How’s it Grow’in: Planting the Early Spring Garden, Checking Coldframes and Starting Seeds.

Yay!  Yesterday I got out and got my hands in the dirt.  It’s pretty early here still for planting–unless you are a gambler the main garden crops don’t go in the ground until Memorial Day in my area.  However there are a lot of cool weather crops that are supposed to be planted “in early spring” or “as soon as the ground can be worked”.


In the past I’ve sort of missed the window for that–it always seems to cold and wet to plant and then before I know it, well, it’s too late.  So I’m thrilled that for once I think I hit things about right!  I think that having the gardens mulched helped with this.  I’m not tilling, so all I had to do was pull aside the mulch and plant into the nice, loose, healthy soil beneath.

Early Spring Garden

It doesn’t look that impressive now. . . but there is a lot in there.  Along the back where you see the fencing there are two rows of peas–sugar snap peas and snow peas.  In front of that is a row of beets.  Then in front of the stone (which is a stepping stone to mount a horse and carriage-it goes down about a foot into the ground and is too heavy to move-so we garden around it) is a row of spinach closely spaced with a row that contains Spigariello Lisca (a leaf broccoli-new to me) and Tatsoi (an Asian green).  The square in the front is a few very short rows of Romaine lettuce (which is from seed I saved from last year) and a few radishes.  Over to the right that turned up row you can kind of see is a row of turnips.

Spring Seed Planting Collage

My theory (and we’ll see how it works) is that all of these early crops will be just about done/ready to harvest by Memorial Day–then I’ll clear this section out, add compost and then plant my tomatoes and peppers on this side of the garden (which gets the best sun).  We’ll see how it works!

I also have been checking up on my coldframes, opening them every morning now that the weather is above 45 and closing them at night.  The plastic hoop one made it all the way through the winter and then tore in some winds about 3 weeks ago.  Bummer.  We have more plastic and will patch it up.  I’m wondering if I can use it to encourage some crops that need a bit more heat this summer.  The wood and glass frames stood up to the weather most excellently.

Coldframe Collage

It was a learning year.  The frames kept the crops viable well into the winter–but I had planted them a bit late and so many of the plants were not big enough to really harvest.  Note to self–plant the fall crops into these earlier this year so that they can act more as a “holding” system for my fresh greens.

I figured I’d just leave the stuff in there and see if it kept growing in the spring.  In the front cold frame there is quite a bit of stuff.  The Red Russian Kale looks excellent and some of the lettuce is growing ok (top left picture there).  The collards under the plastic hoop also started growing again. I purchased a few chive plants and some lettuce seedlings at a local produce stand (the lettuce will give me a head start and I’ve planted some from seed too)–I just stuck the entire tray into the cold frame for now until I get around to planting it.

But many of the plantings decided “Hey-we are done with our first cycle of production–let’s go into flowering phase and bolt”:

Overwintered Plants Collage

I did get a few nice overwintering surprises.  The Red Russian Kale I grew last year self seeded and a few volunteer Kale plants have popped up in the garden (that’s those little green & purple things on the bottom left above).  My Egyptian Walking Onions I stuck in the ground are up and green (that’s the bottom right photo)–I’ll be able to use some as green onions in cooking and salads soon!

Early Spring Garden Collage 1

Other things are popping up around my 1/2 acre Village Homestead.  Starting at the top left and going clockwise. . . My little herb garden next to the house is starting to show some signs of life.  The chives are up, and my Crocuses are giving me a much needed pop of spring color.  Soon those planters should burst back into life, and the lovage should sprout up as well.  That big stick looking thing is a hydrangea that never does anything–it’s getting moved this year.

My rhubarb is poking up next to the barn.  It starts out looking like an alien, but grows by leaps and bounds–it’s the kind of thing the kids love watching grow because you can see noticeable progress every day.

I stuck my planters full of Egyptian Walking Onions under the little ledge of the deck to overwinter–they are showing signs of life as well.  I’ve got to pick another spot in the garden where these can permanently live–they are not exactly a perennial–more a “self seeder”.  The onions set bulbs up at the TOP of the stalks, then you can either pull off those bulbs and plant them around or you can let it “walk”–the top eventually becomes heavy and the stalk bends over planting the bulbs on the ground :)

For the last photo in this set–I’m not growing bowling balls.  Seriously.  Those were given to me (the intent is to do mosaic tile on them and create garden art-Here’s a pinterest board full of bowling ball art).  I’m just showing you that semi shaded woodchip bed because that is one of the places I’m going to be planting Winecap Mushrooms once the spawn arrives.  These mushrooms grow in composting woodchips and straw–and apparently they also like growing in between vegetables etc.  They are a pretty distinctive looking mushroom and don’t have any poisonous look alikes.  So I’m pretty excited about growing them, trying them and then (hopefully) drying & preserving them.  I’m going to be tossing spawn all over the place in my various beds.

Starting Seeds Collage

And finally, along with all that planting yesterday I also finally got my seeds started this week.  Usually I just ignore the recommendation to “start 6 weeks before last frost” and start my plants super early, letting them grow bigger and potting them up into successively larger pots to keep them alive. . . but this year I just didn’t get to it.  So for once I’m really actually planting them 6 weeks before my last frost!

I’ve got a bunch of tomatoes, a variety of squash, some peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts and a couple of kinds of flowers started.  ACK-just realized I forgot cabbages!  Anyway, the trays are inside, sitting on a heat mat and covered with plastic wrap until they sprout, then they will get taken off the heat and moved downstairs under the lights for a bit.  Eventually I’ll move them out to the cold frames.  Or heck, I might just move some of them out to the cold frames right away.  We’ll see.

I’d love to hear what some of you are accomplishing or planning for your gardens this year!

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  1. says

    Great post Jenn!! I’m really digging in my heels and learning this year. My moms a good gardener but I never have really learned. So far I’ve replaced a couple of blueberry bushes & planted a flat of strawberries. They are doing great so far! Next is squash & tomatoes and maybe some beans. :) must try your dilly beans!

    • says

      Denise-There is a learning curve, so don’t worry if it all doesn’t come out exactly as planned the first year. Every single year I learn something new! For me it’s a constant progression of experiments, learning, reading, trying and a variety of successes and failures (luckily there are far more frequent successes!) I’m sure you’ll do great. Oh, and you really should plant beans. Not only are they tasty both fresh, cooked and as dilly beans, but they add nitrogen back to your soil–so it’s like a free fertilizer as well! See if you can pick up a packet of “bean innoculant”–you probably can’t get it at a big box store, but most gardening stores would have it–it’s sort of a starter packet of the beneficial bacteria that form a relationship with the roots of the beans and help it fix nitrogen–you’ll get better beans if you use it! Eventually it will just propagate itself in your garden, so after the first couple of years you don’t have to use it anymore unless you create a new bed somewhere.

  2. says

    I want to try cold frames this year. I’m living nearer to my work garden plot so it may not feel quite so onerous to extend the season now! Haven’t seen signs of my rhubarb–I’m a little worried!

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