The cold days are still around, but some plants need to go in the ground. It’s now time for some frost and cold hardy plants to be seeded or transplanted into your beds.
Broccoli is a wonderfully, cold hardy crop and actually thrives in cooler temperatures. Plant or seed in an area that gets full sun and has sandy, more acidic soil. Normally planted two to three weeks before the last frost and with this indecisive weather we’ve been having lately, this is the perfect crop to get you started. Seedlings should be planted 12 to 24 inches apart, whereas seeds can be disbursed three inches apart under one to one half inch of soil and will need to be thinned out once they are more mature. Broccoli plants have very shallow roots, so weeding and hoeing are not recommended. The best option for weed control is mulch. Mulching not only smothers unwanted plants, but also aids in temperature regulation and water retention. There are many different breeds of broccoli, and many are suitable for the Zone 6 climate we live in. The “Cruiser” variety is very tolerant of drought and dry conditions while the “Green Comet” is a more heat resistant strain, for those hot West Virginia summers.
Blackberries can be found growing wild in our hills, but for those of you who want fresh blackberries as part of your landscape, now is a good time to get started. Before you plan or plant, find a reputable nursery that carries virus free varieties. Make sure that your area is free from any wild blackberry bushes that could infect your virus free plants. Blackberries like full sun, and sandy, but rich, acidic soil. Upright varieties require less work, but if you grab a vining strain make sure to have at least one or two trellis’ nearby. For planting depth, cover one inch more than the nursery depth. Uprights should be three feet apart, while trailers should be separated 5 to 8 feet, with rows being around 8 feet apart. Thick mulch should cover the area around the tree by one to two feet, to cut down on weeds. An inch of water per week should be fine for most strains, thats about a five gallon bucket’s worth.
Fruit trees should be planned and planted once the ground thaws. When the soil doesn’t stick and clump off on your shovel you know the ground is ready for fruit trees. Staking is always a good idea for new trees insuring straighter trunk growth and prevents the saplings from toppling over due to wind. Every different type of tree requires special planting and care, so make sure to plan and research many varieties to get the best tree for your space. Apples are the most reliable fruit trees for Zone 6. “Gala” semi-dwarf trees are smaller and good eating; red “McIntosh” and “Liberty” are found to be tart, crunchy, and disease resistant. The “Lodi” variety are best used for sauces, apple butter, and pies. There are countless strains of Asian Pears that also work well in Zone 6. The flavorful “kosui”, sweet and reliable “shinsui”, and the juicy, sugary “atago” are all recommended for our Zone. If you’re a cherry fan, look to the “Benton”, “Stella”, or “Sweetheart” for eating, and the “Danbe”, “Montmorency”, or “Northstar” for pies.