Time to Get Your Hands in the Dirt!

The ground is thawing, the days are warming, and spring is in the air! As the trees get their leaves, the tulips bloom, and the birds start singing, many of us start to think about planting a garden imagining buckets full of tomatoes, baskets of cucumbers, and fresh corn on the cob.

 

WAIT! SPRING IN THE MOUNTAINS brings unpredictable weather and late cold snaps. The safe planting date for many of these summer vegetables isn’t until mid-May in Asheville and can be later than that in the high mountains. And even the safe planting date isn’t guaranteed protection for those veggies that have no ability to survive any type of frost.
So now that the days are longer and you are itching to get your hands dirty, what can you safely plant and be eating soon? Here are six quick to grow spring delights:

RADISHES – You can pick up seeds for the standard red radish or brighten up your plate with Amethyst, Black Spanish, Watermelon, and Pink Beauty varieties.

ARUGULA – This flavorful, slightly spicy green brightens up any salad or can be the shining green in a spring salad with apples, dried cherries, walnuts, and balsamic vinaigrette.

LETTUCE – You can buy a single seed pack that includes a variety of lettuces that you can’t get at the grocery store and have a colorful salad bowl next month or choose from varieties like Flashy Trout Back (a red speckled romaine), Red Salad Bowl (a red leaf), Black Seeded Simpson (a delicate green leaf), and Dark Red Lola Rosa (frilled green leaves with red edges).

KALE – This hearty green will grow through the summer and well into the fall keeping you in greens for months to come. As you harvest it, make sure to only harvest one-third of the leaves at a time and give it a week to grow in between harvests. Red Russian and Siberian varieties are both delicious and easy to grow in WNC.

SWISS CHARD – Look for a pack of Bright Lights chard and brighten up your spring green garden. This mix of chard varieties includes yellow, red, pink, orange, and white stalks.

MIZUNA – This slightly spicy Asian green goes great in a mixed green salad, but can also stand alone sautéed as a side dish for seafood and is particularly delicious with shrimp.
All of these can be planted from seed and won’t take long to sprout, but if you are in a hurry to see your garden growing, pick up seedlings for the greens from your local tailgate market.
If you still have some room in your garden, consider planting some onions and potatoes. While they take a bit more time to grow, they will be ready to start eating by early summer. Potato varieties such as Kennebec, Yukon Gold, and Dark Red Norlands grow well in our area and a couple of well-planted seed potatoes can make several meals for your family. Add a quick row of onion sets to the border of your garden and you can start using these as spring onions in about six weeks.