Although the whole world is brown and dead, and it is still very chilly outside, my winter vegetables are producing nicely right now, and the planting dates for early spring veggies are close at hand.
Something I discovered long ago is that if you want large onions in this area, you have to plant them in September and harvest them in May or June. Of course, I usually end up pulling them early and using them as large shallots, but I always have several of good size to use through the summer months. Most people plant onions in the late spring, and I do some of that as well, to have the smaller green onions. They just grow better, larger and have a better flavor if you plant in the fall and harvest in the early spring.
My celery is also just starting to form good thick ribs. I have had leaves for weeks now, since I planted the root end of celery bunches I purchased at the store and used in my Thanksgiving and Christmas cooking. Those leaves are great wilted into sauces and casseroles, and chopped with arugula (also doing well right now) and leaf lettuce for a green salad. During the summer, of course, the celery, arugula and lettuce will go to seed and die. Save those seeds, throw them back in the ground in late August or early September, and you will have greens all winter long.
Garlic is another root crop that just grows better in the winter in this area. I planted my cloves from partially used garlic bulbs from previous years in late September and early October. They are absolutely beautiful, thick chives right now. Frosts and freezes do not affect them, or any of the other winter veggies I am mentioning in this article, unless of course it gets below zero or stays in the teens for several weeks, and that just is not going to happen in this part of the world.
And of course my red cabbage is heading up nicely. I have absolutely no luck with cabbage through the summer here, but it grows consistently and puts on very large, firm heads free of worms and other critters during the winter and early spring months.
Of course, the early spring planting will be starting next month with potatoes. I know the local folklore calls for potatoes to be planted on Good Friday, but in fact, if you want any potatoes at all to form before the weather turns hot, you have to plant them during the appropriate moon sign in February. The waning moon moving toward the dark-of-the-moon usually works best, but check the Farmer's Almanac for your particular planting conditions just to be sure. Potatoes will die back and be gone by mid-May or so, and this gives them plenty of time to bloom and put on tubers.
March is of course corn-planting time. Corn takes several months to grow, and if you wait too long, the worms will harvest all of your corn for you before you even realize the nasty little critters are there. You also want to look at putting out seeds for winter squashes in March, such as the Butternut varieties. They don't take as long as corn to make, but they can't tolerate heat and drought, so you want to get as much produce as you can from each vine before the summer heat kills them.
And of course, don't forget to have your garden soil analyzed before you start adding nitrogen or potash to the soil. This is a free service through the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, and it will help you greatly in your garden planning.
For more information on planting various crops this gardening season, contact the Master Gardeners Club through the Mississippi County Cooperative Extension Service at 870-762-2075.