Spring Veggie Gardening

As the days lengthen and warm, and visions of a teeming garden float through my mind, I am reminded to not rush the season. There are veggies and herbs that thrive in the cool, unpredictability of spring. We can think about the warm, humid days (and juicy tomatoes) ahead, but need to savor the bright days and cooler nights now.

Cool weather crops (like carrots, beets, peas, lettuce) are sown and crops (like broccoli, cabbage, onions) are transplanted. Spring is about the flush of new growth and in the vegetable garden we can harness that tastiness. Spring greens and perennial herbs are thriving in the cooler soil and freshening our plates and palates. 

Now is a great time to plant the hardier herbs like chives, tarragon, mint, oregano, thyme, or parsley. As threat of frost passes mid-month, additional tender herbs can go into the ground as well, such as cilantro and dill. As the days and ground warm even further over the next couple of weeks, warm season herbs like basil, lemongrass, or marjoram can be planted.

While there are veggies that love the cool spring rains, there are those that do not. And we shouldn’t rush them. Longer days of sunshine are what build heat in the soil and that takes some time. Vegetables that crave heat, like tomatoes and peppers and eggplant, love warm feet too, and the cool soil of in-ground gardens doesn’t promote strong root growth which they need to support healthy foliage and fruit growth. For our region, May tends to be a transition time from late spring slowly into summer.  Some years it may be more abrupt than others. But generally, later May finds the soil warming and night temperatures settling, so that is the best time to start planting those warm weather crops.

But if you are anxious for the taste of tomatoes, one way to get a jump on warm-season crops is to plant them in container gardens. Light-weight potting mix will warm up nicely in a pot that sits in the sun, giving those heat-loving plants a leg up on the cooler days and nights. Growing in containers also allows you to manage more closely the watering and fertilizing which can lead to healthy, productive plants. Even if you want to grow your tomatoes in the ground, you can still pot them into slightly larger pots as they grow so when the time is right you can plant a more robust plant in the ground.  Tomatoes tend to grow like weeds anyway so this potting on can often be more helpful with plants such as peppers and eggplant. But, in my experience, what tends to make all the difference is the soil temperature. Even little plants planted later into warmer soil will catch up to ones planted earlier.

At both Sargent’s locations, we of course have a tremendous collection of different vegetable and herb plants to help you jump start your veggie garden too. 

The rush of early spring planting is over, and we aren’t quite to late-spring planting in the veggie garden yet, so why not sit back and enjoy this short moment in time before the long, hot humid days of summer envelop us. Listen to the birds singing so joyously; admire the fresh greenery all around as trees and shrubs leaf out; wonder at those towering cumulus clouds that develop on warmer days; and feel excitement for the coming summer.

by Colette Buchholtz
2nd St Vegetable Manager