Now, depending where you live, it may not feel like spring, but one thing is certain: warmer weather is coming.
This is the time to get a jump start on your garden. Aaron’s garden updates are so inspiring, I simply had no option but to get going on my own little piece of the earth.
If I had to pick one spring veggie to be my favorite, it would be….ummmm….Okay, it’s actually all my favorite. I can’t choose. That would be like picking your favorite kid.
Despite that, I have 4 things brewing away under the soil right now, and if you start with the following 4 plants, you could have a harvest as soon as two weeks from now!
One of the best things about growing peas is that they actually give back to the soil more than they take. While most plants deplete the soil of nitrogen, peas take nitrogen gas from the air and convert it into a more usable form, which increases the nitrogen in the soil and decreases the need for fertilizer.
Peas are incredibly easy to grow. They can be planted 6 weeks before the last frost. They do not transplant well (ask me how I know), so start them right in the garden. Peas thrive in cool, moist soil and stop producing when average temperatures are above 80 degrees F. Peas like to climb, so provide a trellis or a network of string or wire. You’ll have all of the peas you can eat in about 6 weeks.
If you are wondering how many peas to plant, Organic Gardening provides this guideline:
Generally speaking, 1 pound of seeds will plant a 100-foot row and should produce around 1 bushel of green peas or 2 bushels of edible pods. Another rough guideline is to raise 40 plants per person. Unused seed is good for 3 years.
There are many different varieties of peas out there: English, snow, sugar snap. I chose this one for my early spring garden.
One thing to celebrate about a spring garden is a return to sweet, delicate salads made with tender baby lettuce.
Lettuce is super-easy to grow. It grows well in the spring because in most parts of the country, the sun isn’t blazing down on it all afternoon. If you live in a hot climate, be sure to protect your lettuce from the afternoon soon.
Plant lettuce directly in the garden as soon as you can work the soil. It’s a fragile plant, so if you are expecting a cold snap, be certain to cover it up. Leave a bit of space, because you can sow lettuce every two weeks for a constant harvest until the weather is too hot for it. Lettuce has very shallow roots, so it does well in container gardens if you happen to live in the city.
Lettuce is happiest in moist, but well-drained, nitrogen rich soil. Don’t let the soil dry out, or the lettuce will become bitter. To keep it from bolting as the weather gets warmer, pinch off the top center of the plant when you notice it growing skyward.
We really like spring mixes like this one because you end up with a colorful variety to enjoy. I find that spring lettuce only needs the tiniest bit of light dressing to make it delicious. The absolute most awesome thing about spring mix is that you can begin harvesting the outer leaves of the plants when they reach 3-4 inches tall – and this only takes 10-14 days, depending on the variables of your particular garden and climate.
I really enjoy growing spinach because it can be used fresh in salads, or cooked. If you end up with an abundant crop of it, you can also dehydrate it and make “green powder” from it for your winter food storage supplies.
Spinach has quite a long root, so wherever you plant it, be sure to loosen the soil down for about a foot so that the root can flourish without too much obstruction. Spinach prefers moist, cool, nitrogen rich soil.
You can sow spinach seeds as soon as the soil can be worked. Like lettuce, you can plant more every two weeks to ensure a constant harvest until the weather is too hot.
Plant the seeds 1/2 an inch deep and a couple of inches apart. You’ll go through and thin the lettuce to about 4-6 inches apart when the seedlings have produced 2 leaves.
In about 6 weeks, you can harvest the spinach. If you clip the outside leaves as you need spinach, the plant will produce more leaves, and the same plant will provide you with greens for a much longer time. As soon as there is even a hint of bolting, harvest the rest of the plant if you intend to eat or preserve it. Otherwise, allow it to bolt and flower if you intend to save the seeds.
Bloomsdale Spinach is a lovely heirloom variety, and my personal favorite.
I actually used to hate radishes, but they are such an instant-gratification kind of plant that I enjoy them now. They can be planted as soon as you can work the soil, and only take about a month to be ready. The earlier you pick them, the less brash the flavor will be, something to keep in mind if you have children or adults with a more delicate palate.
Plant the seeds about a half inch deep in good quality, moist soil. Space them 2 inches apart, and plant more seeds every two weeks for a constant harvest. If you don’t keep the soil consistently moist, the radishes will be dry, woody, and terrible-tasting. A good rule of thumb is that the hotter the weather is, the spicier the radish will be.
They come in so many different colorful varieties that I plant several different ones to add to my salads. This year I have planted French Breakfast, Russian Easter Egg, and White Icicle . I’ve ordered a new variety for me, the Watermelon Radish, which is supposed to be milder and sweeter.
I like to cut radishes into long delicate ribbons to top my spring salads. Cna you even imagine how awesome that’s going to look with the pretty, colorful varieties of radishes I’m growing this year? Another delicious way to serve them if you happen to have a bumper crop is to lightly toss them in olive oil and sea salt, and roast them until they are tender.
How I’m growing this stuff
This year, I’m using containers in my yard to do my gardening. I’m in the midst of negotiations for a little farm (cross your collective fingers, NA readers!) so I don’t want to invest a lot of time and money in tilling up the entire lawn again. For the sake of ease and portability, I bought 3 of these Smart Pots Big Bag Beds. (A farmer friend of mine said that my yard looks like a marijuana grow-op – little did I know that was the common use for Smart Bags when I ordered these.) Anyway, they work. I used them for some winter crops and some greens and was very happy with the results. This year, I’m going to try and use them for other things, since my gardening is (hopefully) going to be interrupted. Depending on the moving date, I’ll get some of the 1-5 gallon smart pots for things like tomato plants, for ease of transport.
Last year I filled the bag beds with organic growing mix and manure. This year, I mixed last year’s soil with my beautiful compost that I created during the winter. I’m expecting garden-fresh spring goodies within a couple more weeks. I’ll take pictures!
What’s in your spring garden?
What have you planted so far? If it’s too cold to plant where you are, what do you intend to plant first?