Spring is a hectic time for gardeners, but planting a spring vegetable garden will pay off big dividends. Freshly picked vegetables are never more welcome than after a long gray winter. Spring temperatures are a bit too chilly, and the ground is still too damp for many vegetables to be planted, but there are a handful of hardy performers that can go in the garden, even before the last frost date has passed.
There are many perennial vegetables—vegetables you can plant once and harvest for many years to come. You do have to devote space to them, sometimes for decades, but it is worth it. Asparagus plants get more productive every year, and a mature asparagus harvest can last for months.
The cool, wet weather of spring is the perfect time to grow lettuce, and there are hundreds of varieties to choose from. Lettuce may need a little protection to get it going in the early spring, but, it never tastes better than when it is grown in the crisp spring air. You will get the earliest and longest harvest from the cut-and-come-again varieties.
There is a tradition of planting the first peas on St. Patrick’s Day, though many Americans may not be able to take part in that tradition because of the snow covering their vegetable gardens. However, even in years when you cannot manage to get out there early, the peas planted later in April will quickly catch up to the peas planted in March.
Rhubarb is a vegetable you can prepare like a fruit, and it is the first sweet “fruit” of the season. It really is a shame rhubarb is so underused in cooking, because it is very easy to grow. Once you get your bed established, you can look forward to a rhubarb harvest every spring.
Spinach must be grown in cool weather, or it will quickly bolt to seed. There are varieties that claim to be bolt-resistant, but sooner or later, (usually sooner), they all go to seed. Luckily it also grows extremely quickly, which means you do not have to wait long to enjoy it, but you will also have to keep planting new spinach to extend the harvest. Getting spinach to grow is easy. Keeping your spinach growing takes some extra care, but it is worth it.
Beets grown from seed take about 7 to 10 weeks to mature, but you can harvest some of the young greens to eat while the roots continue to grow underground. In growing zones 3 through 7, you can plant beet seeds about one month before the last frost in spring. Prepare the soil with manure to up the potassium, which beets need. Plant the seeds about 1/2 inch deep and 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart. They should germinate in a week to 10 days.