Thursday, May 12, 2011

Finally, I’ve Planted ‘Early’ Veggies

Short 'n Sweet carrots

I had every good intention of planting seeds of my cool-weather veggies in early April, but, as I mentioned in an earlier blog, it rained and showered in the whole month of April and the first week of May—enough to keep our veggie garden saturated and unworkable for nearly five weeks.

But the weather cleared last week. Soil became workable, so I planted my spring veggie seeds in our garden. Here’s my planting list. Maybe you’ll find a veggie you’ll want to try:

Carrot (Daucus carota): I’ve planted Short ‘n Sweet (W. Atlee Burpee & Co.) for several years now because its four-inch roots grow well in our heavy Maryland soil and because its bright-orange roots are sweet in reality and not just in the catalog description. Days to maturity: 68.

Green bean (Phaseolus vulgaris): Tenderpod (W. Atlee Burpee & Co.) has been my favorite “snap” bean for so long that I cannot remember when I began planting it. Burpee describes it as “tender, stringless & meaty.” I call it “One good string bean—without the string, of course.” The round, green pods average about 5½-inches long. We could freeze them—if we didn’t eat them all. Days to maturity: 50.

Ruby Red chard
Chard (Beta vulgaris): Ruby Red (W. Atlee Burpee & Co.) has deep-red stalks and medium to large leaves. Small leaves look great in springtime salads. Later, larger leaves and stalks make for savory cooked greens. 55 days. Visitors often exclaim, “Oh, you grow rhubarb.”

Beet (Beta vulgaris): Cylindra (W. Atlee Burpee & Co.) is my choice for spring planting. The reason is simple: I have seeds, which I stored over winter in our fridge, left from 2010. I like the cylindrical red roots, which are perfect for slicing. Days to maturity: 60.

Simpsons Curled lettuce
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa): Simpsons Curled (Bentley Seeds, Inc.), Red Sails (Botanical Interests, Inc.), and Coastal Star (Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Inc.) are the same three that I posted about starting inside in yoghurt cups three weeks ago. Simpsons Curled is a bright-green leaf lettuce that matures in 45 days. Red Sails, according to Botanical Interests, is a “fancy buttery lettuce with ruffled burgundy-tinged leaves … a salad lover’s dream” that also matures in 45 days, so I’m already dreaming of a mixed salad of Red Sails and Simpsons Curled. Coastal Star is a green romaine/cos that Johnny’s calls “heat tolerant,” a characteristic that I hope will stretch our spring lettuce season well into summer. Coastal Star matures in 57 days.

My warren hoe
I prepared the soil with my warren hoe, which I use as a plow instead of digging with a shovel, spade, or garden fork. I also made short, 4-foot hills on our terraced veggie beds with the hoe. I then used the end of the hoe’s handle to make shallow furrows in which I dropped the seeds. I used a small garden rake to cover the seeds and to tamp and flatten the soil. I marked the ends of the rows with forsythia twigs that had dried over winter in a bucket in our garage.

Since the rows are so short, I’ll have to plant additional rows in a couple of weeks to extend our harvest. Gardening on top of a hill has its challenges, but the short rows in our terraced gardens yield just about the right amount of veggies for the two of us.

The seeds should be sprouting over the next week or 10 days. I just hope the thunderstorms forecast for the weekend pass us by—or don’t deliver downpours that wash away my sprouting seeds.

To read my earlier blog about starting lettuce inside, CLICK HERE.

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