for those who are adventurous eaters. The Brassicaceae family includes arugula, kale, and mustards, which tend to be a little more frost tolerant than other greens.
The January Vegetable Garden Checklist
Here are some other things you can do in the January vegetable garden:
- Send in your soil sample if you haven’t already. (forms available here)
- Fertilize established plantings of asparagus late in the month to encourage healthy new shoots.
Water and Irrigation
- Water as needed to keep soil moist. Soil moisture helps protect plant roots from freezing.
- Plant asparagus roots in a bed prepared with compost and fertilizer. Be sure to plant them where they will grow for the next 15 years or so.
- Plant seeds of tomatoes indoors under grow lights in sterile potting soil. After 4 or 5 weeks pot them up to a larger container. A fixture with one warm and one cool T8 fluorescent bulb is generally sufficient for growing transplants. These inexpensive bulbs should be replaced every year or so as they tend to get dim and become less effective, leading to spindly seedlings. Use a heat mat and a plastic dome to create a warm, moist germination chamber but as soon as seeds sprout remove cover and turn off the heat mat to discourage damping off and spindly growth.
- Onion transplants should start appearing in the garden centers later in the month. Recommended varieties are ‘Texas Legend,’ ‘Texas Early White,’ ‘1015Y Texas Super Sweet,’ ‘Yellow Granex’ and ‘Southern Belle Red.’ Set onion transplants into the garden in mid to late January, planting 1 inch deep and 2 inches apart. After a few weeks thin to every 4 inches and eat what you thin as green onions.
- Get another round of cool season crops such as greens, lettuce, spinach, carrots, beets, collards, peas and broccoli into the ground. Plant seeds of turnips, radishes, carrots, arugula, beets, kohlrabi, and peas directly into garden beds. Plant transplants of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Swiss chard, collards, lettuce, spinach, Asian greens and artichokes.
- Purchase seed potatoes from a reputable nursery or mail order supplier. Cut large potatoes into small pieces and let cure indoors for a week or two in preparation for planting in mid-February. (See our recommendations here.)
- Use a weed eater, a sharp hoe or a scythe to cut back cereal ryegrass that is growing as a cover crop. Turn it under or let it decompose on top of the bed.
- Add compost to energize the microbe populations.
Diseases and/or Pests to Look For
- Watch for snails. Pick them off by hand or try some of the other methods recommended in the Grow Green Earth-wise Guide to Snails and Slugs.
- Cut back dead or yellowed asparagus foliage on established plantings.
- Use row cover or hot caps to protect cilantro, chives and parsley if temperatures dip below freezing.
About Sheryl Williams
Sheryl Williams has been a Travis County Master Gardener since 2010 and currently works as the Horticulture Program Assistant at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Travis County. She was introduced to gardening by her mom and grandma and has been an avid vegetable gardener most of her life. Sheryl believes that there is nothing more satisfying than growing and preparing your own food. She likes gardening in Austin year round and concedes that means pulling weeds every day. She practices organic gardening principles and enjoys the challenge of outsmarting garden pests. Occasionally she loses these battles, but doesn’t mind sharing a good meal.