It’s time to get the cool-season vegetables planted

Root crops, such as potatoes, onions, leeks and carrots, should be planted now.

Something magical happened this week: It actually got up to 50 degrees, and that is significant for two reasons.

First, it now feels comfortable to be outside working in the garden. Second, the mercury getting to 50 degrees triggers all sorts of awakenings in the plant world. The switch gets turned on and there is no turning back. Spring has sprung!

My first order of action this time of year is to get my raised beds ready for planting. Due to the highly organic nature of my soil, I have very few weeds and the ones that dared to germinate last fall are very easy to pull out. Obviously, if you have lots of annual weeds, you need to either turn them under or hoe them out before you do anything else.

Next, I apply a very generous amount (often double the recommended rate) of organic veggie food and a dusting of lime — all of which is covered with a fresh 1-inch layer of compost. Like any cake recipe, these ingredients need to be blended together, and this is where I excitedly get to use my power tools.

I remove the string trimmer head on my Stihl FS90R and attach the rototiller unit, which I lovingly refer to as my garden egg beater. After whipping the ground into a froth of nutrients and microorganisms, I finish the process by smoothing out the mixture with a garden rake. Presto bingo, I am ready to plant.

We have two seasons for growing veggies, and now is obviously the cool season. Later in the year will be the warm season, when we plant beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.

Here is what we should be planting now:

Root crops, such as potatoes, onions, leeks, carrots, radishes, turnips, shallots, garlic (best to plant in the fall, but very few of us ever do) and beets should all go into the ground now. Carrots, radishes, and beets are normally planted from seed, but you can also find them available as seedlings in packs. I prefer to plant my beets from packs because I can space them better. If you are sowing carrot seeds, take them out of the package and mix them with some fine sand so that when you sprinkle them over the soil they will be spread apart better. It’s a little trick that works pretty well.

Shoot crops, such as lettuce, romaine, spinach, cabbage and that ghastly green stuff that some people mix with who-knows-what and blend into a green “shake” every morning for breakfast, should all be planted now. Also, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and kohlrabi (all of which are collectively known as “cole crops” and are “heavy feeders,” meaning they need a little extra dollop of fertilizer) can be planted now.

Finally, it’s time to plant peas. The best way to do it is to soak them first for several hours (or overnight) to plump them up before you push them an inch or two into the ground.

So, it’s time to get excited (but not panicked) about the new season. There is much to catch up on and much to look forward to. Whether flowers or veggies, start with the cold hardy stuff and don’t push it. If it is out on the benches in the garden centers, it is safe to plant. Happy gardening!

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at info@sunnysidenursery.net.

Grow your own food

A free class on growing vegetables will be held at 10 a.m. March 23 at Sunnyside Nursery. A class on edible landscapes is planned for 11 a.m. March 24, also at Sunnyside Nursery, 3915 Sunnyside Blvd., Marysville. For more information or to sign up, go to www.sunnysidenursery.net.

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