Early Spring Has Sprung! Planting Season Has Begun!

Welcome to the official start of spring gardening for 2016.  A few folks may have already planted their seed potatoes and onions but the recommended planting season on most cool season vegetable crops is from Valentine’s Day or February fourteenth through St. Patrick’s Day on March Seventeenth.  This is now officially the season to plant your white, red or yellow onion plants and onion sets, as well as your red, white, yellow and purple Irish seed potatoes.  This five week stretch is also the prime season to transplant small starter plants of cabbage, leaf or head lettuce and cauliflower which has exploded in popularity as the basis for many new eating diets.  Many leafy and root crops that thrive in the cooler seasons of late winter and early spring can easily be grown from seed.  This is the time to plant carrots and turnips that are healthy root crops.  Plant seeds of leafy crops like spinach, leaf and head lettuce, and Swiss chard to liven up your menu with fresh home grown greens.  Green peas and kohlrabi should also be planted by St. Patrick’s Day.

There are also many perennial food crops to plant now in the early spring season to produce fresh nutrition and great taste for years to come.  Plant crowns of asparagus on about 2 feet centers, let them grow the first year and start harvesting spears in the second season.  Rhubarb is an old fashioned treat but is also grown from crowns which look like dried roots.  Plant rhubarb now and make your own fresh rhubarb pie in future years.  Strawberries are easy to grow from bareroot plants available at this time of year.  There are many varieties based on whether you want everbearing varieties that will produce less fruit at a time, spread out over a season or spring bearing that will bear most all of their fruit in one spring bearing so it will be easier to host a strawberry shortcake party and entertain your guests at one event.  There are many varieties of strawberries depending on the size of fruit and sweetness you prefer.  Performance of all these fresh food crops will vary depending on your soil type, drainage, soil ph, watering habits, water quality, light levels, weather and many other factors.  Your onions or strawberries of the same variety may taste different that those of a friend across town.

If you want to add fruit trees, grape vines or many kinds of berries the least expensive way to get started is with bareroot plants which should be planted over the next few weeks for a high rate of success.  As it warms up and certainly by late March you will want to switch to container grown fruit trees, grapes and berries to maintain a high success rate in transplanting these crops into their new environment.  Visit with your local garden center or nursery for help in selecting the right variety of raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, gooseberries, grapes or other berry crops for your yard or farm.

It is always appropriate to plant container grown or balled and burlapped trees and shrubs as long as the soil is not frozen.  This is the beginning of the weed & feed season to apply pre-emergent weed killer to your lawn by spreading herbicide granules to kill the summer weeds as they start to germinate.  You can also apply pre-emergent herbicides by spraying your lawn.

Don’t forget tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and the time to remember and celebrate all those we love.  Few things communicate love, respect, passion and affection better than flowers.  Visit your local florist or garden center to select the fresh flowers or live plants that your loved one will cherish, enjoy and remember.  Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you who take the time to read this column.  I enjoy this time together and hope you have a special day with precious time with at least some of those you love.

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