What’s Growing in the Early-April Edible Garden

Reader Contribution by Melodie Metje
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Lettuce, chives in front, potato onions in background, tarragon on left.

It was a relatively mild winter with some cold snaps in the last month. So, what is popping up in this Midwest garden? A lot!

Fall-planted garlic, elephant garlic, arugula, French sorrel, blood-veined sorrel, kale, oregano, rosemary, cultivated dandelions, common chives, garlic chives, strawberries, onions, wild leeks, sage, dill, mint, rosemary, cultivated leeks, overwintered beets, overwintered carrots, newly planted peas, volunteer lettuce, catnip, lavender, newly planted lettuce, overwintered chard, tarragon, salad burnet, overwintered mustard, horseradish and thyme are all up and harvestable.

I also put on our covered deck a few weeks ago, our kumquat, overwintered eggplant and pepper plants, newly bought basil and dill. They are doing great, too.

The plants are growing well enough that we can pick leaves for salads now from both the garden lettuce, herbs and chard and the potted lettuce, kale, salad burnet, corn salad, arugula and Italian dandelions.

The forsythias and redbud trees are are in full bloom. This is the sign that it is time to use an organic weed and feed to treat pre-emergent weeds, and green up the yard! redbud flowers are edible, too. They taste similar to peas. Pretty and tasty in salads! (Read about growing edible flowers.)

We are behind this year in fertilizing and mulching the garden bed. I’ll fertilize today and finish planting the spinach and lettuce bedding plants. The pots are already full with planted lettuce, volunteer lettuce, cultivated dandelions, sorrel, corn salad, cilantro, peas, kale, beets, onions, carrots and salad burnet; all edible plants that enjoy spring’s cool temperatures.

Overwintered kale in pots, small lettuce in garden bed.

I love mixing herbs, different types of greens and lettuces in salads. It took a bit to get the corn salad going, but now it is doing great! The overwintered plants have already bolted and have pretty yellow flowers.

The baby corn salad plants are growing quickly. Corn salad is very similar in taste to arugula. The advantage of having both in the garden is that corn salad is harvestable through most of the cold months and when it goes to seed, arugula is in its prime.

This week end we had mixed herb, greens and lettuce salads and dandelion alfredo sauce. Dandelion greens are super nutritious and get sweeter when cooked. (Dandelion nutrition info.) Use dandelion greens just like you would spinach.

Potted Corn Salad in bloom.

The cilantro does not last long; as soon as it warms up, it bolts. You have to succession plant these to keep them in the garden. Place them in a cool spot that gets some morning sun, but is in the shade the rest of the day. Parsley does great for the entire season.

I didn’t have to start any chard this year as it came back from last year. I have them in a mix of colors. Chard is beautiful in orange, red, yellow, burgundy, fuchsia and white stemmed varieties. I have them planted along the back of the garden bed as they grow to as tall as 4-5 feet tall.

Yellow chard in foreground, Egyptian walking onions in background. 

Small chard leaves are great in salads. Large leaves are great steamed. The stalks of the large leaves can be used like celery, but very pretty celery! Chard is also a tender perennial. The white stemmed is the most cold hardy. I have had a red one that came back for years. For year-round steamed greens, grow chard!

I didn’t need to plant carrots or beets as they overwintered in pots. I am going to start chervil from seed. I love the fragrance and benefits it adds to my skin oil I make. Make your own fragrant herbal body oil.

I like broccoli raab or sprouting broccoli because you get small broccoli heads throughout the entire growing season versus one large head at once. The leaves are also edible and great to add to salads. I am waiting to see if these survived the winter in the pots they were in last year. Two plants gave us all the broccoli and broccoli leaves we needed for our salads. They grow to be large plants. If planting in a container, thin to one plant in a large pot. Sprouting broccoli – a year-round fav.

Lettuce and arugula in an Earthbox.

Now is also the time to plant spring garlic. Fall is the best time, but you can get scapes and small cloves by planting in spring. I also have garlic re-sprouting from the first crop I planted. When you dig the garlic in the fall, there are tiny cloves that usually get left behind. These will come back in the spring. The tiny cloves may take 2 seasons to get up to full-sized cloves. Time to plant garlic! With growing tips.

Our potato onions and Egyptian walking onions are harvestable for cooking. They both overwinter well. I love Egyptian walking onions as you can harvest them year round and they are so easy to grow, either in the garden or a pot! I use the bulb as you would a white onion and the tops as you would chives. Egyptian walking onions.

To help guide her family’s gardening efforts and to keep track of what was happening in her own garden,Melodie Metjestarted her blog, Victory Garden on the Golf Course. She named it after the victory gardens grown to help the WWII effort. Melodie thinks we are in a similar situation today: Our country needs our help in battling the war on ill health. Read all of Melodie’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS postshere.

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