It’s Not Too Early To Begin Your Vegetable Garden
Despite the polar vortex, spring is not far away. For gardeners in milder areas it is already time to start thinking and planning for the coming season, and even if you are further north it is never too early for choosing heirloom vegetable seeds and planning your vegetable garden.
One major problem with the unplanned garden is that everything is ready to harvest at once. After waiting all summer, suddenly in fall you have such a bounty from the garden that it cannot all be consumed at once.
So when choosing vegetable seeds be sure to think about early crops and fast-maturing varieties, so that you have fresh organic GMO-free produce on your table from early summer on.
A very good way to do this is to take advantage of the fact that some vegetable seeds are much hardier than others. They will happily sprout and grow in temperatures that will leave tomatoes and peppers shivering.
One of the hardiest is the Broad Bean, as Europeans call it. In North and South America Fava Bean is the usual name for Vicia faba as botanists call it. In very mild areas these can even be planted in late fall, but the usual season is early spring as soon as the vegetable garden can be worked.
February is not too soon if you are in an area where much frost can be expected later than that. Unlike garden peas which like a warm soil, Broad Beans will germinate happily in cold ground and put on a lot of growth very quickly.
Once summer comes you will already be harvesting the big pods, which have a velvety lining in which nestle the bright green beans. These have a skin which should be removed before eating. To process a large quantity they can be dropped for a few moments in boiling water to make removal of the skin easier. They can be eaten raw, dipped in a little salt to start a meal, as they do in France and Italy, cooked with onions, garlic and tomato as a vegetable side dish, or added to soups and stews.
Being legumes they will enrich the soil with nitrogen, so be sure to leave the roots in the ground when clearing away, which will be possible early enough to leave the ground available for some late summer seed sowing of more vegetable seeds.
Growing Herbs Can Even Be Done Early In the Season
Early spring is also a good time for hardy salad crops like Arugula which will be ready to harvest in a little over a month and will not run too quickly to seed as it does in warmer weather. Corn Salad too will thrive in the cool days of early spring and is a great addition to any salad.
When it comes to growing herbs, Chervil especially benefits from an early sowing, rewarding you with masses of delicious anise-flavoured leaves for salads, eggs or sauces.
Some root crops can also be started early. Most carrots need warmer soil, but ‘Scarlet Nantes’ is a variety that will thrive in cooler conditions to give you beautiful finger-long early carrots for the table within 60 days. Pull these up in a way that thins out the row and leaves room for the remaining plants to spend another month or so maturing into larger roots.
A little planning for the vegetable garden, or when growing herbs, is sure to be rewarded with a long productive season of crops for you and your family.