What vegetables can you plant in January and February?

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What vegetables can you plant in January and February?
Cabbage is a hardy cold-weather vegetable. (head of cabbage of the cabbage image by Romashchenko Anatoly from Fotolia.com)

Spring and summer are the most common times for the inception of a vegetable garden. While the majority of plants flourish in more temperate climates, several can be planted during the winter months in warmer areas to produce crops of tender and tasty vegetables. Several spring-harvested vegetables are often the products of seedlings planted in the winter.

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Cabbage

Cabbages are a cold-weather vegetable that thrives in fertile soil. Plant them starting in February and into April. All varieties of cabbage, including green, red and Savoy, reach maturity in approximately 65 to 75 days. For a spring harvest, plant cabbage seedlings in February or once the threat of frost has passed. To produce larger heads of cabbage, space plants 30 to 60 cm (12 to 24 inches) apart, as closer spacing will lead to smaller heads, according to The University of Illinois Extension website. Once heads have formed, the cabbage is ready for harvesting.

Lettuce

Lettuce grows best in cooler conditions. Plant it when the ground has begun to thaw and the soil is workable, as seedlings are able to handle light frost. For a spring harvest, plant lettuce from February into April. Lettuce seeds should be sowed in rows and thinly covered with no more than 6 mm (1/4 inch) of soil. Though their small size makes it difficult, try to spread the seeds out when sowing so they are not too close together. Ideally, seeds should be approximately 15 cm (6 inches) apart. Alternatively, seed tape can be used to ensure proper spacing. Once the lettuce has reached 7.5 cm (3 inches) in height, the plants should be spaced 10 cm (4 inches) apart. Lettuce prefers moist soil and requires daily watering to thrive. The more quickly the plant grows, the crisper and sweeter the leaves will be at harvest, according to The Gardener's Net website. Harvest begins once the lettuce has grown large enough for consumption.

Beets

Beets grow well in cooler weather and can survive brief light frost, so plant them beginning in February and into April for a spring crop. Plant seeds in a shallow trench, covering them with at least 1.3 cm (1/2 inch) of soil. Crowding should be avoided, so when the seedlings reach 7.5 cm (3 inches) in height, space them 7.5 cm (3 inches) apart. To grow properly, beets require moist and fertile soil, as well as proper weeding. Weeding is necessary because beets have small leaves at first, and overgrown weeds compete for nutrients and hinder their growth. Beets should be harvested when fully grown but still on the smaller side. Typically, when the beets are the size of a plum or a peach, they are ready to be harvested. Once the plants become very large, they are no longer tender.

Carrots

Carrots can be planted any time from September into February. When planting, rows are not necessary, and seeds should be scattered onto a loose, fertilised bed raised 20 cm (8 inches). Carrots require moist soil, especially during the first two weeks, in order to grow properly. After the carrots have grown to a height of 5 cm (2 inches), they should then be spaced 2.5 cm (1 inch) apart for optimal growth. Harvest begins once the carrot tops reach at least 20 cm (8 inches) high and the top of the root is at least 2 cm (3/4 inch) across, according to the Urban Harvest website. Pull gently on the carrot top, moistening if needed, to extract it from the soil.

Parsnip

Parsnip is a winter vegetable whose taste is enhanced when exposed to extremely cold weather. It is best to plant parsnip between February and May, because it has an extended growing season, taking in excess of 150 days to fully mature according to the Gardener's World website. Seeds should be sown in rich soil approximately 7.5 cm (3 inches) apart, and they grow well in full sun or partial shade. If desired, parsnips can be left in the ground and harvested the next winter or spring. Freezing air changes the vegetable's starch into sugar, creating a sweet taste, so parsnips should be harvested only after at least two weeks of very cold weather.

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