Planting Your Early Spring Vegetable Garden

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For gardeners and fresh vegetable lovers, the first hint of spring tends to make them start thinking about tilling the soil, getting their hands dirty and planting some crops.

The good news is that you can actually start your garden in March. The bad news is that you can’t plant everything you’re likely to want this early in the year. However, root vegetables and greens are perfect for this time of the year because they will sprout when dirt is still cool and tolerate light frosts. When it comes to these kinds of veggies, it’s not all about the temperature of the air it’s about the temperature of the soil.

Having said that, however, you do need to make sure the soil is dry and warm enough – at least 60 degrees.  One of the easiest ways to determine if the soil is ready is to grab a handful and try to roll it into a ball. If you can do that, chances are it’s too wet. You can also drop the ball of dirt on the ground and if it doesn’t break apart that means it’s too damp to plant.

Before we get too far into what you can plant, you’ve hopefully thought far enough ahead so that you did some prep work in your garden the previous fall, i.e. making sure the soil wasn’t compacted. One more thing, check to see when the last frost typically hits the area as that’s also a determining factor in just how early you can start planting. The noted frost date for East TN is around May 15th.

Now, here’s a list of some of the best veggies to plant in the spring:

  • Broccoli, one of the most nutritious vegetables you can plant. It can be planted as early as a month before the last frost, as can asparagus, peas, spinach and rhubarb.
  • Carrots can be planted two weeks before what is the average date for late frosts. Just remember to weed, weed, weed.
  • Potatoes are one of the most popular and versatile vegetables. Get them planted two weeks before the last frost.
  • As soon as the soil is ready to be worked, you can plant lettuce BUT if you want it to grow well make sure you mulch.
  • Garlic, which generally grows betters in the fall, can also do well in the spring if you plant it about a month before the final frost.
  • Yummy turnips (a favorite) and radishes can be planted two weeks before the last frost date. Once the soil is ready to be worked, plant beets and arugula, and you’ll have veggies before you know it.

Time to check into when the last frost generally is and then get to work. In no time you’ll have amazing, fresh, homegrown vegetables. After a long winter, there’s nothing like it!

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