Monday, January 27, 2020

A spring edible garden

Early spring garden lettuce and spinach bed
Monday, January 27, 2020

Spring is such a wondrous time for me.  It reflects renewal and hope as the grass turns green, the leaves reappear on trees and flowers bloom once again.  There is really nothing like the smell of fresh cut grass.  It is this time of year that I can't wait to get out and dig in the dirt and prepare the garden bed for another year of fresh herbs, greens, veggies and summer bouquets.

It is important to renew the garden and potting soil each spring.  Healthy and vibrant soil gives plants what they need to be healthy and vibrant food for the family and friends.  Each spring, I like to add an organic fertilizer, minerals, a layer of compost and top with mulch.  I like to have this done in mid-March, ready for planting at the end of March.  Adding mulch too soon in the season can keep the soil temperatures down.  I time adding mulch when temperatures are on the upswing so the fresh mulch helps warm the soil.   Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds  

For potting soil, I remove at least the top half from the pot and mix the potting soil with compost at about a 50/50 mix and then mix in fertilizer and minerals like Azomite at the rate recommended.  Re-energize your potting soil!  I use Espoma's fertilizers as it is for organic gardening and available in my rural area.  You can also make your own to save money and it works just as well.  Make your own all natural, complete fertilizer

Most people think of the heat lovers when it comes to an edible garden.  Spring is the time for the crops that love it on the cool side.  Lettuce, strawberries, peas, fava beans, spinach, Asian greens, chicories, leeks, turnips, carrots, beets, arugula, onions, radishes, garlic and onions are in their prime in the springtime.  

Spring is also the time to plant perennials.  Many herbs are perennials like rosemary, thyme, sage, tarragon, chives, oregano.  Start a kitchen herb garden!    
Mid spring garden
Garlic, fava beans, winter peas, carrots, leeks and onions may have overwintered if you planted them in the fall.  Peas, radishes, leafy greens can be planted in early spring.  Followed shortly by carrots, beets and potatoes.

As you are laying out your garden, be sure to not plant from the same family in the same spot.  Crop rotation will help keep down pests and different types of crops need different nutrients.  Moving them around the garden helps to keep spots from getting depleted in nutrients.  It helps to either take pictures or capture in your garden log book the layout for each season so you don't forget what you planted where.  Crop rotation made easy for small gardens

I like planting snow peas because you can eat the whole pod.  Pea leaves and flowers are tasty in salads, too.  Spring is when you get the best salads of the year!  Lettuces are sweet and crunchy.  There are chives, redbud blossoms, chickweed, purslane, sorrel, leek, new onions and many other springtime goodies to add to your salads, or smoothies.  Later in spring, you can add radishes, carrots, arugula and garlic scapes.  Time to plant peas!

Chickweed and purslane are both chock full of nutrition but are on the invasive side.  They will completely overrun a pot.  A good option is to give each a pot of their own and be vigorous in pulling any volunteers that appear in other pots.  Edible, nutritious "weeds"

In the cool days of spring, dandelions have a mild taste and are great salad greens.  As temperatures rise, harvest the new leaves for salads and the mature leaves can be used for wilted greens.  Grow Cultivated Dandelions      7 Ways Dandelion Tea Can Be Good for Your Health

I love adding chives and green onions to spring salads.  Everything in the allium (onion/garlic) family is tasty and healthy.  You can use common chives or garlic chives; both are perennial herbs that come back year after year.  Chives also have beautiful flowers that are edible.  Common chives have pretty lavender flowers while garlic chives have white flowers.  I have both in my garden.  Add chives to your garden

My favorite onion is the Egyptian walking onion because it does so well in my garden, it is a perennial and it propagates continuously through division and it's cool bulbets that form on the tips of its stems in summer.  I use the bottoms for a cooking onion and the tops as you would chives.  Egyptian walking onions

Arugula is a green that gets spicier as it warms up outside.  It has a peppery flavor to my tastebuds.  I grow rocket arugula because it is a perennial so comes back year after year.  It grows wild in the Italian countryside.  I just snip off what I want to add to each salad.  

Another perennial green is Alba and Fordhook chard.  They are two of the hardiest chards.  Most of the pretty colored chards likely will not make it through our Midwest winters.  There is one variety, Magenta Magic, that does show good hardiness.  For year round steamed greens, grow chard!

Sprouting broccoli is another green that can survive winters.  Sprouting broccoli- a year round fav  The leaves taste just like broccoli year round and the florets are a nice bonus in the early summer.  The wonderful thing about perennial greens is that they are the first ones up in the spring so you get super early, fresh from the garden salads before anyone else!  There are quite a few to choose from.  Want a vegetable and fruit garden that you only have to plant once? Try perennials!

Other spring greens include Asian flat cabbages like tat-soi and mustard greens.  I think lace leaf red and yellow mustards are very pretty and a great add to any salad.  Giant Red mustard is a great self-seeding variety that grows very large, maroon colored leaves.  You can harvest when they are small for salads or large for wilted greens.  

Lettuce and spinach are a mainstay of my garden.  I try and get as many months of fresh salads as I can.  In the late winter, I start planting lettuce and spinach seeds and plants.  In late spring, I resow heat tolerant varieties.  I sow the seed and cover lightly with soil.  In early fall, I sow cold hardy varieties.  Standby lettuce varieties are Simpson Elite, Red Romaine, Red Sails, and Oakleaf.  I begin to harvest when there are 6-8 leaves on the plant.  I take the outer leaves so the plant will continue to put on more leaves, extending the harvest for months.  I grow a row of spinach and a couple of rows of lettuce.  If you are growing spinach for cooking, you'll need many plants; as much as will cover a 4' by 6' area.  I grow only for fresh use.  I use fast growers like chard, dandelion and kale for cooked/steamed greens.  Grow spinach-a super nutritious, easy green    Everything you need to know about growing lettuce

If you are a fan of stronger and sturdier greens, there are also the chicories, endives, escaroles and radicchios. There are a variety of colors and textures to choose from.  They are grown as you would lettuce.  Chicories and radicchios are perennials so as long as you harvest the outer leaves, you'll have the plants year after year.  

A spring garden would not be complete without radishes.  They grow super fast.  I like the flavor of the white radishes.  For radishes, sow 1/2" deep in loose soil.  Many recommend sowing with carrots as the radishes will be harvested before the carrots start developing their root and both like the same soil.  If you are more of a turnip or beet fan, you can plant turnips or beets in with the radishes.  I usually grow a short row of radishes, beets and turnips combined.  I let me carrots go to seed and now I have volunteer carrots all over the garden.   Easy to grow crispy, peppery radishes  Grow crunchy, colorful carrots practically year round  All about beautiful beets  All about turnips

For artichoke lovers, spring is the season to put out your artichoke plants.  Artichokes are perennials and may not bud in the first season.  Be sure you get plants rated for your zone.  Violetta is a variety that is hardy up to Zone 6.  Plant after danger of frost, but early enough that it will still receive 10-12 days of temperatures under 50 degrees F.  It has to have this level of cold to induce budding.  

I like growing purple, blue and rose potatoes because they are unusual and you don't see them in the store that often.  They should be planted 4-6 weeks before your last frost.  That is mid-March for our area.  We like growing them in potato boxes my husband made.  We plant the tubers at the bottom of the box and just add soil as the leaves and stems grow.  Time to plant potatoes, even if you only have a patio

You can transplant any fruit trees or shrubs in the spring.  This is the season for strawberries.  Give them room to run.  Strawberries can fruit at different times so you can pick a variety to get an extended harvest.  I like Alpine strawberries.  They are small, but give many fruits over a long period of time and are very sweet.  Fruit for small spaces 

If you really have spring fever and starting seeds indoors just isn't scratching the itch, you can start peas outdoors right now.  You can start greens and root vegetables under cover as soon as the soil is workable. 
Extend the season with protection for plants

No comments:

Post a Comment