Tallahassee Vegetable Planting in January
January 3, 2014
By Glenn Mayne
Winter Vegetable Garden, Photo by Trevor Hylton
Living in Tallahassee, it is possible to grow three crops in each calendar year. Generally, one can plant cold-hardy crops in January-February, follow that up with a general planting of cold-tender crops in March and April, and then put in some cold-hardy greens in September-October. Let focus on getting started at the beginning of the year.
In order to select the cultivars you would like to plant, consult any planting guide for our area and make sure they are listed as “H” or hardy, under the “plant tenderness” column. Any of these crops can be planted in January, yet some will perform better than others. Based on experience and numerous trials, I can say the turnips, mustard greens, rutabaga, kale, cabbage, broccoli, and collards will likely do better if planted in the Fall (September-October). While they are cold-hardy, they simply need more time in the cooler weather to fully mature, otherwise insect infestations will make the gardeners life difficult. Carrots and beets can be planted in January, yet I’ve found that a Fall planting of these will also yield better results, as they tend to take their time in reaching maturity. I have never been successful with Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, yet that could be a function of my soil.
Now, let me focus on the successes I’ve experienced with January planting.
Potatoes – There are a lot of theories that one should not plant potatoes until Valentine’s Day (February 14th). This is simple a persisting myth. I have had great success with Pontiac Red (or sometimes called Irish redskin potatoes) by planting them in the 1st week of January. They will take three weeks to break ground and if a freeze nips the leaves, simply cut it off the damaged tops and the plants will come back strong.
Peas – English and Sugar Snap peas do very well in January. A trellis is required for most of these, and the taste of these fresh is just wonderful. I have not been successful in freezing Sugar Snaps in their hull, so I plant only what I can consume fresh.
Lettuce – almost any variety of leaf lettuce will do well, and will continue to produce up until the hot weather in May forces them to bolt and produce seed pods. Be very careful of depth when planting lettuce – I find it works well to simply spread a handful of soil just covering the seeds.
Onions – start with onion bulb sets and just cover them in a fine soil bed. Then enjoy green onions until you use them all.
Radish – this is perhaps the most prolific of all cold-hardy crops that will do very well under almost any condition.
The other nice thing about a January planting is there is very little garden maintenance. I plow out the rows up until the plants are 3-4” high, the lay down a 4” layer of mulch between the rows. I use oak and sweet gum leaves, along with pine straw, because that is what I have available, but any organic mulch will do fine. This does an excellent job of keeping any cold hardy weeds at bay. This mulch also holds in moisture, prevents erosion during heavy rainfalls and protects roots from any extremely cold weather. Once the crop is spent, one can plow this mulch back into the soil, which will enrich the soil by adding nutrients that have been used by the winter plants.
Glenn Mayne is a Master Gardener and a member of the Leon County/UF IFAS Extension Urban Forestry/Horticulture Newspaper Column Working Group. For more information about gardening in our area, visit the UF/ IFAS Leon County Extension website at http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu. For gardening questions, email us at Ask-A-Mastergardener@leoncountyfl.gov