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GardenSMART :: Get Ready to Direct Sow Your Cool-Weather-Loving Crops

Get Ready to Direct Sow Your Cool-Weather-Loving Crops

By Shannon McCabe, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds/
Photographs courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

As the spring thaw approaches, it is time to consider direct seeding cool weather crops. Crops like peas, carrots, lettuce, kale and spinach can be sown before the last frost date. These crops should be sowed early, especially in regions with short, hot springs and scorching summer temperatures.

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Peas How can a crop that is so rugged and cold hardy taste so sweet and delicate? One of the most cold hardy seeds, peas can be sown as soon as the soil can be worked in late winter or early spring.

Lettuce Lettuce is an easy to grow beginner's crop. It is very hardy and adaptable with one big condition: lettuce hates heat! For spring planting, sow seeds 2-4 weeks before the last frost. You can seed densely for loose-leaf varieties and thin to 4 inches per plant; for heading types, space plants about 8-12 inches apart.

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Carrots Carrots are one of the most rewarding crops; nothing is more satisfying than pulling those long crisp roots from the soil! Carrots can be sown around 3 weeks before the last expected frost and every 2 weeks after that. Remember that carrots that mature during the heat of summer will have a more bitter taste, so the earlier, the better!

Radish Spring radishes are quite cold tolerant and very quick to mature, with some varieties maturing in just 18 days! The best way to ensure a consistent supply of radishes is to secession sow every week. Sow radish in rows about 3 inches apart, or try interplanting them with carrots, which grow more slowly.

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Parsnips — Parsnips are a long season root vegetable. The seeds should be sown as soon as the soil can be worked in the early spring. Be sure to double dig your parsnip bed and amend it as needed, those roots will want loose, well-drained soil!

Chard — Known as one of the most adaptable and versatile veggies, Swiss chard can be sown in the cool early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Swiss chard is the most shade tolerant of all of the garden veggies, a great choice for that partly shaded corner of your plot.

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Spinach Spinach is a leafy green vegetable that grows best in cool weather. True spinach is very cold tolerant, one of the first crops planted at winter's end. Plant about 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost in the spring. Space plants 12 inches apart, this gives the leaves room to reach full size.

Kale — Kale is cold tolerant, easy to grow and highly nutritious. In the spring, sow seeds 8-10 weeks before the last frost. This cabbage relative is considered a perfect beginner gardener's crop; it requires very little care to thrive. It can tolerate an impressive amount of cool weather. Set plants out or thin to 12-18 inches apart.

Be sure to plan your early season crops so you can grow your most nutritious and successful early spring garden!


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