Warm Memories with Cold Crop Vegetables
Is it too early? This is the question I seem to ask myself every year at this time. Can I plant anything? Can I mow the grass? Am I wasting my time? These are the follow up questions and the answers depend on you as much as they do on the weather. I love to garden and find few things more rewarding than gardening. My boys are starting to get old enough to realize that it's time to "work in the yard." Luke, my six year old, loves to ride on the mower the first time every year with Dad, but Kaden my three year old, already got out his wheelbarrow and rake on his own and started to clean up the garden. How cool is that! Without so much as a word, my three old son is excited about gardening!
I remember my own childhood like it was yesterday, picking the sweet rewards of my first garden with my Grandpa. You might assume that it might of been the first tomato or first green bean, but it was actually lettuce. It was with my Grandpa that I learned a successful garden does not have to start with Mother's Day or Memorial Day. Cold crops vegetables do well before the beautiful days of May or the sun of July.
Have you ever tasted homegrown broccoli or the light, fresh taste of baby greens grown in your own backyard? Some of the most amazing food in the world is of the simplest form, no sauces or preservatives... who knew brussels sprouts could be sweet? Don't get me wrong, I do love sweet corn or the anxiously awaited first tomato from the garden. But it feels like you have a secret or a great prize when you are harvesting your first lettuce out of your own garden by the middle of April.
To start a cold crop, you need to have a well drained spot that gets as much sun as possible this time of year. Now, you will need to select which cold crops you are going to grow. The best performing cold crops in this geographic region includes broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, lettuce, cabbage, collards, kohlrabi and kale. Cold crops need very fertile soil, so I suggest starting with compost, like cotton blossom or an organic humus mix. Another thing worth mentioning is that cold crops like lettuce or kohlrabi don't have to planted in the ground, but can also make up your first container planter for your front porch or patio.
Luckily, you don't usually have to worry about bugs or even fungus with cold crops, since it is typically still cool and cloudy this time of year. You will have to worry about the squirrels and bunnies though, because they love eating cold crops as much as we do. I personally feel like this is a small price to pay, knowing that my boys will soon be eating their vegetables without a fight and even asking for more.
I love to garden, but I love my boys even more. It is amazing to make those lasting memories with them around a little plant, in a little garden, just as I did with my Grandpa so long ago.
Jerry Hearn, Garden Center Manager