How to Grow Early Spring Vegetables
Early Vegetable Gardening
Ask any gardener and they will tell you that there is absolutely nothing like eating your own vegetables you planted that spring. If you are an inpatient garner and just can’t wait to get your hands in the earth then you are probably already planning your vegetable garden. Some gardeners roll the dice and gamble on the weather and start and early vegetable garden. In order to be successful at early spring vegetable gardening you must know a thing or two about the weather and your plants.
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Zone 3 1 May / 31 May
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Zone 6 30 Mar / 30 Apr
Zone 7 30 Mar / 30 Apr
Zone 8 28 Feb / 30 Mar
Zone 9 30 Jan / 28 Feb
Zone 10 30 Jan or before
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Know Your Frost Free Date
Early spring gardening is a challenge for even the most experienced gardeners. The weather dictates what and when it can be planted. This mysterious day to know is first frost free day. (See table to right.) You should check almanacs and the internet for your areas for a history of the first frost free date and also the current forecast. Depending on the forecast you may want to postpone planting a few days or even a week.
What to Plant? Begin with Hardy Vegetables.
An early spring garden consists of vegetables that can survive evenings when the temperature still goes down to freezing. The seeds planted underground won’t know the air temperature is freezing or not. Some vegetables prefer the cooler temperatures to germinate and grow. Potatoes are one vegetable that likes the cooler soil temperatures to get started. When the air temperatures become warmer the tops begin to show
Leafy Vegetables Need the Cold Soil
Leafy vegetables like Spinach, kale and leaf lettuce grown from seed in the spring do quite well. Broccoli and cabbage do well if they are transplanted to the cool soil.
Plant Early for Quality
Some vegetables must be planted early to produce the best size and quality of plant. They include asparagus, potatoes, rhubarb and onions. These should be planted four to six weeks before the average frost free date.
Don’t wait too long to plant hardy vegetables. They can certainly be planted later, but waiting too long to plant vegetables like cabbage and broccoli may cause it to shoot up and go to seed before you have head development. The heads form during the hotter weather. You will end up with a lettuce that is tall and spindly versus short and stocky.
Frost Tolerant Vegetables
When you are done with hardy vegetables about two to three weeks later you can plant your frost tolerant vegetables. Those are vegetables that can survive a frost but not a freeze. Some of these vegetables that enjoy the cool soil temperatures are parsnips carrots, beets Swiss chard, radishes and cauliflower.
Some tips on soil and cold snaps
- Planting both hardy and frost tolerant vegetables can be a bit daunting because the soil is usually very wet to work with. If you are transplanting, take some potting soil and add it into the hole and work it in to alleviate the wetness.
- Use potting soil specifically for seedling because it is lighter weight and allows more oxygen at the seed level. This will add to your success.
- Always Be Preparred for Cold Snaps. These can wipe out all the effort and hopes for your spring vegetables. But you can be prepared by having something ready to cover your vegetables incase the weather changes abrupbtly. You can use containers, plastic sheeting an old bedsheet, newspapers or anything else you can get your hands on to protect your crop.
Your Prize is a Bountiful Spring Harvest
These cool season crops will yield a better harvest and that means the more you have to share with family and friends.