Friday, February 10, 2012

Getting Ready for Planting

One of these days I'll get some info up on that whole eating wild plants thing. It's kind of cool, the number of ordinary things that grow everywhere that we don't even think of as food. In the event of a disaster, most of us would just stand on our driveways and starve!

But for now, we'll have to settle for planting things we know we can eat. And with spring coming up fast, it's time to take a quick look at things that can go in the garden (or your square-foot garden) nice and early.

Broccoli: This stuff hates hot weather, so you either want to plant it early in the spring or later towards the fall. It actually tastes better as a fall plant, but a spring crop is a nice way to kick off the gardening season. For a spring crop, plant seeds indoors six weeks before last frost, and bed out hardened seedlings when they're four weeks old.

Spinach and Swiss Chard: Plant it when you're able to work the soil. You can start it earlier indoors as well, and put sprouted plants out after frost (spinach doesn't really mind the frost that much though). This stuff doesn't like a lot of heat, but it will grow all summer. The trouble with heat is that the plants will actually grow too fast and can get a little tough, so spring leafy greens are always the way to go.

Lettuce: Pretty much the same as spinach. Very easy to grow, and very tasty when harvested in slightly chilly conditions. You can eat spinach or lettuce as soon as leaves appear. If you're square-foot gardening, wait until you have enough for a salad!

TIP: You don't have to harvest lettuce and spinach right out of the soil. Cut the leaves about an inch above the soil, and they'll re-sprout for you. Do this until the leaves get bitter, and you can have a crop for several months.

Cabbage: Basically the same as for broccoli.

Peas: There's a tradition of planting peas on St. Patrick's Day, but in Canada this is pretty early in the season. Throw them in a month later and you'll have a ton of peas throughout the early summer.

These are plants you can get started with early in the season. Check a few online resources for tips on summer crops that you'll need to get ready next, because once these plants run their course, your next bunch will have to be almost set for harvest.

Peas and broccoli, by the way, are great for freezing, so you can do entire patches of these and set yourself up for next winter. They do need to be parboiled before freezing though, so make sure you set aside enough time to do this (or do it a bit at a time). You could freeze spinach as well, but the boiling won't leave it as salad greens.


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