The first day of Spring has arrived and with it more daylight. As of March 20th we are officially getting 12 hours of light with a sunrise of 7:12 and a sunset of 7:22. It is time to start planting some seeds outside. Cool season crops are the best bets for this time of year, so don’t even think about your tomatoes yet. Here are a couple of suggestions for some easy plants to get started from seed and require very little maintenance.
Peas: A delicious spring crop that are typically easy to grow. There are two things to consider with peas before you plant. First, consider the space available for your peas. One variety is bush peas which grow 2-4 feet tall and are free standing. Another variety is vining peas, which can reach 5-6 feet tall and require trellising for support. Second, consider the type of pea you like to eat. Snow or sugar snap peas are flat pods that can be used in salads or stir fry and shelling peas are the type of pea that get plump and are removed from the pods before cooking.
Radishes: A great starter veggie as they sprout really quickly, typically ready to harvest within 4 weeks. An Easter Egg variety can be white, pink, red or purple while a French Breakfast are red with a white tip. Serve radishes sliced up with a french baguette, butter and a sprinkle of salt and you have an appetizer everyone will love.
Lettuces: A veggie that keeps on giving. Try loose leaf lettuces for quicker harvesting results and a chance to “cut and come again”. That’s right – once the lettuce gets up to size just cut what you want to eat, leaving 1-2 inches of the plant in the ground and it will grow back for another salad. Many seed packets combine a mix of seeds in one pack so you can get a variety of leaf shapes and colors. Thomas Jefferson instructed gardeners “to plant a thimble spool of lettuce seed every Monday morning from February 1 to September 1” to ensure an abundant harvest. Mark your calendar with one day a month to sow lettuce seeds and you will have an ongoing supply. Avoid planting in July or August as it tends to be too hot for the plants and lettuces are more likely to bolt and become bitter.
Swiss Chard: Another great spring crop for beginning gardeners since in our mild climate it acts as a perennial. This means that many times it will overwinter and be ready to produce again next spring. A favorite variety is Rainbow Chard which has leaves and stems in shades of yellow, red, white and green. Chard tastes a lot like spinach and can be used in salads or sautéed. When cooking, remove the leaves and first dice up the stems in butter or olive oil before adding the leaves to steam with a little water or broth. Sprinkle in some raisins, nuts, and goat cheese and you have a winner of a side dish.
So many veggies, so little time. Happy gardening!