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Spring in the Garden of Eating


It might seem to early to have this discussion, but it really isn't. Sunday was the Spring equinox, marking new beginnings. In this article, we are looking at exsisting gardens, and as the title suggests, Vegetable gardens. That doesn't mean you can't have a beautiful, bountiful garden that include flowers, herbs and more.


On one of the first warm days of spring, put on your inspector’s hat and head out to the garden with a notepad. It’s time to see what happened in the garden while you were indoors all winter. Take note of:

  • Cold, ice or snow damage on plants

  • Beds that will need to be cleaned out

  • Hardscaping elements—walls, fences, benches, sheds, trellises—that have shifted, bowed or rotted

  • Evidence of new animal burrows from skunks, chipmunks, moles and voles, groundhogs or rabbits. Also, note any deer or rodent damage on woody plants.

In early spring before the ground is ready to be worked, focus your energy on hardscaping. This is the time to repair damaged retaining walls, level out your stepping stones, clean out your gutters, and fix fences, benches, decks, sheds, trellises, window boxes and raised beds. These tasks are easier to accomplish while your plants are still resting safely dormant.

Early spring is also a good time to plan for and build new raised gardens, widen existing ones, and tidy up your beds’ edging. When temperatures allow, add a fresh coat of paint, stain or sealant to any hardscaping elements made of wood.


Ideally just before your spring bulbs start to pop up, clean the plant debris out of your garden beds. This includes fallen branches, matted down leaves, last year’s perennial foliage, ornamental grasses and perennial hibiscus, and any annuals you didn’t remove last fall. Maintaining good hygiene in your garden beds will help to keep pests and diseases at bay.

Now is also a good time to clean out debris from your pond or water feature. While you’re at it, scrub and sterilize your bird bath and containers before setting them back out into the garden. A 1 part bleach/5 parts water solution should take care of any lingering diseases or insect eggs in your containers.

When you think about vegetable gardens, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Fresh summer tomatoes? Sweet, sumptuous corn? More zucchini than one family could possibly eat?





ASPARAGUS

Seeing the first tender, pencil-sized spears of asparagus poking through in the garden is a rite of spring. You will usually see the first shoots when the soil temperature reaches about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Asparagus is a perennial vegetable. In essence, you can plant it once and harvest it for many years to come. You do have to devote space to them, but you can expect an excellent yield every year for up to 15 years or more. A mature asparagus harvest can last for months. Plant year old crowns 4 - 6 weeks before the last frost date. You can also plant seeds, but seedlings will need an extra year to establish.


LETTUCE

The cool, wet weather of spring is the perfect time to grow lettuce, and there are hundreds of varieties. Romaine and butterhead are the most cold-tolerant varieties. You will get the earliest and longest harvest from the cut-and-come-again varieties. Although heat, drought stress and longer ddays will cause lettuce to bolt, you will probably have time for two to three succession plantings. Plant a new crop every two to three weeks. Choose slow bolt varieties or varieties with different maturation rates for a continous harvest.


PEAS

There is a tradition of planting the first peas on St. Patrick’s Day, though some Americans may not be able to take part in that tradition because of the snow covering their vegetable gardens. Even if you do not manage to get out there early, peas planted later in April quickly catch up to peas planted in March. Peas do not like freezing temperatures, and they dislike heat more. Choose your favorites peas—shelling peas, snow peas, or sugar snap peas—and get planting. Use a trellis to support the vines and make harvesting easier. You can make additional plantings in early May or plant varieties with different maturity rates to extend your harvest. Do not miss the window of opportunity.


  • BEETS

  • RHUBARB

  • SPINACH

  • RADISH

  • TURNIPS

  • CABBAGE

Keep in mind there are many other considerations, like direct planting vs seeding, climate zones, and soil conditions. The main thing is to get started and have fun...it's not rocket science! Stay tuned for more gardening and related culinary applications to come. Cheers, and have a great week!

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