In the Spring Garden
I am an avid gardener and living in the south means that I have 3 seasons to plant my crops. Last weekend I spent some time out in the yard pulling out old plants and tilling up the soil so this weekend (hopefully!) I will be heading to the garden center to check over their selection of veggies or my spring garden. Every plant has a season and you need to know what plants will do best in the climate you live in. In general, you do not want to plant watermelon in March or lettuce in July! While some of you might still have snow on the ground, you need to start planning ahead so here is a list of plants that do well in cooler temperatures. Many of them can tolerate a light frost but if you are expecting a serious freeze, invest in some row covers to protect young plants! If you start planning your spring garden now, you will only have to travel as far as your backyard to have local, organic produce!
More information can be found at The Natural Hub. They list not only plants that will thrive in spring but every other season as well!
LETTUCES Lettuce grows in moist, well drained, fertile soil. Seeds will germinate in soil temperatures as low as 5ºC although I have much better luck with small transplants from the garden center. I also have much more luck with leaf lettuces than the head varieties. Keep an eye out for slugs and snails…they really like lettuce. You can put slug bait down for them or just go out late at night or early in the morning with a salt shaker!
LEEKS These take a long time to mature (about 4 to 5 months) so get them in the ground early. This is a very easy veggie for your spring garden but plant in fertile loamy soils and water well. They can withstand a hard freeze. If a plant is not thriving and is staying spindly and small, just yank him out to make room for others. This happened to mine last year…I had 4 in a set of 15 that just sat there and did nothing at all!
BROCCOLI: I have never tried this from seed, I always get plants from the garden center. Make sure they are well fed and well watered after planting and you will be harvesting about 3 months later. I also have luck with this in a fall garden…planting in late August. I have had it withstand snow and still be tasty!
BEETS: I have tried this from seed several time (basically because I can find it any other way!) and have had a little bit of success. I do not get beets the size of the ones in the grocery store…more about golfball sized. It takes about 2 months from sowing to maturity (according to the garden books, anyhow!) and you want to make sure you have loose, fertile soil for it to grow in. Keep it evenly moist as it grows to encourage fast growth.
CHIVES: These things grow like weeds in my garden and I love putting them in soup or on a baked potato! They have a very mild taste, are easy to grow and are relatively pest free. They also make very pretty purple flowers in the summer that the bees love!
CAULIFLOWER: My family isn’t thrilled with eating it but I enjoy growing it! It is fairly slow growing, taking around 4 to 5 months from seed. Did you know you can get white, green, lime-green, orange, pink, and purple varieties? Check out The Seed Savers Exchange catalog for a great selection! While you are starting this in your spring garden, keep in mind that the space will not be available again for 5 months so don’t plan on putting tomatoes in there in May
RADISHES: Radishes grow relatively quickly so I like to plant them in a bed I know I will be needing soon. They like cool temperatures but do need the soil to be relatively warm to germinate so plant in a sunny spot. You will have radishes about 6 to 8 weeks after planting. Make sure the soil is loose and fertile and keep evenly watered. They come in a ton of different varieties, too and can look really striking on a salad! Once your spring garden has finished growing and you move into summer, plant another batch in a slightly more shady area that gets morning sun. Then, plant again in the fall!
POTATO: You want to plant these in a well drained area. I tried in a huge pot one year and had no luck. Plant certified disease free tubers in well drained soil but do not allow the soil to get overly dry or your leaves will wilt and your potatoes will end up stunted and hollow. As the plants grow, mound up the soil to give the spuds a place to grow! They like to grow near the surface but you don’t want them exposed to light. I love the little purple varieties! I have better luck with small to medium sized varieties and not those giant ones you find in the grocery store.
Gardening can be good for your physical and mental well being and it is loads of fun to be able to create a meal from food you grew and harvested with your own two hands. If you have kids, it is a wonderful way to introduce them to nature and as they get older you can begin discussing the detrimental effects of pesticids and fertilizers on the environment. Need an example to show them? Check out The Dead Zone…it is rather eye opening!
Have you started your spring garden yet? What sort of plants will you be growing?