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Planting early vegetables


Many vegetable seeds can be planted as soon as the soil has dried out from melting snow and spring rains. These include: beets, swiss chard, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, parsley, peas, radishes, onions, spinach and potatoes. These vegetables will germinate in cool soil, and will resist spring frost. But before planting, the first step is to prepare the soil.

Start by adding organic matter in the form of compost or manure, if it's available. Spread or broadcast an all purpose granular fertilizer such as 5-10-10 over the soil surface at the rate of 10lb per 1000sqft. The soil should be turned using a spade, garden fork or tiller. This will mix in the fertilizer and organic matter as well as loosen the soil and provide a well aerated seedbed for vegetable roots to grow. Rake the surface of the soil as level as possible and remove clumps or stones.

Pathways are an important part of the vegetable garden. They are located so that the gardener has easy access to the vegetables for thinning, weeding, staking, harvesting or simply admiring. Often, the same pathways are used every year so that the actual seedbed is never trampled and you are blessed with a loose, friable soil.

Vegetables are usually planted in rows for easy cultivation and record keeping. They also look good this way. Rows should be in a north-south direction to evenly distribute the sunlight to all of the plants in the row. Put stakes in the ground at each end and attach them with string to make sure the row is straight. Use stakes that can be written on so you can document the planting date and the name or variety of vegetable.

Make a furrow or trench beside or below the string. The depth of the furrow will depend upon the size of the seed. Small seeds, such as lettuce, will require only a small depression in the soil made by the handle of a rake or by lightly drawing a line beside the string with your trowel. Place the seeds in the row by tapping them out of the seed package or by sprinkling them in the furrow with your finger tips. Cover the seeds with a bit of soil and tamp down lightly. Larger seeds will require a deeper furrow and can be placed individually in the row according to the spacing directions on the seed package. The soil removed to make the furrow is used to cover the seeds.

Sprinkle a small quantity of fertilizer on top of the row. This will remind you where the row has been planted and will provide nutrients for the seedlings when they emerge. I use a fertilizer blend such as 8-4-4 with a higher nitrogen content to promote early leaf growth. Water the newly planted seeds and keep them watered until the seedlings are well established. Seeds will take two weeks to germinate, on average. It takes about another two weeks for the first true leaves to appear.

Remember to plan for the later addition of popular transplants such as tomatoes or peppers and other vegetables which are sown when the soil has warmed up; for example, carrots, beans, corn, cucumbers eggplant and pumpkins. These are either slow to germinate in cool soil, with the risk of rot, or cannot survive a spring frost.

You need to plan for staggered plantings so that the harvest is spread out over a longer period and there isn't an embarrassing quantity of one thing all at once. An easy way to accommodate a second or third planting date is to leave rows unfinished and repeat with the same crop 2 or 3 weeks after the first seeding.

I like to include flowering plants in the vegetable garden. Nasturtiums are an ideal vegetable garden companion. The leaves and flowers are tasty in salads and serve the purpose of keeping flee beetles and aphids away from the other vegetables. Gladiolus are always a nice feature as well as sunflowers and marigolds.


Daisy Moore, 1998.



Other spring garden tips:

(click on the tip you want to read)


Designing Gardens

Fertilizing the Garden
Ready for Spring
Starting Seeds Indoors
Pruning Trees and Shrubs
Dormant Spraying
Planning the Vegetable Garden
Planting Early Vegetables
Early Season Care of Perennial Beds
Plants for an Early Spring Show
Cut Flowers for the Home Garden
Growing the Perfect Potato
Lawn Care in Early Spring.....GRUB DAMAGE!
Spring Lawn Care
The Garden in May
Gardening with Native Plants
Sources of Native Plants
Shade Gardening
Planting Gladiolus and Other Summer Flowering Bulbs
Weed Control
Thatch in Lawns
Weeds or Wildflowers
Improving Your Soil
Marvellous Mulch
Selecting and Planting Shrubs
Planting Trees and Shrubs
Window Box Gardening
Growing Tomatoes
Fertilizing the Vegetable Garden



Home  |  Garden designs  |  Naturalized gardening  |  Help with your garden  |  Garden Tips Spring  Summer  Fall  | Contact Daisy


Daisy Moore 2005