JoAnne Skelly: Almost time for cool season crops

JoAnne Skelly

JoAnne Skelly

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With 24 inches of snow on the ground as I write this, it is hard to believe it’s almost time to plant cool season crops. Some, such as kale, go in four to five weeks before the last frost and others, including beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, rutabagas, and turnips can be planted two weeks to three weeks prior.

Normally, in the milder areas in Northern Nevada the average last frost date is May 15, while in colder areas it can occur as late as June 1. With all the crazy weather this year, it may be hard to predict. Five weeks out from May 15 is April 10; three weeks is April 24 and two weeks is May 1.

However, some things can be planted as soon as the soil is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so you may want to invest in a soil thermometer. Peas are one such veggie. It’s a gardening tradition to plant them on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. Plant these cold-loving veggies 1/2 inch to 1 inch deep and 1 to 2 inches apart in the row, in rows 12 inches to 24 inches apart.

As with most vegetables, peas thrive in full sun and fertile, well-drained soil. Be sure to turn in organic matter and a complete fertilizer prior to sowing seeds. They need regular soil moisture. The plants themselves do best at 55 degrees to 65 degrees Fahrenheit and decline with the warmer weather. Other vegetables to plant once the soil reaches 40 degrees are carrots, lettuce, parsnips, and Swiss chard. Most of these seeds take 14 days to 21 days to emerge from the soil. They grow best below 75 degrees and can tolerate cold temperatures down to 32 degrees. With carrots, hotter temperatures make them bitter. Plant carrot seeds 1/4 inch deep and thin at three to four leaves to 2 inches to 3 inches between plants and 12 inches to 18 inches between rows. Sandy soils with plenty of organic matter are best.

Lettuce can either be seeded or planted with transplants. Seeds go 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch deep and are thinned like carrots but with 8 inches to 12 inches between plants and 12 inches to 18 inches between rows. Parsnip seeds are planted 1/4 inch deep. Thin to 3 inches to 6 inches apart with rows 12 inches to 18 inches apart. For details on these and other vegetables, go to

Just in time for pruning season, Greenhouse Garden Center in Carson City is holding a pruning clinic March 11, 10 a.m. to noon. Owner Dave Ruf and Tom Wion of Capitol Tree Care will be the presenters. There is a $5 suggested donation.

JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Email


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