Here on the Front Range of Colorado, we haven’t had much of a winter at all. I always look forward to a few good snow storms to ready to pasture and garden for the coming dry summer. But, this year…not much happened. This sets me up for knowing that the summer will likely still be dry…and I will need to pay special attention to my garden. Because of this, I’ll be looking for some early spring plantings and salad greens that can take a random spring snow storm (since it is very likely one WILL come). The unseasonably warm weather has me itching to get out in the soil. I want to ready it for planting, check to see how it wintered, and get a few seeds in the ground.
On my property, I have raised beds with plastic tunnel covers to use in the spring. These are promptly removed once the warm summer hits, but they provide the perfect opportunity for getting some seeds in now, even if there is the potential for more snow. I have some ” go to” plants that take the chill and can lead to some fresh veggies much faster than my surrounding neighbor’s gardens. In my garden right now, deep beneath the soil, rests the following 6 plants. I cannot wait until they pop up their sleepy little stems!
Peas: My kids absolutely love peas, especially snow peas. They will stand in the garden, their bare feet tickled by the early summer sun, and eat them right off the vine. Peas tolerate a little chill well, and can grow in either vines or bushes. Most peas take between 50-65 days to mature, which means they are among our first garden treats when I plant them early. The hot mountain sun in the summer tends to be tough on my peas because of our altitude, so this is one of my favorite vegetables to use in early planting. Yum!
Kale: Either you love it or hate it, but Kale is a dead easy plant to start from seed in the early spring! I love to plant several different varieties, and we use them in stir fry, salad, and baked as an alternative for chips. My kids love crunchy kale made with sesame oil and sea salt. The sweetest kale is usually the baby leaves harvested in the spring. They can be harvested in as little as three weeks for some varieties!
Radishes: These little globes of goodness are the impatient gardeners’ dream! They are fast to mature, can stand a little chill, and are at their sweetest when harvested young. Hot temperatures can cause radishes to bolt and get woody, so the cool spring temps really lend themselves to radish growing. Because they mature fast, kids love to grow them. They see the fruits of their labor quickly. Add their spicy or sweet crunch to salads, or serve as a side veggie with a little bit of pink Himalayan salt for a real treat!
Chard: Plant several colorful varieties of chard to liven up the colors in your early spring garden. Chard is a gorgeous early vegetable that can be harvested in its baby form in as little as 25 days! It can be eaten raw, used in juicing and smoothies, or quickly sauteed for a wonderful side dish. Kids typically love its colors in the garden…and you can find it in quite a few! This is a great little veggie to plant early and expose the kids to that fresh spring flavor.
Spinach: I always joke that anyone who does not love spinach has never had it straight from the garden to their plate. Spinach loves the cool spring temperatures and grows up quickly. I will be harvesting a large supply of baby spinach starting at around day 20! There are lots of different varieties of spinach. It’s fun to stagger your planting and enjoy weeks of different baby spinach in the early spring and into summer. Don’t forget, it also packs a nutritional punch…but don’t tell your kids!
Lettuce: Almost all varieties of lettuce do well in cooler spring temps. You will want to cover them if you have a late frost, but most of the time lettuce is a tough little trooper. There is nothing quite like a fresh spring salad! Depending on the variety, you could be harvesting baby or micro varieties as early as three weeks after planting the seeds. Lettuce will also happily soak in the moisture from cool spring rains and become sweeter and crunchier! The good news about starting lettuce early is you avoid the hottest part of the year, which can encourage lettuce to bolt! Have it on sandwiches, as a salad, or as a wilted lettuce side dish (as soon as mine is up, I’ll share that recipe with you!).
As you set about your early planting, your hands deep in the soil, it is amazing how thankful and grateful you feel being able to grow such fresh food your family will love! Happy spring planting!