By Don Trotter
Spring Vegetable Gardens Are You Hungry?
Hello Fellow Earthlings, and welcome to the produce section of your garden. Itís warming up outside, and to many of you that means the inner farmer is trying to get you out into the garden to grow some food. While everyone else in this wacky world is trying to get in touch with their inner child, beach, or whatever, let us get in touch with our inner farm hand. So why donít we take a stroll out to the back forty and look over our domains in order to get some ideas on what to grow this year.
Spring gardens are a time when the widest variety of crops can be grown due to the mildness of the climate at this time of year. Many cool season vegetables grow very well during the spring and it is probably the best time of year to get many of your warm season crops started so that an early harvest can be achieved. In this discussion, we will be briefly identifying some of the types of vegetables that can be easily grown in the spring garden.
First letís talk about cool season veggies. The two most common cool season vegetable types that are normally grown by the home gardener are members of the brassica and the legume families of plants. The brassica group includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, kale, brussel sprouts, turnips, radishes, and beets. These crops respond very well to spring weather, and will grow very fast during this time of year.
Legumes include beans and peas. These crops grow very fast during this time of year. Planting pole bean varieties and climbing peas will also offer the children an opportunity to get involved in the garden. Building tipis out of bamboo or wooden stakes and letting the vines climb them can create some very fun outdoor play shelters for children that are more interactive than playhouses or fort structures.
The benefit of building these types of places for the kids to hide is that they will inevitably eat some of the bounty from these play areas. This is one of the very good reasons not to resort to the use of chemicals in the garden. It is also an effective way to get children to eat fresh vegetables. Try a bean or pea tipi and see how well it works. Plant edible pod green beans or snow peas for this experiment, the kids will love their sweet flavors and you will have succeeded in getting picky eaters to eat veggies at their freshest.
Spring planting of warm season vegetables like tomatoes, squash, melons, peppers, and corn is a good way to get a head start on harvesting. I think that one of the best reasons to plant warm season vegetables early is that young plants will experience fewer instances of water stress during milder weather. Early planting also gives plants like tomatoes and peppers or eggplant an opportunity to focus on growing a larger plant before warmer weather begins to stimulate blossom and fruit setting.
Most tomatoes and peppers will not set fruit until nighttime temperatures exceed 60 degrees. So you can focus on growing larger plants that will produce more fruit when the warm weather sets in. It is also a good idea to plant early varieties of tomatoes so that you can get some fresh fruit before the neighbors. Planting melons, cucumbers and squash at this time of year also allows for plants to attain larger size in order to support larger harvests as warmer weather sets in.
Corn is one of my personal favorites for early planting. Use early varieties when planting at this time of year and stagger plantings at two-week intervals to extend your harvest. It is a better practice to plant corn in small blocks of space than to plant a single row. By planting corn in this way you will have better pollination and increased numbers of luscious ultra-sweet ears.
These are just a few of the many reasons that spring vegetable gardening can be a rewarding endeavor that can also be a very enjoyable family project. See you in the Garden!
Got Questions? E-mail the Doc at Curly@mill.net Donís columns appear in newspapers and magazines nationwide. He is a free-lance writer and avid naturalist who lives in the coastal paradise of Encinitas, California.
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