Starting a vegetable garden is one of the most exciting times of spring.
With dreams of heirloom tomatoes fresh from the vine and buckets of zucchini flooding the kitchen, gardeners new and old may think they need to impatiently wait out in May to prepare their patch of vegetable heaven. While it is still too cold to be putting many summer crops in the ground, many plant varieties actually thrive in cooler temperatures.
With all the work that can go into tilling and turning over a garden, it is gratifying to get something into the earth early. So, after calculating and reserving space for summer goodies, consider some of the often overlooked early crops to get a jump on the vegetable garden season. There is some produce—such as radishes, leafy greens and peas—that grow fast and perform well in the cool weather.
Radishes and Leafy Greens
Radishes can be ready to eat in as little as a month when planted from seed. They are a perfect raw salad garnish and have been making a name for themselves as a standalone side dish or even roasted with pasta.
Spinach and other leafy greens thrive at the cold ends of the spring and summer seasons. High in vitamins and nutrients, spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens, arugula and dandelions grow wonderfully at this time of year and provide varying levels of sweet and bitter to salads, sandwiches and sautés.
It is just about the right time to put lettuce transplants in the ground as well. They can typically survive a light frost and prefer the spring to the summer heat. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale are also strong performers at this time of year. Spring's chilly temperatures actually aid in the development for a sweeter product.
Spring peas are yet another strong cool weather performer. They can be planted by seed for the next few weeks and will provide a nice June treat.
So get out this weekend and get the garden ready by planting some of these delicious vegetables. Radishes, greens, and peas can be seeded tightly in a row, and the rows should be about a foot apart (three feet for peas). Lettuce plants thrive a foot apart and broccoli and its family prefer a little more room, 18 inches to two feet is ideal.
Hold off on tomato, zucchini, beans, and cucumbers for a few more weeks. No sense in wasting all that hard work for a late spring frost.
Finally, it is time to get those hands dirty and begin a personal backyard crop to yield months of delicious vegetables to the kitchen table.