No matter how cold it is, believe it or not, you need to get your cool-season vegetable seed planted to produce transplants to be set-out in February/March. Don’t tell my wife but my date for transplanting or direct seeding many cool-season crops like cabbage, collards, and kale in the Pee Dee is Valentine’s Day, if the weather at that time is conducive for plant growth. Also, this is helpful because I won’t forget other things and get put into the dog house.
Cool-season vegetables are those that originated in temperate climates and have their favorable growth periods during the cool parts of the year. Most grow well between 50 and 80 degrees F. They really grow well in the late winter/early spring of the Pee Dee; however, they hate it when the heat gets here so planting early is your best bet for success.
Hardy vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, onions, radish, spinach and turnips will perform well even when temperatures drop into the twenties. Some cool-season vegetables like beets, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower are considered tender and can be killed by freezing temperatures if not moderated to cold or what we call hardened off. However, even when the bottom drops out and temperatures drop rapidly, they can easily be protected by covering with cloth, frost blanket, or plastic during these cold snaps.
Many of these crops are easily transplanted and are available in nurseries, garden centers, seed/feed stores, or easily grown as transplants. Personally, I like to direct seed into the field. This saves on transplant costs and labor but takes a planter that can plant these small seeds. In fact, all the thousands of acres of greens grown for the cannery in Effingham are direct seeded starting the first of February. Most think hundreds of thousands for planters — no I have seen many ingenious growers use all types of planters and do an excellent job.
I know one grower in Naples Florida who has taken 15 plastic push planters, put them on a drawbar, and plants 100 acres of turnips a year. Even out at my PREC research plots I use a no-till grain drill with a small seed box to do all my plot work.
While these transplants are growing bed up your fields and get your soil tested. Bedding your field early allows weed seed to germinate before planting so they can be killed with an herbicide or flaming, greatly enhancing weed control in what we call stale-bed culture. A soil test is a laboratory test that will tell you what your current soil conditions are and what to do to get them to the appropriate level for optimum growth for a specific plant.
However, a soil test is only as accurate as the sample taken. A soil test sample should be a representative sample of your entire area you are testing. To accomplish this, take many sub-samples, 6 inches deep in the field, throughout the entire area, and mix them together in a bucket. After mixing collect a pint of soil and bring it to your Clemson University Extension Office. In Florence the Extension Office is in the back of the Social Services Building at the corner of Third Loop Road and Irby Street. It costs $6 and you will get the results in about two weeks.