Windy Meadows Farm’s Spring Garden Favored Crops

Reader Contribution by Mary Murray and Windy Meadows Farm
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Spring flowers in garden by Mary Murray

In a sunny corner of the woods behind our farmhouse, there is a welcome blaze of yellow…the forsythia bushes are in full bloom. To our astonishment, each spring they arrive as if they’ve blossomed overnight. With those joyful, cheery flowers comes the unmistakable message…Spring is here!

With our dog Bailey bouncing ahead, I walk outside to see if any of the spring bulbs are blooming. Even with a lingering chill in the air, it’s truly a simple joy to discover the first shoots of daffodils and hyacinths pushing their way through the soil to welcome the gentle green of spring.

Now that the season’s first warm days beckon us outdoors, we’re probably thinking about gardening, making it the ideal time to plant a few early spring crops. Many of my favorites grow beautifully in this month’s cooler temperatures, and whether you’re planning a patio, backyard, or large farm garden, with a little planning, soon you can enjoy spring crops as well.

Before you begin, how is your soil? This is the perfect time to add compost to your garden area. The mixture of rich compost and soil will help the seeds get a strong start with the nutrients they need. Next, rake your garden to loosen the soil so roots can have room to spread; this will also help to keep the soil well-drained. Now, the fun begins…it’s time for what I call my Fab Five of spring crops! Choose your favorites from the list below (reading the planting instructions on each package of seeds), and then before you know it, you’ll be enjoying garden-fresh veggies!

Spring veggies in the chair by Mary Murray

Radishes. Last year I planted radishes in almost every shape and size. Two of my favorites are White Icicle and Cook’s Custom Blend, which were ready to enjoy in about 30 days. Oh-so-easy, and a terrific seed for a children’s garden, simply plant seeds to ½-inch depth and keep them watered. 

Spinach. I love spinach salad, whether it’s warm with savory bacon dressing or crisp and cold with homemade poppyseed dressing, for me, it can’t be beat. I plant an old variety known as Bloomsdale Longstanding which is slow to bolt and full of flavor. Spinach seeds are planted ½-inch deep should give you plants ready to enjoy is about 45 days.

Kale. Kale really thrives in cool temperatures. Not only healthy, it’s a fast grower. I choose Lacinto not only for its flavor, but it’s also really easy to de-stem…just sliding my fingers down the stem removes the leaves. These seeds are generally planted at ½-inch depth and ready to harvest in about 30-45 days.

Spring onions. Easy to plant from seed or bulbs. For me, the plants can get lost in a large garden, so I plant the bulbs in a cold frame. This makes them easy to keep an eye on and easy to weed. Harvest early for a tender onion to add to salads, or leave them in the cold frame until they’re larger. I plant bulbs 1-inch deep and about 4 inches apart. They will be ready to harvest in about 8 weeks.

Sugar snap peas. For me, this is the ultimate spring treat from the garden. A friend got me hooked when she would invite me to share her bounty. It would be a perfect afternoon…picking peas in the warm sun and catching up with one another.  Once chilled in the refrigerator, our family will eat them endlessly dipped in ranch dressing. I plant them ½-inch deep about every 3 inches in rows 24 inches apart. Ready to enjoy in around 60 days, they’ll need a firm support such as a strong trellis or lengths of heavy fencing so they’ll have room to climb 6 to 8 feet.

In our part of the Midwest, spring fever is winning the battle. Yes, there’s a whirlwind of spring cleaning and sprucing up, but my mind wanders to that first tomato, warm from the vine, and roasted corn on the cob. However; for today, I’m brought back to reality as I look out the window. There’s an old saying goes, “There will be three snows after the forsythia blooms.” And you know what?  Right now it’s snowing!

Mary Murray is a goat wrangler, chicken whisperer, bee maven, and farmers market baker at Windy Meadows Farm. She rehabilitated her 1864 Ohio farm property and is ready to share the many stories that come with farm living. Read all of Mary’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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