Spring Planting

Through many years of experiment and observation, I’ve created a planting calendar for my kitchen garden, a monthly reminder of what to plant when.  This time of year, every week or two from early March through late May there are seeds to sow, usually in pots indoors but sometimes out in the garden, and growing plants to harden off and set out.

The onions I seeded indoors in early March went into a garden bed this past week, thin green shoots that will be robust spears by mid-summer, and the potatoes I greened up in late March went into the ground in late April, their sprouts buried in a shallow trench but promising vigorous above-ground growth in just a few weeks.

Onion planting

Potatoes in trenchThe sugar snap peas I planted in early March and set out in the garden ten days later are already over a foot tall and climbing in the bed next to the potatoes.  The tomatoes I seeded indoors on that same March day went into the greenhouse in early April and are thriving, almost ready to start training into the tall vines they will become by summer.  The eggplant and peppers started indoors in mid-March went into the greenhouse yesterday. They’re much smaller than their tomato cousins but will catch up soon.

Peppers, Eggplant, Tomatoes in GHAnd last week on the last day of April I planted seeds of radishes, chard, lettuce, carrots, beets, and turnips in a garden bed.  A few warm days and the radish sprouts will be showing followed soon by the first green of the other roots and greens.  As May warms and dries, I’ll plan beans, corn and squash and at the end of the month another bed of greens and roots.

There’s great pleasure in repeating these tasks every spring, planting seeds, watching for their germination, tending the growing plants, setting them out in their permanent spots. Coming regularly as they do each year makes them less a chore and more a part of the natural rhythm of the year, a link to the lengthening daylight and warming temperatures, the blossoms and leaves on fruit trees and shrubs, all signals of the welcome turn to spring and summer.

Winter Gives Way to Spring

Planting springMonday morning, I picked the last of the curly endive and mache from the bed that had held these hardy greens all winter.  That same afternoon, I forked up the soil, raked in a little compost and set out starts of lettuce, radicchio, fennel, broccoli and cauliflower I’d seeded indoors a month ago.  The day was sunny, the air was soft; spring had definitely edged out winter and it was wonderful to be kneeling next to a bed, hands in the dirt, planting.

Harvesting the last of winter crops in the morning and planting spring crops in the afternoon is one of the pleasures of kitchen gardening this time of year. It will be weeks before these little starts will be the size of the greens I harvested that day, but it’s the cycle of planting and growing beginning again that gives pleasure.

Noticing winter crops giving way to spring seeding and growth happens a lot this time of year.  I pulled the last of the celery roots the other day, big, gnarly, thick-skinned but still sweet globes, and in a day or two I’ll plant a flat of tiny seeds for next year’s crop. There are a few big potatoes still to eat but there’s also a tray of small potatoes greening up for planting soon. The jar of dried tomatoes is nearly empty but sturdy new tomato plants are ready for the greenhouse.  There’s one bag of storage onions left but the fragile green threads of next year’s onions are already growing, and though there’s only one more garlic bulb in the bin the green shafts of the new crop are growing taller each day.

These are the reassuring patterns that delight kitchen gardeners as spring begins.