It’s time to get up and make your beds — your vegetable and flower beds, that is — while it’s still cool. (Getty Images)

It’s time to get up and make your beds — your vegetable and flower beds, that is — while it’s still cool. (Getty Images)

Get those frost-tolerant veggies into the ground while it’s still cool

And while you’re at it, tuck a few varieties of frost-tolerant flowers into your beds, as well.

And so, it begins again. Another gardening season is upon us and it is time to get off our proverbial butts and venture out into the cold abyss of our gardens to start the ritual of gardening once again. Up to this point, I have to admit, I have been dragging my feet, but there is no turning back now.

The reality is that in a few more days it will be the spring equinox, which is when the daylight hours become longer than the nighttime hours. Add to this blessed event the fact that we are now back on daylight saving time and I think it is safe to say that even the most fair-weather gardener will find it hard to resist the urge to get their hands dirty. Spring has sprung!

For some of us, getting back into gardening mode is like going from 0 to 60 mph in 5 seconds. We jump in with the pedal to the metal — or should I say the petal to the metal — and never look back. At the first sunny weekend, we try and get caught up by raking, digging, fertilizing, pruning, planting, thatching and whatever else is on our to-do list, not thinking of course that we have been couch potatoes for the last four months. Please, pace yourself so you don’t spend the rest of the month in traction or addicted to pain killers.

For me, getting into the new season usually means working up the raised veggie beds by tilling in fertilizer and compost. (There is little to no weeding to do in my beds because I spread an inch of compost over the top of the soil last fall and smothered any weed seeds.) Once everything is all fluffed up, it’s off to the garden center to buy some seeds and transplants.

I realize that a lot of gardeners don’t mess with a cool season vegetable garden and simply wait until they can plant their tomatoes, peppers, beans and cukes. Personally, I can’t stand to see the soil lay fallow for that long, so I will plant a half-dozen broccoli plants, sow some peas, maybe try some shallots or leeks, and of course spinach. Potatoes are also loads of fun, if you have the room, and they’re sweetest if you harvest them early as new potatoes. Essentially, all root crops need to be planted when it is cool.

The cool season is also the best time to plant leafy crops like lettuce, arugula, spinach, kale, swiss chard, romaine and cabbage. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kohlrabi can be planted now, too.

The best part about planting cool-season veggies is that you can grow varieties that are not in the grocery store. For some cheap entertainment, spend some time at the garden center looking over their seed racks. You will find goodies like the Mantanghong watermelon radish that grows up to one pound with white skin and pink flesh. There is also purple broccoli, golden beets, rainbow carrots and even green Romanesco cauliflower. This is the fun part of gardening for me.

While you are planting your frost-tolerant veggies, be sure to add some frost-tolerant annuals like calendulas, stocks, snapdragons, pansies, primroses and sweet alyssum. These not only dress up the beds, they also help repel insects.

Whether flowers or veggies, start with the frost-tolerant stuff. There is no need to wait to plant until it is warm enough for tomatoes — there will be plenty of time for that. Be assured, if it is out on the benches in the garden center, it is safe to plant!

Free class

Sunnyside’s next free class will be “Cool Crops: Early Season Veggies” at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 18. For more information, visit

Steve Smith represents Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at

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