I start my plants from seed because it lets me grow weird things they don’t sell as transplants–edamame, purple carrots, yellow strawberries. The downside of this, especially in the springtime, is that you need to start your seeds early, preferably indoors. If you’re in a warm climate, you can even start some summer crops, like eggplant and peppers, now. (For a list of when to start different types of seeds and how to get them started, see my All About Spring Seed Starting post.)
Root vegetables grow well during spring. Carrot, radish, and beet seeds can all be sown directly in the ground three weeks before the last frost. Most greens thrive during springtime too, as do peas. Cruciferous vegetables, like cauliflower and cabbage, will grow during the spring, but they’re quick to bolt as soon as the temperatures start heating up, so they’re best saved for fall, particularly if you live in a warmer climate. (I learned this from experience!)
People often ask me what vegetables are the easiest to grow. Easy is definitely a subjective thing–what grows easily for me might not grow easily for you. But I’ve never had a problem with lettuce or most greens, with the exception of chard. Greens make great plants for container gardens too. Smaller varieties of carrots, like the Parisian, are well-suited for container gardening and clay soils. Many varieties of radishes take under a month to mature, which makes them perfect for impatient gardeners–my favorites to grow are Watermelon.
I like growing organic, heirloom vegetables, which can be hard to find at nurseries and hardware stores. Some of my favorite sources for heirloom seeds are:
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds // If you’re looking for some oddball veggies to grow (and I mean that in a good way!), be sure to check out Baker Creek. I grow their Extra Dwarf Pak Choy in containers on our porch in the spring.
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange // One gardening lesson I learned the hard way is that not all seeds grow well in all parts of the country. Southern Exposure sells heirloom seeds that grow well in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast–like peanuts!
It’s best to start preparing your spring garden as soon as your fall crops have been harvested–remove all remaining plants, weed (you don’t want weeds going to seed in your garden!), and plant a cover crop to add nutrients to the soil for the coming season. Of course, it’s now the end of February, so it’s a little bit too late for that. But don’t worry! There are still things you can do now to get your garden ready.
Whether you have raised beds or simply plant directly in the ground, it’s a good idea to add compost before you start your spring planting. If you still have weeds or plants left from the fall, pull all those out, then add a fresh layer of compost to your garden beds. You’ll want to wait until the soil is dry before you start working with it, and although it’s hard to predict this, it’s best to wait after the last snow of the season too. The amount of compost you add depends on the quality of your soil–we have poor-quality clay soil here, which is why I use raised beds. I fill them with good soil and then when I add compost each season, I only have to add about an inch. You can buy compost at your local nursery or hardware store, or make your own by composting kitchen scraps.
Here are some of my favorite books and resources about gardening:
The Beginner’s Guide to Growing Heirloom Vegetables by Marie Iannotti // This is a good starter book for heirloom veggies, although I’d recommend you buy this before buying your seeds because it features in-depth information for 100 easy-to-grow heirlooms–it’s a guide to those specific varieties, not heirloom vegetables in general.
Guide to North Carolina Vegetable Gardening by Walter Reeves & Felder Rushing and Month-By-Month Gardening in Carolinas by Bob Polomski // Okay, I know, books about the Carolinas are of no use to most of you. But there are lots of regional gardening books out there–buy one! The month-by-month book is particularly helpful because all I have to do is flip to March to find out that I need to start carrot and lettuce seeds soon.
All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew // I have the older edition of this book, but I’m sure the new one is just as helpful. We don’t have the best soil here, so I use the square foot gardening technique in my yard. Using this method, you can maximize the amount of produce you get while minimizing the amount of space your garden takes up.
The Speedy Vegetable Garden by Mark Diacono & Lia Leendertz // I received this book to review and I can’t wait to put some of its tips to use. Gardening often tests my patience, but this book is all about things you can grow quickly–sprouts (did you know you can sprout chickpeas?!), micro greens, and even quick-harvest vegetables like early potatoes and dwarf French beans. Unlike most gardening books, this one also includes recipe ideas to help you use up all your homegrown veggies!
Urban Farm Magazine // While I do not live in an urban area and my garden definitely does not qualify as a farm, I enjoy this magazine’s emphasis on sustainable gardening in small spaces.
The GardenWeb Forums // If you have a question, odds are that someone has asked it before here. And if you browse through these forums, you will probably find answers to questions you didn’t even know you had. The former librarian in me loves their breakdown of all the different categories–whether you’re looking for information about growing your own bananas or gardening on a hillside, there’s something for you here.
Disclaimer: The links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links, so if you were to purchase any of these books, I’d get a small percentage of the sale.
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