Early Spring Gardening Tips

Nights are really cold, rainy and wintery weather is definitely still with us, but you can tell the days are getting longer. Plum and flowering quince are blooming or budding up, and the earliest spring weeds are starting to grow. Around Valentine’s Day, you might start sneaking in a few hardy spring vegetables.

If you were really clever last fall, you dug and fertilized an area in your garden and mulched it very heavily with leaves, compost or manure. This forward thinking in the fall gave you a jump on things in the spring. Now, after a few days of no rain, you can rake the cover aside and you’ll have soil soft enough to plant in without turning it over. Otherwise, wait until the soil isn’t muddy and loosen the soil a few inches down. Mark a few short furrows about an inch deep and sow seeds of leafy greens – spinach, salad mixes, chard, kale, arugula, and spicy Asian greens like mizuna or mustard; green onions, beets and radishes can also survive the chilly temperatures. Wait until later in March for snap and snow peas, carrots, lettuce, cilantro and parsley as they need soil to be a bit warmer. Covering the seed in the rows with sterilized bagged potting soil keeps the surface friable and also gives the emerging seedlings a head start from weeds.

Planting an inch or so apart, you’ll have little leaves in about a month. As soon as you can handle the seedlings, thin every other one and use the tender thinnings in earliest spring salads. Every week you should be able to thin every other one again until plants stand at their eventual spacing of 4-6 inches apart when they grow to their mature size without being cramped.

Always try to do any digging when rain isn’t forecast, or you end up with a muddy bog. Better to wait than to compact your soil structure by digging too soon. It is always a gamble in the San Lorenzo Valley, but sometimes an appetite for tasty young leaves will inspire you to try and succeed.

Seeds of heat lovers like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants should be started inside soon, so plants will be sturdy and ready to bloom when they are planted out in early May. It’s worth investing in a grow light and a good heating mat if you love to start things from seed indoors. Few homes have a place inside with enough light from a window so that seedlings don’t stretch and get scrawny.

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