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Getting Ready – Spring Gardening Plants and Tips

Every gardener eagerly anticipates the spring gardening season. As the temperature starts to rise, and mild days lure us outdoors, we ditch the indoors and get busy outside at the first warmer day. The promise of spring quickens our pulse, eager to get out there and plant something.

With new life bursting forth in vibrant colors from earth to sky, is ever a time of renewal of the yard and garden… and of the gardener’s spirits! 

Spring flowers and shrubs, like the amazing flame azalea – an orange flower shrub, and redbud trees budding into blossoms never fail to lift our spirits. Or the very fragrant sweet box ground cover with simple white flowers that pack a powerful and delightful fragrance.

Plant lovers in spring are like kids in a candy store, bringing home new plants with almost every trip to town!

From Winter to Spring Gardening

As our regular readers know, we live in the woods out in the country with limited garden space, and right now, about half of our garden space is already occupied. How so? We’re fortunate to have carry-over winter vegetables from the fall planting through a fairly mild winter. Temperatures have rarely dropped below 20° F here in zone 7a so far this (and last) winter.

This winter we grew more winter crops with the aid of our cattle panel greenhouse and also products like frost covers.  It’s been WONDERFUL to have fresh garden greens all winter, as well as microgreens, with the help of products like a simple heat mat and LED grow lights.

We still have many of the cole crops: broccoli, kale, Swiss chard, mizuna, arugula, and cabbage. Plus, we still have radicchio, corn salad, dandelion, and pansies.

A special bonus to winter gardening: all this bounty with very few weeds, no pests, and next to no watering! Now that is a gardener’s paradise!

This week we’re enjoying amazingly fresh green salads with most of the above greens. Great tasting, hardy greens (not like the wimpy stuff from the store), plus the best possible nutrients of organic garden-to-table produce.

Spring Gardening Showcases Color and Texture

There’s another wonderful feature: the color and texture of every leafy morsel adds visual appeal in shape and color. In fact, many of these spring plants are good enough for edible landscape gardens that even many HOA rules won’t mind.

And while it’s too early to plant tomatoes, you may be able to start growing them from seed indoors to be off to a running start when your soil temps rise enough to transplant them.

We love planting beauty in both our food and landscape gardens. Whether it’s form, texture, color, scent, or some other feature, the gardener’s palette holds endless possibilities. Here are some of our favorite vegetable varieties that may help with your garden planning.

“O wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
~Percy Bysshe Shelley, English Poet, 1792–1822

Winter Quote, Winter Meme, "O Wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?" #WinterQuote #WinterMeme #WinterPoem #PercyByssheShelley #FamousPoet #SpringQuote #SpringMeme #GardensAll
Image by Oldiefan

Colorful Spring Gardening Vegetables to Grow

The Cruciferous Vegetables – Brassica Family

  • Beets – plant right after last frost
  • Bok Choy – Purple Lady
  • Broccoli – Premium
  • Carrots – plant 2 weeks before last frost
  • Cucumber – plant 2 weeks after last frost
  • Collards
  • Kale –
  • Kalibos Cabbage
  • Mizuna – Beni Houshi
  • Potatoes – hearty – can withstand a few freezes
  • Swiss chard – especially the richly colorful types like “Bright Lights
  • Turnips

Swiss Chard in GardensAll Garden

SPRING GARDENING - Swiss Chard: #SwissChard #ColorfulVegetables #ChicoryVegetables #SpringVegetables #GreenVegetables #Vegetables #SpringGardening #VegetableGarden

Radicchio in GardensAll Garden

SPRING GARDENING - Radicchio: #Radicchio #ColorfulVegetables #ChicoryVegetables #Radicchio #SpringVegetables #GreenVegetables #Vegetables #SpringGardening #VegetableGarden

Broccoli in GardensAll Garden

SPRING GARDENING - Broccoli: Enjoy the leaves and vegetables of this amazing cool weather vegetable. #Cruciferous #EdibleLeaves #Broccoli #SpringVegetables #GreenVegetables #Vegetables #SpringGardening #VegetableGarden

Kalibos Cabbage in GardensAll Garden

SPRING GARDENING - Kalibos Cabbage is a wonderfully textured and color spring vegetable to grow. #KalibosCabbage #Cabbage #ColorfulCabbage #RedCabbage #OrnamentalVegetables #OrnamentalCabbage #EdibleLandscape #SpringVegetables #GreenVegetables #Vegetables #SpringGardening #VegetableGarden

Spring Gardening Greens to Grow in the Chicory Family

Italian dandelion (Cichorum intybus), It grows best in USDA plant grow zones 4-9, and is not a true dandelion but of the Chicory family commonly used in Italy for salads. The Italian dandelion leaves are similar in appearance and taste to the common dandelion, featuring larger, darker green leaves that grow more upright.

The common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), grows best in zones 3-9, and is a powerfully healthy and healing plant, with edible, leaves, roots and flowers. Dandelion stems contain a white milky sap containing latex, which some claim to be edible and medicinal for the liver. There’s a little more on that in this article on edible weeds, but always do extensive research before consuming, and if in doubt, don’t!

Early Spring Gardening Plants include greens like this colorful red Kalibos Cabbage. #SpringGardening #SpringGardeningPlants #KalibosCabbage #RedGardenCabbage #RedGardenGreens #SpringGardeningTips #GardensAll
Radicchio (front) Swiss Chard (back) and dandelions Italiko Rosso’s (left)

Colorful Spring Plants for Beauty and Health

Colorful plants don’t only feed the soul and senses, they also feed the body special nutrients. We tend to favor the reds and purples. Any fruit or vegetable with purple or red contain an extra measure of antioxidants. These anthocyanins protect our cells from the ravages of aging, cancer, stroke, and heart disease.

RELATED: Growing blueberries

Variety not only spices up your garden, but color assortments also provide a wide range of nutritional benefits. Remember the rainbow plate as recommended for a balanced nutrient rich diet? A rainbow garden transforms color and beauty into a colorful plate of delicious and nutrient rich food to grace plate and palate!

Naturally, many of these cool season vegetables are well-suited for late-season planting as well, able to carry through the winter weeks and months with a bit of protection. Some actually taste better after a frost or freeze.

Eat the Leaves Too!

Cabbage and Broccoli not ready? Eat the leaves! Harvest the green leaves of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables for delicious greens that can be steamed, sautéed, shredded or chopped into salads, soups and stir fry.

We like to harvest the lower, bigger leaves as cooking greens and the younger tender ones to add to salad blends, (or just shred the tough ones and sprinkle in for extra crunch and texture to salads. Just be sure to leave 50% or more on the plant to keep on nourishing the growing vegetable.

Eat the Scapes!

We planted a variety of hardneck garlic bulbs (Moroccan Creole) last fall and look forward to harvesting the scapes that grow out of the bulbs in late spring. Scapes are delicious sauteed or added to soup to impart a fresh garlic flavor. We’re also over-winteering leeks that were transplanted into the fall garden.

You can eat the leaves of the cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, prepared the same way you would cooking or salad greens.

Spring Gardening Tasks to Feed Your Gardening Ferver

On milder days, but still too soon to plant new crops in the soil, it’s a perfect time to get your garden ready. Think of like getting a baby’s room ready BEFORE the baby comes home. It’s the same in your yard and garden with your plants. You know how busy you’ll be at planting time and then again in summer to keep up with weeds, growth, pests, etc.

So spring is a perfect time to get your landscape “nursery” ready to receive new plants for a thriving season. Just think how wonderful it will feel to have your garden so ready to receive new garden plan of seeds, seedlings, and plants!

SPRING GARDEN PREP LIST

If you did a good job with fall maintenance and winterizing of your garden, you shouldn’t have a huge list for spring gardening preparations. But here’s a checklist to run down, with some expanded tips after that.

  • Assess cold weather damage and clean and clear it
  • Clean and clear garden beds and landscape areas
  • Clean, clear and repair drainage areas
  • Add lime to soil
  • Add new mulch to the beds
  • Weed new weeds – (but remember to eat the good edible & medicinal ones like chickweed)
  • Repair and clean hardscape areas
    • fences
    • posts
    • benches
    • sheds
    • trellises
    • garden bed structures
  • inspect for critter encroachment or damage to remedy
  • plan your new garden layout –
    • check your existing seed inventory before you dare look at the seed catalogs
    • order seeds as needed
    • schedule seeds to start and when
    • schedule what plants to buy and when
  • Prune shrubs if plants are still dormant

Prep Garden Beds With Mulch

Winter tasks to do while your patiently (ahem!) waiting for more warm weather gardening opportunities is to mulch your flower beds, landscape sections and your vegetable garden and fruit trees. Fall (especially), but also winter and spring clean up are also great times to build hugelkultur beds.

Winter tasks to do while your patiently (ahem!) waiting for more warm weather gardening opportunities is to mulch your flower beds, landscape sections and your vegetable garden and fruit trees. Fall (especially), but also winter and spring clean up are also great times to build hugelkultur beds.

Fall is super because your hugelkultur “ditch” is the perfect place to dump the fall cleanup of leaves and limbs. Just be sure to burn any blighted plant debris, but the good stuff can go into building your hugelkultur or compost pile.

Organic mulches of straw, grass clippings, leaves, and wood chips help retain moisture and insulate the soil in your garden beds from frost heave. As the mulch decays, organic material is added to the soil that will build up nutrients for the upcoming seasons. Composting organic materials also attract worms and beneficial microbes.

Free Wood Chips Mulch

If you see a tree service company working trees in your vicinity, offer them a place to dump their chips. The tree guys are often delighted to have someplace local to discard their refuse. Another way to acquire free chips is to sign up on “ChipDrop.com”. Get on their list and tree services operating in your area will know where they can offload their material.Participants may have to wait several weeks, but it’ll be worth it. 

RELATED: You can read more about free wood chip mulch here as well as calculating mulch needs.

Garden Planning – What to Plant and When

When it comes to what to plant, there are a number of factors to consider, which we cover more in this article on deciding what vegetables to plant.

Looking forward to spring gardening! Please let us know what you’re prepping and planting for spring!

Let’s keep on growing!

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