Saturday, April 30, 2022

This year's edible garden plan

Last year's garden
Saturday, April 30, 2022

We were hoping that our addition would be done before the start of summer planning.  Unfortunately, time has run out for that hope to be reality!  I'll have to keep the garden small and start in pots since the garden bed is not in place yet. 

The main garden bed will be a combination of flowers and edibles.  It will be on the south and west sides of the house.  These are the warmest sides with the most direct sun.  The garden bed I used last year is on the northeast side of the house.  It has a great deal of shade and a hickory tree, which I found out gives off the same exudes from its roots as walnut trees which is toxic to many plants.  I still have my herbs and perennials there.  I will move them after the permanent bed gets prepared with good topsoil, compost, fertilizer and mulch.

Here is my garden plan for this year:
Blauhilde pole snap beans and Christmas speckles lima beans around one trellis
Heavy Hitter okra
4 tomato plants-large paste (Italian Pear), slicer(Cherokee Purple), a medium yellow storage tomato (Yellow Keeper), and a small fruit (Chocolate Pear)
3 eggplant-Casper, Rosa, AO Daimaru, and Amadeo
2 peppers-Ancho for chili powder and a burgundy sweet pepper for snacking
1 pickling cucumber (Bush Slicer)
2 summer squash-Trombetta and Cucuzzi-Serpente di Sicilia since they are resistant to vine borer
Perennial onions-potato onion type, when the new bed is in
Potatoes in the potato boxes
Snow peas in pots with peppers and eggplants-Avalanche 30" vine, Little Snowpea Purple 24" and Oregon Sugar Pod II a 28" vine
Dragon Tail radish in pot
New Zealand and Malabar spinach in pot (1 each)
Lettuce from seed- Royal Oakleaf, Grand Rapids, Butter King, Bronze Beauty, Celtic, Forellenschluss, Giant Blue Feather.
Lettuce and spinach plants-Bonnie's Mini red Romaine, buttercrunch, a green romaine and spinach in pots
Greens that stay sweet in summer-orach, amaranth, Red Malabar spinach, New Zealand spinach, Chard-Perpetual Spinach and Fordhook, Chinese Multicolor Spinach, Purple Stardust Iceplant, Hilton Chinese cabbage (1)
Herbs-dill, basil (Nunum, Genovese, Cardinal), cilantro, Lion's Ear, rosemary
No cantaloupe, watermelon, beets, heading cabbage or broccoli
Alpine strawberries from seed-Mignonette, Alexandria, and Regina
Flowers-zinnias, alyssum, marigolds, Cock's Comb, peach hollyhocks, Pride of Madeira, blue morning glory-Heavenly Blue and Keiryu Mountain Stream.  Have also started more bee and pollinator seeds in a pot outdoors.  For those that sprout, I will transplant to a native wildflower pollinator garden bed down by our shop.
Start of pollinator garden

I have to be stern with myself about what I will not plant.  This past year, I planted much less than usual and had plenty for fresh eating and preserving.  My eyes are always bigger than my space or need!

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Top money saving crops to grow

Chard, a salad green or great steamed, and beautiful to boot
Thursday, April 28, 2022

If you don’t have much time and want to plant what gets you the most payback, these are the crops for you:
Cilantro ($21 per square foot).  An herb that likes cool temperatures.  Growing cilantro (coriander)
Arugula-Roquette ($21 per square foot).  A perennial salad green.  Perennial veggies in the Midwest garden
Green salad mix ($17 per square foot).  Growing summer salads
Chives ($16 per square foot).  A perennial herb.  Add chives to your garden
Dill ($16 per square foot).  A self-seeding herb.  Start a kitchen herb garden!
Lettuce ($16 per square foot).  Everything you need to know about growing lettuce
Cherry tomatoes ($15 per square foot).  Choosing which tomatoes to grow
Turnips ($10 per square foot).  All about turnips
Winter squash ($8 per square foot).  The wonderful world of squash

All can be grown in pots if you are pressed for space, even the slicer type tomatoes.  Decorative container gardening for edibles
Potted lettuce with petunias
Other money savers are any kind of herbs used as seasonings.  A small bottle of organic chili powder, poultry seasoning, Italian seasoning can cost $5 for an ounce or two!  You can grow enough herbs and peppers for supplying your family all the seasonings you need for a year and having enough to give away at Christmas.  Most herbs are perennials too so you plant them once and get them year after year.  Start a kitchen herb garden!   

One JalapeƱo pepper plant can produce enough peppers in one season to keep you supplied in hot sauce for a few years.  Quick tip-make your own hot sauce 

A packet of seeds is anywhere from $1-$5.  You can grown many square feet from one packet of seeds.  A packet of seeds can last for years if you are planting for just 2-4 family members.  I keep my seed packets in a freezer bag in the crisper.  I have seeds from more than 5 years ago that are still viable.  Seed saving-fun, easy and a cost saver

A great way to save money is to preserve what you can't eat fresh.  Even if you don't have a huge freezer, you can preserve your garden bounty.  Harvest and preserve your herbs  Dehydrate or sun dry your extra veggies  If you do have some space in the freezer, freezing is an excellent choice.  Freezing the extras for winter 

Now make sure that you plant the things you love to eat or use in cooking regularly.  How to know what to grow  It won’t be worth a thing if it sits in the garden and is never used!

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Your first edible garden

Edibles in the flower bed
Sunday, April 24, 2022

Spring brings visions of blooming flowers and fresh vegetables at their peak flavor.  If you are thinking of starting an edible garden, you don't need much space to get a lot of fresh produce and even fruits.  Here are the steps to get started.     

Step 1  I think the best way is to make a list of what you like to eat, then see which of your favorites are best to start in your garden for each season.  There is no time like the present to get moving on your gardening dreams!  For an overview of plants by season, Planning for a four season garden  If you want to start with the easiest plants to grow, do what I did and start a kitchen herb garden.  Herbs thrive under neglect!  Start a kitchen herb garden!

The biggest mistake beginners make is starting too big.  For your first garden, herbs and 5-7  of your favorite veggies are plenty to get your feet wet, are easy to manage, and will give you a good start.  How do you decide what to grow?

Step 2  Now that you have your list, take a look at your flower garden, patio, deck, porch, front yard to see how much space you have that gets 6 hours of sun a day.  There are so many dwarf varieties of every kind of vegetable to grow in pots or small spaces that you should not be put off thinking you don’t have enough space!  Surprising veggies that can be grown in pots  Plus growing compact varieties significantly lessens the work by using less space that you have to care for.  A real win-win.  How to decide what to plant for small spaces?  With compact varieties, the plants are smaller so expect a smaller harvest per plant.

Potted veggies with flowers in foreground, herb and veggie garden in flower bed in background
Step 3  Buy your supplies for your garden bed or pot.  Pots are easy-just buy some organic potting soil and the decorative pot.  Most potting soils come with fertilizer already mixed in.   You do not want to use garden soil as it is too dense for pots.  Make sure you buy the right size pot for the vegetable you are growing.  I highly recommend using self-watering pots as they cut down significantly on how often you have to water in the summer.  For the size of pot needed by veggie type, check out this blog  Decorative container gardening for edibles

If you are going to plant in your garden bed, your mulched flower bed is a great choice to add veggies, too!  If planting in your flower bed or garden, the best thing to do is a soil test (you can buy a kit or take it to your local co-op extension office).  If this just seems too much trouble, buy an organic balanced fertilizer and compost.  Apply a 2” thick layer of compost, top with the fertilizer (following the label’s directions), cover with fresh mulch and you are ready to plant. 

For more on preparing your garden bed for planting, Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds for a deep dive or for a quick overview Easy ways to make a new vegetable garden bed

Step 4  Buy your plants.  I prefer to buy plants that are raised without chemicals so I look for an organic nursery to see if they have what I want.  Your local farmers market usually has plants for sell, too, in the spring and early summer.  My next stop is my local nursery or big box hardware store.  Bonnie plants that most big box stores carry have had organic veggies.

Choose the plants that are green and look sturdy.  If they already have blooms, be sure to remove them.  You want all the energy of your plants going into good roots initially.
Potted veggies and fruit trees with flowers on patio
Step 5  Plant!  Water each plant well before planting.  In the spring, I like to look for a cloudy, warm spell.   Gives the plants a little time to get their roots jump started.  Spring edible garden

For potted veggie or herbs, fill the pot with organic potting soil, water to get the potting soil settled, plant the veggie, and water again.  You can top with mulch to keep lengthen the time between waterings.  I also plant flowers in my pots to add color and attract beneficial insects.  Make your own organic potting soil

I like to put a handful of worm castings into each hole with the new plant.  Worm castings have lots of beneficial microbes in them that helps the plants absorb nutrients from the soil.  You can also make your own fertilizer if you want to; it's very cost effective and easy.  Make your own all natural, complete fertilizer

Step 6  Monitor and water.  Keep an eye on your plants.  They may look sad the first week if it is really hot when they first go into the ground.  Consistent water is the key for success.  Like a lawn or flowers, the best time to water is in the mornings.  When you water your flowers, water your veggies and herbs.  Remember, the biggest cause of plant death is overwatering.  If the soil is moist a couple of inches down, your plants are fine.  I usually don't start watering in our Zone 6/7 garden until sometime in later June.   You may need to start watering pots sooner.

One watch out on watering, many summer crops are susceptible to leaf fungus, like cucumbers, zucchini, squash, and tomatoes.  Be sure to water at the base of the plant and not the leaves.  Summer garden tips

Sunday, April 17, 2022

All you need to know about growing carrots

Carrots come in all different colors and sizes
Sunday, April 17, 2022

Carrots are rich in antioxidants, beta-carotenes, vitamin A, vitamin C, many B-complex vitamins like folic acid, B6, thiamin, pantothenic acid, as well as minerals like calcium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, copper.  They are super easy to grow.

Carrots, like turnips, have been around for thousands of years.  Its seeds were used for medicinal purposes.  Carrots likely originated in the Iran/Afghanistan area and spread to the Mediterranean.  It is shown in Egyptian tomb paintings from 2000 BC. The first records that it was used for the European kitchen was in the 900‘s in Spain.  Carrots were originally used mainly for livestock feed in the American colonies and for its aromatic leaves and seeds.

The first wild carrots were purple.  The wild carrot is known as Queen Anne’s lace and adapted very well in America.  The popular culinary orange colored variety did not become stable until the 1700’s.  It quickly became the most popular variety in both Europe and the colonies.  Today, you can buy carrot seed for a variety of colors-yellow, white, red, purple, orange.  They also have a wide range of sizes.  They can grow quite long or can even be round.  

If you let your carrots go to seed, they send up stalks and have flowers that look just like Queen Anne's lace white, lacy blooms.  Carrots are prolific self seeders.  If you let one or two carrots go to seed, you will have baby carrots over winter that will come to full size in the spring.
Carrots getting ready to bloom
Carrots are related to parsley, fennel, dill and cumin.  Like their cousins, the greenery also is edible.  For full nutritional information on carrots, Nutritional info-raw carrots

Carrots like loose, well dug soil rich in organic matter although they will also grow in moderately rich soil.  The ideal soil would be dug 6-10” deep and mixed with sand and compost.  The longer the root, the deeper the depth of loose soil needed to grow large, straight roots.

There are also shorter root varieties that can be sown if you do not want to dig that deeply or if you want to grow them in pots.  Some short varieties are Little Finger (4” long), Adelaide (the size of your pinky), Short n Sweet (4”), Thumbelina (1-1.5” diameter), Parmex (1.2-2” diameter), Tonda di Parigi (1.5-2” diameter).

Sow every 2 weeks March-July.  First plantings should be about 2 weeks prior to your first frost.  Carrots do not like to be transplanted so direct sowing is best.  Soak seeds 6 hours before sowing.  Sow 1/4” deep, 1/2” apart thinning to 2-4”.  Keep evenly moist, do not allow to dry out, for the up to 14 day germination period.  Carrots are ready to harvest in 50-80 days.  Baby carrots can be harvested in 30-40 days.

For your last plantings of the season look for a type like Autumn King or Nantes that can be harvested throughout the winter.  Merida can be planted in late September for an early spring harvest.  Frost actually makes the carrots sweeter so leaving them in the ground in the fall will improve their flavor.  All kinds of colors are now available-white, red, orange, yellow, and purple.

If you want to bring the harvested carrots indoors to store, placing in a cool place in sand that is kept moist is the best indoor long term storage for the winter.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

What's happening in the mid April edible garden

Overwintering lettuce and chard
Saturday, April 16, 2022

This is the time for salads.  Many salad fixings are ready to be harvested from the garden.  We are having an extended spring for the second year in a row.  While it is cooler and rainier than most recent years, it is great weather for growing sweet greens.

The first to be ready to eat in the spring are all the cold hardy veggies that survived the winter and the edible perennials that are first up in the spring.  In our garden, the overwintering veggies were carrots, celery, parsley, lettuce, sprouting broccoli, chard, cultivated dandelions, chickweed, Egyptian walking onions, chives, mustard greens, Chinese cabbage, kale and arugula.  Edible perennials that are ready to add to salads are sorrel, redbud blooms, and dandelion flowers.

Now is the time to give the greens a watering with liquid fertilizer like fish emulsion which is high in nitrogen to get them the food they need for filling out.  Greens love nitrogen and cooler weather makes it less available in the soil.  A liquid fertilizer is an easy way to get usable nitrogen to the plant.

With the renovations happening at our house, I have not started lettuce indoors this year.  I had a few that overwintered and a few volunteers.  The rest I have purchased as transplants over the last month.  Transplants are instant garden!

I just got some mini Red Romaine that I'll be transplanting them outdoors today.  I have been harvesting leaves for salads over the last couple of weeks.  A trick to having continuous harvests is to pick just the larger leaves around the outside of the plant so it continues to grow.  The other way is to do succession planting, sowing seeds about every 3 weeks to keep new plants in prime production. 

Since all the transplants I have gotten were in outdoor racks, they are fully hardened off for spring conditions.  If you are starting them indoors from seed, be sure to harden off before putting directly into the garden or pot.  I will first put them in a pot on the covered patio.  After they have a chance to grow a little bigger and adjust to the outdoor temperatures and sun, I transplant them out into their permanent spot. 

I have started some lettuce seed in outdoor pots.  They are ones that have done very well in my summer garden last year.  I will start Red Malabar spinach, amaranth, New Zealand spinach and orach that thrive in the hot and humid weather and are tasty in salads when it warms up a bit more.  With as cool as this spring has been, it will likely be the first of May before I start these summer lovers.

If you want instant homegrown salads, visit your local nurseries and big box stores for ready to plant lettuce, spinach, chard, and other greens.  You get an unending harvest by taking only the leaves on the outside of the plants, leaving the inner leaves growing.  The plants I saw yesterday are large enough to begin harvesting as soon as you bring them home!

Sunday, April 10, 2022

How to use edible flowers in dishes

Morning glory

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Edible flowers can be strictly ornamental or can add flavor and texture to a dish or beverage.  Here are some ideas on how to use edible flowers in your kitchen. 

Herb flowers are  not only pretty and a pollinator attractor, they also have a similar taste to the leaves of the herb plant.  Most flowers taste is much less strong than the leaves.  There are exceptions, like chives, which I find to have a very strong onion taste. 

I think a great way to use herbal flowers is to add them as a pretty topping to a cooked dish, or to a salad for an extra layer of flavor, or mix into or onto sour cream toppings.  Nasturtium flowers are beautiful and have a peppery twang.  I use them as I would other herbal flowers.

Add dried herbal flowers to seasoning salts and mixes.  Integrate them into salad dressings or flavored oils and vinegars.  Dried flowers can also be used in teas.  Many edible flowers are believed to have medicinal attributes, but even if they don't, they make a pretty and aromatic tea to enjoy!

 My favorite way to use edible flowers is fresh and decorative.  Add fresh flowers to a cheese board with a variety of colors and flavors.  Add them to a salad for flavor, texture and/or to just make it pretty.  This time of year, redbud trees are in bloom.  Redbud trees are in the pea family and their flowers have a pea-like taste.  Pretty and tasty to add to a fresh cut salad!  

Note:  Always verify that the flower you are using is edible using reliable sources.  Even though the flower is edible, it does not mean the entire plant is safe to eat.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

What to plant in the April edible garden

Early spring garden
Saturday, April 9, 2022

April is a beautiful time of year with the leaves coming on, the grass turning green, the first flowers blooming and lots of plants poking their heads out of the ground.  There are many veggie and fruit seeds and transplants that can be put in the edible garden.  It is still too chilly for most of the summer lovers until the end of the month.  Big box stores, hardware stores, local nurseries, flea markets and farmers markets all have plants right now.  This makes it easy to get your garden going in the spring.  You can find many heirloom fruits and veggies transplants and seeds nowadays.  For the unusual plants, buying on-line from seed companies is the way to go.

I would prepare the beds first with fertilizer, compost and mulch before starting seeds or planting.  You can do a soil test yourself or send off for one if you want to create a fertilizer specific to your needs.  The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals

If you are starting a new bed, here are options:  Put in a new garden bed the easy way-really

Here is a list of plants and seeds you can put in the April garden: 
April-transplants or seeds into the garden or pot Zone 6/7
Asparagus  All about asparagus
Bee balm (monarda)
Brussels sprouts  Growing Brussel sprouts
Lemon balm
Mustard  Mustard greens
Strawberries  Back yard strawberries
Any of the above can also be started indoors and then transplanted outdoors into their permanent garden  spot or pot.

April-start directly in the garden or pot
These edibles do best when started directly in their permanent spot.  Almost all root vegetable do best being directly sown (onions and leeks can be started from seed then transplanted to their permanent spot).  
Beans (snap-bush & pole) at end of April  Growing beans
Corn at end of April  Growing corn
Fruit bushes (bare root or potted)  Fruit for small spaces and pots

April-start indoors for transplanting in early May
Lemon verbena
Summer and winter squash  Everything you need to know to grow squash
Sweet potatoes  Growing sweet potatoes

For tips on starting your seeds in the garden:  Outdoor seed starting tips  I also like to put a pot on our covered deck and start seeds there.  Once they are to a good size, I transplant them into their permanent pot or into the garden bed.  Vegetables you can grow in pots

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Add edible flowers to your veggie garden and pots

Edible daylilies in bloom edging the vegetable garden
Sunday, April 3, 2022

If you want to add a beautiful touch and taste to a salad, dinner plate or drink, add a flower!  Many common flowers are edible.  These flowers do triple duty-adding beauty to the garden, attracting pollinators to increase harvests, and food.

All herb flowers are edible-like anise hyssop, basil, bee balm,  borage, calendula/pot marigold, chamomile, cilantro, fennel, lavender, garden chives, garlic chives, mint, mustard, onions, oregano, parsley, sage, savory,  shallot, rosemary, tarragon and thyme.  They add great color and flavor to salads and dishes.  Their flavor is  usually  a lighter version of the herb.  Let's not forget saffron; a pricey spice from the stigmas of the saffron crocus that you can grow in your own garden.  Start a kitchen herb garden!
Edible garlic chives in bloom
Vegetable flowers are edible-like broccoli, cabbage, kale, bean, pea, onion, garlic, zucchini, chicory.    Fried squash blooms are delish!  Just stuff them with a cheese mixture and fry.

Some plants we consider weeds are edible-like chickweed, dandelion, red clover, purslane, wild strawberry, wild violet and wood sorrel flowers as well as their greens.  Chickweed tastes pretty good.  Cultivated dandelions are sweeter in the cool temperatures.  When it gets warmer, harvest the young leaves and flowers for salads and the large for steamed greens.  Full of great nutrition.  Edible, nutritious "weeds"

Edible lavender flowers in bloom
Then there are the ornamentals that are edible like alliums, tuberous-rioted begonias, garden forms of Bellis perennis daisies, dahlias, daylilies, fascia, tiger lilies, erythroniums, fuchsias, gardenias, hostas, orchids, violets, houttuynia, the pinks, Salvia patens, chrysanthemums, grape hyacinth, honeysuckle, roses, dianthus, nasturtiums, passion flower, pansies, Johnny Jump Ups, scented geraniums, violas, yucca, snapdragons, tulips, zinnias and sunflowers.

A variety of tree and shrub flowers are edible: apple, crab apple, elderberry, Japanese honeysuckle, lilac, citrus blooms, plum, redbud and wild rose.  Redbud flowers are one of my favorites.  Redbud is in the pea family and their flowers are reminiscent of pea flavor.

Self sowing edible flowers:
Signet dwarf Marigolds

Plant these, allow to go to seed, and they will continue to re-establish themselves year after year.  These are referred to as "volunteers" in the garden.  You can also save their seeds and sow in the spring where you want them to grow.  They do great in garden beds and containers.  This year, I had many self sowing zinnias return in light pink, medium pink and fuchsia. 
Self sustaining gardening appealing? Try the self-seeders!

You can also make beautiful flower sugars to spoon into teas, over berries and desserts.  Or add herbal flowers to sea salt for seasoning dishes.  Using herbs, flowers and fruit for flavored sugars and salts  You can  make flavored vinegars  Make your own flavored vinegars  The flower color will tint the vinegar as well as flavor it.  After straining, add a whole flower for its beauty. You can even make candied flowers!  Or add them to homemade drinks as a garnish  Use herbs for signature desserts and grown up beverages   or main ingredient Homegrown flavored waters and sodas
Homemade herbal sugars and salts
You can quickly look on line to verify that your ornamental is indeed edible, which is always recommended just to be on the safe side.  There are many misleading names of flowers that can lead you to believe a flower is part of an edible family when it actually is not.  

Add edible beauty to your garden this season!

April 2022 Edible Garden Planner

Spinach in a self watering pot
Sunday, April 3, 2022

April showers bring May flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables!  Now is the perfect time to get serious on getting your spring garden planted and sown.  In April, I will have seeds and plants going indoors and outdoors.

Crops to plant in April
Early April is a perfect time to plant cold season crops like Brussels sprouts, fava beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collards, kale, lettuce, mustard, onions, parsley, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radishes, shallots, spinach, strawberries, Swiss chard and turnips.  Local big box and nurseries have a variety available to put in your garden right now.  Outdoor transplant calendar

See this post for what to plant in April as well as links on how to grow each veggie.  What to get going in the edible April garden

We can have fresh salads from the garden now.  The greens that overwintered are arugula, parsley, sprouting broccoli, cress, lettuce, chard, sorrel, Chinese cabbage Hilton, and cultivated dandelions.  The other greens and herbs that overwintered are celery, carrots, chives, leeks, tarragon, sage, thyme, and kale.  They are great adds to salads as well as cooked dishes.

The sprouting broccoli that overwintered in the garden and pots are quite a nice size.  I even have little broccoli florets on some.  I will get cabbage worms by the end of June which love cabbage and broccoli.  The options for keeping the worms away is to rotate the crops, harvest by mid-June or treat with BT at the first sign of the worms, which is an organic treatment.  Sprouting broccoli is one of my favorite edibles.  The leaves taste like broccoli and are sweet all through spring, summer and fall.  They are great in salads.  You also get little broccoli florets to eat on and off through the seasons.  Sprouting broccoli- a year round fav

We can still get frosts in April so you want to hold off on planting warm season crops outdoors like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and squash until May unless you cover them or can bring them indoors if frost does visit your garden.  Extend the season with protection for plants

I have already transplanted lettuce and spinach plants outdoors.  I have them in pots under a portable greenhouse cover. The extra warmth will help them grow quicker, but is not needed for the plants to survive this time of year.  This year, lettuce transplants made it before spinach transplants into the garden centers by 2 weeks.  I will sow snow peas and more lettuce seed in pots outdoors this week.   

To keep yourself in lettuce all season, do succession planting of new seeds or plants every 2-3 weeks.  Just plant the number you would normally eat in a 2-3 week period.  This will keep salads on the table continuously.  Do succession planting for any vegetable you want to extend the harvest for.  Keep the harvest going, do succession planting

If this is your first year in gardening, here are some pointers on what to choose to grow and get your garden going: What to plant for your first garden  Easy kitchen garden   If you don't have much space you can still grow a garden either in pots or in a garden spot as little as 6" by 6' that can grow all the produce you can eat during the garden season. 

To get a jump on summer harvests, I usually start a variety of edibles indoors on the kitchen counter in both my Aerogarden, peat pods or peat pots.  For the large seedlings like cucumber, squash, and watermelon, I start these in 3" peat pots.  I have had great success in the Aerogarden in germination rates.  It is really close to 100% across all types of seeds.  Seed starting tips for beginners  You can get also get a jump on harvests by buying transplants.  There are a wide variety available nowadays, including heirlooms.
Aerogarden on the right, peat pods on the left
The varieties I like to start indoors: tomatoes, peppers, okra, rosemary, a variety of basils, dill, Chinese cabbage, Alpine strawberries, eggplants, New Zealand spinach, Malabar spinach, blue morning glories, cucumbers, zucchini, spaghetti squash, bulbing fennel, watermelon, pole green beans, and any interesting varieties I just couldn't resist buying seed for over the winter.

When you plant, make sure to fertilize and add mycorrhizae in each planting hole. Mycorrhizae are beneficial microbes that help your plant roots absorb nutrients from the soil.  I also add biochar and worm castings in each hole.  Using these amendments is when I had the most productive and disease free summer gardens.

I like to apply fertilizer, add a thick layer of compost and top with mulch before I begin planting.  Just mulch by itself breaks down and adds organic matter to the soil.  I use only organic fertilizers and amendments.  There is a great deal of research that shows chemical fertilizers negatively affect the soil food web.  Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds

If you didn't do a soil test (you can use a kit from a garden store/big box store or have your local extensions office analyze it), use a balanced organic fertilizer like Espoma at the rate recommended.  If you regularly use a balanced fertilizer, nitrogen may be the only amendment you need.  

You can make your own all natural, organic fertilizer, too, inexpensively.  Here is the link:  Make your own fertilizer, it's all natural and inexpensive  If you did not fertilize the entire garden bed before planting, be sure to add fertilizer to each planting hole per the directions on the package.  Crops will need that burst of energy for the quick growth that spring brings. 

If you want to have an in-depth soil analysis done to create a fertilizer specific to your soil, here is a blog on who to send your sample to and how to get a personal fertilizer recipe  The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals

If you are re-using pots from last year, here is a link to get your potting soil ready to nourish your new plants:  Re-energize your potting soil!  It is important to get your potting soil can support this season's growth and veggie production.  Be sure when you fertilize to mix it into the soil or apply before you put down a protective organic layer of mulch.  This keeps the nitrogen from oxidizing and escaping into the air instead of staying in the ground to nourish your plant.  This year, I did all my pots.  I added 1 part compost to 2 parts potting soil, Azomite for minerals, and Espoma fertilizer.  My plants should have everything they need for a strong start to the growing season.
Chives and lettuce in  mid-April garden
Frost date importance
The last frost date in our area is around April 10th.  This is important to know for planting seeds and when to move plants into the garden.   Frost date look up  The seed packet tells you when to plant in relation to your last frost date.  You will get the best results following the packet instructions.  Planting early is not always a good strategy as different seeds need different soil temperatures before they will germinate.  Plant too early and they can rot before they have a chance to sprout.  When to plant your veggies

Pots will warm up quicker, but will also chill down faster.  You can put your pots in a sheltered, sunny spot to get a jump on spring growth.  Putting your pots on the south side of the house will provide the maximum warmth.  I love planting greens in a large self-watering pot that I can keep on the patio, making it handy for picking a fresh salad for dinner, and to move to a cooler spot in the hot days of summer.  

When growing veggies in containers, they will require more watering and more liquid fertilizer than if they were in the ground.  In the summer, you may have to water some water lovers every day unless you use self-watering pots.  For more on growing in pots:  Decorative container gardening for edibles  
With the self-watering pots, your watering duties will be greatly reduced.

Lettuce, greens, and herbs do fabulous this month.  It is the time to indulge in daily salads. and smoothies.  Cool temperatures and lots of moisture produce the sweetest greens of the season.  

This year, you may have more time or just want to be sure you can get fresh veggies.  Here is a garden that meets that need, even if you only have a small space, like a flower bed.  Small space survival edible garden