Warm days may still be a ways off in some regions, but there are some vegetables that can be sown or planted in late winter, satisfying the gardener’s urge to get growing. Read on and view our video for five great ways to enjoy a super-early start to your gardening year.
1. Sow hardy vegetables direct under cold frames and mini hoop tunnels.
Cover the soil surface for at least a week before sowing to give the soil a chance to warm up and dry out a little.
2. Make mini greenhouses.
Cut open a plastic bottle or milk jug two-thirds from the bottom leaving a “hinge” of plastic at the back. Pierce drainage holes in the base. Add potting soil, sow winter-hardy seeds such as endive and winter lettuce, and place outside. Open in spring when seedlings push against the lid.
3. Sow in a greenhouse or hoop house.
Sow hardy veggies, such as chard and spinach, into seed flats or pots in a greenhouse or hoop house. Transplant outside in two months. Sow staple crops, such as beets, carrots, and cold-tolerant salads, directly into the greenhouse border.
4. Sow indoors.
Spring-planted vegetables, such as cauliflower and cabbage, must be sown on an indoor windowsill or under growlights if they are to germinate early. Sow heat-lovers, such as peppers and eggplant, in propagators or under growlights.
5. Pot up early onions and shallots.
Plant one onion or shallot set per 3-inch pot. Keep pots on a bright windowsill indoors, or in a greenhouse or cold frame. If you’re growing in a milder climate, you can place them outside straight away. Protect them from cold winds using clear plastic sleeves cut from recycled bottles.
Get more in-depth ideas for early-season gardening in our video!
Our popular Vegetable Garden Planner can help you map out your garden design, space crops, know when to plant which crops in your exact location, and much more.
Need crop-specific growing information? Browse our Crops at a Glance Guide for advice on planting and caring for dozens of garden crops.
Watch more videos on growing food and other self-reliance, DIY topics on our Wiser Living Videos page.
Photo by Fotolia/Masterovoy.
Shelley Stonebrook is MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine’s main gardening editor. She’s passionate about growing healthy, sustainable food and also runs Stonegrass Farms Soap Co. in her spare time. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.