Question: A client called the Plant Clinic this week. What vegetables can I plant in the winter?

Answer: Kale is an extremely hardy plant that grows year-round in most places. It is one of those vegetables everyone enjoys growing and eating. Hungry Gap, the name of one old variety, reflects the time of year when little else but kale would be available in the garden.

Whether it’s red leaved, purple veined, blue-green or nearly black, and the leaves ruffled, crinkly or smooth, kale is one of the most robust-looking vegetables in any garden. Kale is a heavy feeder and likes a fertile loamy soil. To achieve this, use a liberal application of compost at planting time, and apply a side dressing of a well–balanced fertilizer.

For direct sowing, plant seed ½ inch deep and cover the seed with loose soil, potting soil or sifted compost. This time of year, it is best to start plants in containers for transplanting. Sow the seed in seedling mix, and transplant when seedlings are a couple of inches tall.

If you don’t have the space to grow kale in the garden, you can grow it in a pot. The pot or container must have at least 12 square inches of space for the plant to grow in. Plant your seeds or starts in the center of the pot with a good layer of compost. Make sure to move kale grown in containers into a partially shaded area when summer arrives.

Some popular varieties are:

Lacinato (also known as Dragon’s Tongue, Dinosaur and Tuscan Black) is the Italian heirloom whose tongue-shaped leaves are blue-green and heavily crimped.

Siberian (Russian) kales have flat leaves with finely divided edges. Red Russian (also known as ragged Jack) has purple veins and red around the edges of its blue-gray leaves, especially once the weather has turned cold. It’s handsome in the garden, as well as in the kitchen, with leaves that are both hardy and tender.

Scotch Kales (Dwarf Blue, Redbor and Winterbor) are the ruffled, curly kales. Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch kale is a low growing plant that is extremely hardy. Likewise, Redbor and Winterbor are extremely ruffled and winter hardy but not dwarfed.

Red Chidori is almost too pretty to pick, with fairly flat leaves with ruffled edges. The veins are bright purple, the interior of the leaves are red and the edges are deep green.

Kale is one of the super nutritious vegetables. It’s high in beta-carotene and other carotenoids, the elusive vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein and, to a lesser degree, calcium. It is best to harvest the leaves from the bottom up at any size. Cool weather brings out the best flavor.

Question: When is the best time for planting peas in the garden?

Answer: Peas are a hardy cool-season vegetable that can be grown in a variety of soil types. Best sites have soils that are well drained with a pH 6.5 or higher. It is a good idea to apply a layer of compost, and a well balanced fertilizer at the time of planting.

Most varieties of peas can be planted in our area as early as mid-February. It is best to plan for multiple plantings, such as every three to four weeks, for extended harvest. Climbing peas must be trained on trellises. Most bush-type vines can be allowed to grow on the ground but are more easily managed on a short trellis.

Peas can be direct seeded 2 to 3 inches apart in rows 2 feet apart. It is best practice to coat the seeds with an inoculant for better germination and growth. Inoculants are live rhizobium bacteria and can be purchased along with your seed.

Peas form a symbiotic relationship with rhizobia bacteria that remove nitrogen from the air to be accumulated in nodules on their roots. This nitrogen is then converted into a usable form. Some is used by the plant itself, and the excess is released into the soil for other plants to use. This entire process is called nitrogen fixing and occurs only if there are sufficient populations of rhizobia bacteria in the soil.

Inoculants are live rhizobia bacteria applied to the seed immediately prior to planting. Always rotate your planting site every year or two, if possible.

There are many types of peas to choose from. Edible pods include snow, sugar or snap peas. Snow and sugar peas usually have flat pods and are picked before seeds develop. Snap peas have a rounded pod and are eaten with developed seed, and the pod and seed are tender. Shelled types are the classic garden pea, and the pods are not edible.

Snow peas and sugar peas are delicious raw in salads or lightly steamed as a side dish. Some popular varieties are Oregon Sugar Pod II, Sweet Horizon, Mammoth Melting Sugar and Green Beauty. Snap peas are a terrific versatile pea, and both the peas and pods are edible. Some recommended varieties include Sugar Snap, Sugar Ann and Sugar Daddy.

Shelled peas are terrific for freezing, canning and drying. Some tasty varieties include Lincoln, Serge, Green Arrow and Alderman.

Do you have a gardening question? Please e-mail, call or visit the Douglas County Master Gardener Plant Clinic at douglasmg@oregonstate.edu, 541-672-4461 or 1134 S.E. Douglas Ave., Roseburg.

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