Pete’s Place: Here Comes Your Spring Garden!

The "Three Sisters": corn, beans, and squash.

The "Three Sisters": corn, beans, and squash.

In our last installment of "Pete’s Place", we discussed making repeat plantings of commonly used veggies during the winter. You’ll probably want to be winding down such seeding now, as upcoming spring temperatures will favor other crops. If you really love something like lettuce or arugula and have the space, then by all means, keep it going as long as you can. But know that it will bolt to seed faster as the days lengthen and grow warmer. Obviously, those who lack space will probably want to shift to the crops that do best under spring conditions.

I also took you through the timing for growing your own tomato and pepper transplants. As of this mid-February date, those should be at or nearing the size at which you can plant them out. Most other spring crops I prefer to direct seed: the Native American “Three Sisters” guild of corn, beans, and squash (of all types), other cucurbits like cucumbers and melons, plus eggplant and okra.

Not counting the previously seeded tomatoes and peppers, everything but eggplant and okra have a fairly narrow window of ideal time for seeding here. I would call that mid-February to mid-March. The earlier you go, obviously, the more risk there is in terms of cold. If you are prepared to cover such plants and your space is ready, then that is a risk you may want to take. One advantage is that getting your crop in earlier often means less insect pressure towards the end. I usually aim for about the middle of that period, but am open to yearly variations based on weather.

Eggplant and okra can be planted later, since they are two of the few vegetables that do well here even in Summer (please refer to my summer “Pete’s Place” column for more options).

Other crops that will do well in the upcoming months are basil and the heat-loving flowers, such as zinnias, marigolds, celosia, sunflowers, gomphrena, and cosmos.

A few general tips for this season:

  • Be sure to fertilize well in advance of planting any new crops. This always applies.
  • Increasing sun intensity means increasing water stress. Pay close attention to irrigation needs. Spring often brings some of our driest weather.
  • Always plant corn in a block: shorter rows as opposed to one long row. It is wind-pollinated and must be pollinated thoroughly for good kernel coverage on the ears.
  • Insect pressure will probably increase with the warmer conditions. Be vigilant about pest management.