I can hardly believe it, folks: warm weather actually seems to be here!
I’m going to take a chance and drop off my winter coat at the cleaners today, so if it suddenly snows for no good reason at all, you can blame that on me.
For the last week, I’ve been running around my yard like a crazy person, so happy to be outside among the blooming trees and greening grass.
I wasted no time at all in getting my first plantings done. If you’re looking to do some easy care gardening this spring, I’ve got just the edibles that you can plant right now!
Here’s my no-fuss, cool-spring-weather list:
Herbs – cilantro (sow seed), mint (buy transplant), thyme (buy transplant)
Greens – Spinach, Lettuce, Mustard, Arugula, Kale (sow seeds or buy starter plants)
Onions – Green onions (sow seeds), bulb onions (buy starter plants), chives (sow seeds or buy transplants)
Radishes – try the French breakfast variety: lovely (sow seed)
Peas – sugar snaps are one of my faves (sow seed)
My brother built a waist-high garden bench for me last year where I grow greens and early herbs (see photo above from last spring). Seeding greens is intense, with their tiny little seeds, and my garden bench makes spring planting a total joy, sparing winter-weak knees and back. But you don’t need a garden bench. Greens grow great in both the ground and in containers.
Growing from seed is so easy! The seeds for herbs and greens don’t need to be planted deeply – I use a hand shovel to scrape shallow trenches in the dirt. Dig them all at the same time, so you don’t accidentally plant one row on top of the next (been there, done that). Drop in the seeds, then carefully smooth the dirt over the seeds. Water well with a gentle shower, and keep the soil moist until the seeds sprout.
Did you know that cilantro seeds are actually the spice, coriander? Pretty cool. I grow lots of cilantro for the greens, and then let the plants go to seed over the summer, which I harvest after the seed heads have dried. (The seeds above? SoupAddict-grown.)
Cilantro is very easy to grow from seed. In fact, I always warn folks not to bother purchasing cilantro plants at the nursery. Cilantro is a cool weather herb and bolts (goes to seed) with the first heat wave, which can happen as early as mid-May here in the Midwest.
Spinach is my favorite, all-purpose green. I love it in everything, from salads to sandwiches to stews and vegetable bakes. If I had a greenhouse, I would install an air conditioner and grow spinach (and cilantro) all year long.
I’m growing a variety of lettuce greens this year, including romaine (both red [plants] and green [seeds]), red leaf lettuce [plants], and an adorable miniature head lettuce called Tom Thumb [seeds].
Aaaannnd … seeded! Woot!
Mint is another favorite to purchase in spring, just in time for Derby mint juleps (or, in my case, mojitos).
Mint is an amazing plant. In the same family as basil (Lamiaceae), they share the interesting characteristic of having square stems. But while basil is distinctly an annual (meaning, it dies every year, relying on cast-off seeds to reproduce), mint dies back above ground, but spreads aggressively and stealthily through shoots in its root system.
Mint will take over anything in its path, including grassy areas, so I recommend keeping mint in pots. If you want mint in your garden, plant it in a pot, and then plant the pot in your garden. Move the pot indoors in the winter, and even though the plant will look quite dead, it will regrow from its roots in the spring.
Onions are sooo easy, you won’t believe it. Buy starters right now at the nursery. They come in bundles and look like miniature scallions. Don’t worry if they’re dried out or look to be in bad shape – they’ll revive quickly once in the ground. Dig small holes about 8″ apart and bury the starters to cover the white bulb. Water well, fertilize occasionally, and let them go! They’ll be ready to harvest mid-summer when their greens have turned brown and flopped over.
Green onions are another favorite. It is very annoying to have to buy green onions in a pack at the grocery. They don’t last long, and I don’t think I’ve ever used them up before having to toss them in the compost pile. Growing them from seed is super easy, and very economical. I plant them in containers (see the garden bench photo above), all summer long — when one container is getting low on green onions, I start another.
Radishes and Peas round out my list of no-fuss spring vegetables. Radishes are little Supermen, going from seed to table in less than a month. Peas take longer and need trellis support of some sort, but, ahhh, fresh peas — and pea shoots! — there’s nothing like it.
For the adventurous:
Other fabulous spring crops that require more care, but are awesome for the home cook:
Strawberries – fussy because: woodland creatures *love* strawberries. I grew about 20 plants last year and got maybe a dozen strawberries off of them before the furry cuties found them. Oh, the plants sprouted tons of strawberries, but the chipmunks, squirrels and who-knows-what nabbed each and every berry before they were even ripe.
Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Cabbage – fussy because: very prone to cabbage worms (produced by the pretty white moths with the single black dot on their wings). Cabbage worms don’t hurt the fruit, but they will gnaw the plant’s leaves down to a skeleton, and the plants needs its leaves for nourishment.
Beets – fussy because: who knows! Sometimes they’re just plain cranky and won’t grow no matter what you do. But in a good year … oh boy, beets and beet greens! Yum!
Have you already been bitten by the garden bug? Check out my gardening post from earlier this year for more on summer plantings!
Happy happy planting!