Dirt on Gardening

Just because the nights are dipping into freezing or close to freezing temperatures does not mean that a little outdoor gardening can’t go on. In the Ozarks, we do not usually have winters with sustained periods of freezing temperatures that prevent any plant growth.

Spinach seed can be sown even when the ground is crunchy with frost. An Ozark winter will generally allow the opportunity for a small spinach harvest throughout the season. If the temperatures do fall below good growing conditions, the spinach seed will hang on and begin to grow in the spring.

Cool season lettuce and arugula will also grow like spinach during the late fall and winter months. Spinach and lettuce seed can sprout when the temperature is as cool as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Leaf lettuce varieties like “Black-Seeded Simpson,” “Red Sails,” and “Oakleaf” are suitable for cool-season growth.

Now is the time of year to also get a start on some annual flowers like poppies, love-in-a-mist and larkspur.

Annual poppies, Papaver rhoeas, commonly referred to as corn poppies provide bright splashes of color in mid-June through early August. These flowers will reseed prolifically, but they need to be started in the garden by sowing in late fall. “Shirley Mix” provides red, pink, white and salmon colored double poppies.

Love-in-a-mist, Nigella damascena, also needs to be sown in the fall for spring growth and bloom. Love-in-a-mist usually has light blue flowers as found in “Miss Jekyll” variety, but “Persian Jewels” is a mix of blue, pink and white flowers. As long as the temperatures are cool, love-in-a-mist will continually reseed to prolong bloom throughout the spring.

Rocket larkspur, the annual delphinium, botanically referred to as Consolida ambigua, is the cousin of perennial delphinium. Larkspur also needs to be sown in the fall for bloom the following spring. “Giant Imperial” reaches three to four feet in height and provides mixed colors of lilac, pink, white and peach in mixed or solid colors.

The spinach and lettuce will require regular moisture to germinate and grow during warmer winter weather. The flower seed just needs to be planted in the fall for germination and growth in the upcoming spring.

By planting seeds in late fall, the gardener can get an early start on spring planting.

The gardener may be able to enjoy the harvest of some fresh greens throughout the winter, too.

Questions or comments related to gardening? Contact Joleen at missourigardener@hotmail.com

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