As the calendar turns to spring, the gardener’s thoughts turn to planting. After a winter of picking up produce at the supermarket, many people harbor visions of fresh, succulent vegetables from their own gardens. But which crops can withstand early planting and reward you with a tasty first harvest?
Some vegetables need longer, hotter days for optimum growth, or can’t withstand the cooler and even occasionally still frosty nights of early spring. But others thrive on warm days and cooler nights. Here are a few tasty possibilities for early planting.
1. Basic varieties of peas can be planted directly in the garden several weeks before the last frost date in your area.
2. Carrots should be planted a bit later, but still before final frost date. Once they begin to grow, you’ll need to thin the plants out as carrots don’t like crowding.
3. It’s said that when the grass starts to green, it’s all right to plant potatoes. As long as the soil isn’t too cold, potato plants can do well in early spring. Plan ahead, since new plants need to be started from seed potatoes – small pieces of sprouted potatoes that have been kept in a cool, dry place. It’s best to get seed potatoes from certified sources rather than trying to use regular potatoes bought in a store, which may not be as resistant to disease.
4. Although lettuce can flourish in spring, it’s not impervious to cold and may need protection on cold days. Spinach and other greens, like arugula and collards, are also contenders for early planting. Throw in some radishes – another possible early crop – and you’ve got all the makings of a tasty salad. Be aware, however, that tomatoes are definitely a hotter weather crop.
A little research can go a long way toward helping establish an early spring time garden. If you’re a beginner, try searching first for your particular climate zone; different regions of the country have been assigned zones by the National Gardening Association. Once you know your zone, you can discover the dates of a potential last frost in your area, which gives you a reference for knowing when to plant what.
All that work will be worth it when you can toss a bowl of crisp salad ingredients and serve up tender new peas and potatoes fresh from your own garden.
Guest writer Scott Daniels is a father of two and loves to be outside. He spends his time building garden boxes, watering his veggies, and eating great salads. When not chasing his kids around the yard, he works for HireAHelper.