Spring Vegetable Planting Tips
Spring Vegetables: What, When and How to Plant
Spring is often revered as the awakening, the start of a new planting season. Since there are so few crops that grow in the winter season, spring offers the first big opportunity to plant crops anew. For California, spring means rain, foggy weather, and still cooler temperatures, the perfect backdrop from which to start your garden. A variety of vegetables and fruits can be planted from March through May, and even some planting times for these extend into the summer and fall seasons.
Vegetables are the faster type of plant to grow. Usually a one yield crop, many vegetables can be planted in early spring and be ready to harvest by the middle or the end of summer. Most are easy to grow for even the novice gardener. While this list is expansive, don't limit yourself to what you see here. There are all kinds of vegetables just waiting to thrive under your farmer's care for eventual eating enjoyment.
Asparagus. Asparagus prefers a more basic soil, which is more sandy rather than acidic. The soils of Southern California are more rocky than not, which should be good enough for the humble asparagus. Some of the more common types of asparagus include Mary, Martha, or Washington varieties. Purchase your asparagus plants from a nursery, as growing them from seed is difficult. Here at The Yard Fairy, we recommend year-old shoots which are strong enough to grow into hearty plants and can also to be transplanted. Asparagus is a shallow growing plant which grows for a few years, crowns need to develop.
Broccoli. Broccoli yields one crop, after being picked from the ground. We recommend transplanting broccoli shoots, rather than planting seeds directly. Most popular varieties of broccoli include Cruiser, Green Comet, and Goliath. Broccoli is a shallow growing plant, but requires at least a foot of space between each crop. This vegetable prefers more nitrogen and wetter conditions. Aphids and cabbage worms are the typical pests which plague broccoli plants.
Cabbage. Choose from red or green cabbage, with the more popular being green. The most popular types are Cheers or King Cole for the green variety, and Ruby Ball or Red Meteor for the red kind. Cabbage is best planted before heat of summer and can be planted as shoots. This vegetable prefers partial sun and wetter conditions. The closer you plant your cabbages together, the smaller the heads will grow. Common problems include roots rotting from too much water, and leaves wilting too soon.
Carrots. If you want a good crop of carrots, be sure to plant seeds in the early spring. You can sow carrot seeds directly in the ground. The fastest growing variety of carrot takes up to 52 days to mature, while the longest growing variety takes up to 78 days. There are at least 6 different categories of carrots, and numerous varieties within each category. The most popular carrots are the small and baby ones. Plant carrots 8 to 9 inches deep in sandier soil. Carrots can be planted extremely close to one another, up to 1 inch or less apart. They grow fastest in warmer, moist soil.
Cauliflower. More difficult to grow than other members of the cabbage family, cauliflower does best as a transplant after 2-3 weeks of growth. This plant does not tolerate frost or heat. Grow your cauliflower plants after the danger of frost is past, but not so far into spring that your plants might be burned by the summer sun. Place plants a foot apart in the bed at maximum. There are four categories and multiple types of cauliflower plants within each category, with the white varieties being the most popular. Cauliflower can take up to 70 days to develop fully. Common problems include cabbage worms and black rot.
Lettuce. There are five popular types of lettuces, with different varieties within each type. Whichever ones you choose, you'll want to plant your lettuces in early spring or late summer. Lettuce does not tolerant extreme heat very well, so it should be grown at first indoors and then transplanted outside. Once the plants are ready for the garden, plant your lettuces into dry soil and then thoroughly water them immediately afterwards. Note that you can grow your lettuce plants fairly shallowly and close together - in up to half an inch of soil, with 10 seeds per square foot. If planted later in spring, remember to cover your lettuce heads with at least partial shade.
Potatoes. Potatoes are actually very easy to grow. The Yard Fairy recommends that you plant yours at soil temperatures of less than 80 degrees... so it should be one of the earliest planted vegetables in your garden. Over 100 varieties of potatoes exist. Examples of the most popular include Green Mountain and Yukon Gold. Roots can turn moldy if planted too early and in too wet of a soil. Try your hand at a potato crop this spring - simply cut up potatoes and throw them into the soil, as many farmers use this method successfully. Potatoes should be planted 10 to 12 inches apart in at least 1 inch of soil.
Mushrooms. Not from a seed, mushrooms cultivate by spores. They are typically grown on a larger log, but wood chips can be substituted. Very few people attempt to grow mushrooms, but they're actually easier than most would assume. As they are a mold, mushrooms require dark, wet conditions to thrive - so choose a shady, well watered spot. Your wood chips must constantly be soaked. Portabellas are the ones most easily grown in a personal garden. They are ready to harvest closer in the summer, but produce a lot more than they cost to buy.
Spinach. Some of The Yard Fairy's favorite varieties of spinach include Crinkled-Leaf, Hybrid Savory, Plain-Leaf, and Plain-Leaf Hybrid. Your spinaches can be planted in the first week of spring so that they'll be ready to harvest by mid-summer. Pack the seeds together in a foot of soil, first covered in less than an inch of soil, and then later covered. Spinach prefers a lot of moist, well-drained soil. Leaves can be cut once and the stalk can be grown again. Mildew and fungal leaf diseases are common occurrences.
Squash. Squash are best suited for larger gardens, as they are a vining plant and need at least 50 to 100 feet to grow on. Try bush and semi-vining varieties if your garden patch is smaller than average. At least 40 varieties of squash can be grown in the winter and spring seasons. Plant your squash seeds directly in the ground, at least 1 inch deep and one seed per square foot. Squash requires minimal care once the vines cover the ground. Cucumber beetles and squash bugs are common pest for these plants, but occur more often in the warmer season of summer.