Last week, we celebrated the vernal or spring equinox, when the Earth leans neither towards (summer) nor away (winter) from the sun. On that day, the hours of daylight and darkness were exactly equal.
What does that mean for us gardeners? Time to get out there and dig in the dirt – summer’s coming!
If you’re like me (impatient and congenitally unable to follow rules or even “guidelines”), you’ve already been playing out there for weeks now. Especially if you live in a region like the mid-Atlantic, where winter hardly showed up this year and the spring weather started sometime in February.
So what’s happened in the barefoot garden so far?
After two years of waiting (I can be patient when necessary) we harvested the first tender spears of our own asparagus. Delicious! Asparagus is one of the few common vegetables that are perennial, meaning that a little patience up front will be rewarded for years to come.
If you’re so inclined, now is the time to plant the crowns (small rooted plants). Pick a sunny spot that you are willing to dedicate to asparagus forever; the plants can last produce for 15-20 years! For the first two years you must force yourself to let the tender, tempting shoots grow into tall fern-like fronds, allowing the roots to develop fully. Then in year two you can snip the first two weeks of shoots, in year three: three weeks, etc.
We harvested three or four meals worth. Now we’ll let the spears grow into tall fern-like fronds, to feed the roots developing below ground. They’re quite beautiful, so I don’t mind giving up the tasty spears.
Fall Winter Spring Greens
I’m a big fan of fall and winter gardening. When temperatures and light levels drop, plants grow more slowly but that doesn’t mean the growing season is over. Eliot Coleman, garden guru extraordinaire runs a CSA in Maine that produces greens and other tasties year-round! If he can do it, so can we.
Here’s the plot that I planted back sometime in October. It’s been producing all winter long and with the advent of warmer weather it’s taken off! Last week I harvested these two baskets of greens and that’s probably only ten percent of what we’ve eaten from this plot so far.
I’ve scattered some lettuce and spinach seeds in there to fill out the spots where we were over-zealous in our harvesting and expect this bed to continue to produce until June. Then I’ll clear it out and plant sweet potatoes.
What Can I Plant Now?
Even if freezing temperatures are threatening your area tonight (I’m looking at you, mid-Atlantic!), there are still many seeds you can sow now to get a jump on the growing season. In fact many of my favorite veggies prefer the cooler temperatures of spring to the roast ’em and toast ’em summer. These include:
- most leafy veggies: lettuce, spinach, corn salad and all of the lovely cabbage-family greens like collards, kale, mizuna, arugula and mustard.
- cabbage-family root and “head” veggies: radishes, turnips, cabbage broccoli, cauliflower
- peas – snow and sweet
- white potatoes.
All of the above can be sown directly into the garden. Red radishes and lettuce are are super fast; plant them today and you’ll be eating them by Mother’s Day!
For great info on four-season gardening check out Eliot Coleman’s book, Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Garden All Year Long. You can find links to more of my favorite gardening books on the Gardening Authors and Experts Page.
Happy growing and eating! — Danielle