Sugar snap peas are among are favorite of the early season crops!
Sugar snap peas are among are favorite of the early season crops!

It seems like it took forever to get here – but for those of us in the Midwest – the early planting season for cool loving crops is here!

Peas, lettuce, green onions, radishes, carrots and more are ready to start sowing into the ground here  – and with a little planning, you can have fresh food on the table in just a few weeks until late fall!

Cool loving spring crops are a great way to ease into planting – and almost all of them can be directly sown into the garden or raised beds, making for an easy process.

Radishes are an excellent companion planting for many vegetables grown in the garden
Radishes are an excellent companion planting for many vegetables grown in the garden

Some crops, like radishes and lettuce can actually go from seed to table in as little as three to four weeks! Others, like spring onions are right behind them.  The key to successful spring crops is to get them in the ground early enough that they can come on before the hot summer sun season takes it’s toll.

Tips For Successful Germination Of Seeds

Spring Onions or Green Onions are an easy grow - and great for salads, dips or eating!
Spring Onions or Green Onions are an easy grow – and great for salads, dips or eating!
Once they are established, mulching is the better option than tillingor between rows. Here carrots benefit from straw mulch - keeping in moisture and keeping back weeds
We only mulched after the seedling are established – letting the soil warm up and germinate the seeds without interference.  Once up -mulching is the better option than tilling or hoeing between rows. Here carrots benefit from straw mulch – keeping in moisture and keeping back weeds

Spring crop seeds and bulbs like onion sets, can always use a little help in germinating.  The first step is to provide loose, well drained and fertile soil.  The best way to do that – add and use compost!  We like to furrow out a small trench to the required depth, add a little compost to the trench, drop in the seeds or bulbs and apply a little water in the trench before covering it back up with more compost and soil.  Once covered, we water the surface again as well.  It allows the moisture in the soil to build and hold around the seed, and speeds germination.

Hold Off Directly Mulching The Plants:

If you follow are blog – you know how much we love to mulch – but this is one time it’s better to wait!  The soil has not warmed up yet in most parts – so leaving it exposed while they germinate is a good idea.    Keeping the mulch directly off the plants also allows them to not work harder in order to come up through the ground.  We do however still mulch the walking rows, etc. to keep out unwanted weeds – only leaving bare the direct soil area of the seeds that were planted.

Once plants germinate and become established – we will then apply some compost mulch right around the seedlings, which not only prevents weeds but helps to fertilize the plants every time it rains or you water.

Keep Them Watered and Give Them A Boost With A Little Natural Fertilizer:

Crops sewn directly into the soil like carrots benefit from rich,.well drained soil and plenty of water
Crops sewn directly into the soil like carrots benefit from rich,.well drained soil and plenty of water

Speaking of water – its important to keep the soil moist with spring crops.  With their quick growth cycle, they need to stay hydrated.  Nothing special, just don’t let more than 3 or four days go by without a gentle watering to keep them growing strong.  Once our seedlings are up and established for a week or two – we like to give a quick boost with a little compost tea fertilizer to help boost along the growth.  Usually one dose is all it takes to help them grow quick and strong.

Succession Planting – The art of planting what you will need – when you will need it.

Succession planting – it is the key of all keys to keeping fresh vegetables on your table all throughout the spring, summer and fall.  Unless you are growing for the entire neighborhood – you will want to stagger plantings of your early crops to insure that you have fresh goods for your dinner table throughout the whole spring.  There is nothing more disheartening that having a tremendous crop of lettuce, radishes or peas – only to have them for just a few weeks.

Radishes are an easy grown ,a d germinate easily in the cool conditions of spring
Radishes are an easy grow ,and germinate easily in the cool conditions of spring

We plant a couple of rows or half rows – depending on how much we will eat –  then repeat a duplicate planting about 10 to 14 days after the first.   That way, we have fresh veggies coming on throughout the entire season.

It also allows us to switch to more heat tolerant varieties as the season progresses.

A great example is lettuce.  We will plant Black Seeded Simpson lettuce now and for the next few weeks – it is ready in about 40 to 45 days and loves cool weather – and then as the summer heat picks up, our later varieties like Vivian and Iceburg (70 to 85 days) are ready to harvest. Then as we head into fall, we go back to seeding and planting the early season varieties that love the cooler weather and we stay in fresh salads throughout the spring, summer and fall.  The same goes for peas, beans, radishes, etc.

Concept - a Summer Crisp lettuce is a great choice to sow in late spring because it can tolerate more heat than most lettuce types
Concept – a Summer Crisp lettuce is a great choice to sow in late spring because it can tolerate more heat than most lettuce types

So get out there and get those gardening gloves on and get some spring crops in – the rewards can come in just a few weeks and you will be on your way to a successful garden season!

Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary

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4 thoughts on “Tips For Planting Cool Weather Spring Crops

  • April 7, 2015 at 3:15 pm
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    When you talk about planting now, what is your growing zone? I am zone 4, and we will still have many nights below freezing, and days barely into the 40s. Can we plant peas and lettuce now?

  • March 15, 2014 at 10:16 am
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    I am LOVING your blog, and all your helpful information. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • January 10, 2014 at 10:52 pm
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    I have been following your posts for about a year or so now and I have been a novice gardener for about 3 years. I emphasis novice, as I have had one struggle after another just about each season. I love your tips and would love to hear how you handle garden pests ie (bugs).. Thank you for sharing all you do!

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