Early Season Crops with Mike Darcy

January 25, 2021

So often when we think of a vegetable garden, we think of tomatoes, beans, squash, peppers, corn, etc., and, yes, these are part of a typical summer vegetable garden. But what about those plants that like the cooler earlier spring weather and can be planted now. Whether from seed or plant starts, there are many vegetables that can be planted now and should not be overlooked because there is a wide variety to chose from.

March is an ideal time to plant peas and peas are a crop that is very easy to start from seed sown directly in the ground. While there are some bush forms, most peas are vines and need something to climb on, a trellis or chicken wire both work well. Probably one of the most popular peas is Oregon Sugar Pod II which was developed at Oregon State University and is highly disease resistant. Extend the harvest season by planting some several weeks apart. When newly germinated seeds emerge from the ground, they are very susceptible to birds and I would recommend covering the seedlings with a wire mesh so that the sunlight can get through but not the birds. My neighbor, Janet Livesay, is very proud of the peas she has started from seed and is expecting a bountiful harvest. Note the string trellis she uses for support.

If you have children or grandchildren or perhaps neighboring children that you would like to introduce to gardening, peas are a good seed to start with. The seed is large enough for small hands to plant and the seeds germinate fairly quickly.

In the Beaverton garden of Gordon and Nancy Prewitt, they eat fresh produce from their garden throughout the year. During this past winter, they have been harvesting the kale they planted last fall. Kale can be a spring crop too, plant starts are available now and it is also very easy to start from seed. Celery starts can be planted now as well as starts of onions and lettuce. Lettuce is another easy to grow vegetable from seed and there are many different kinds to chose from with some of the red leaf types being very decorative as well as edible.

Other vegetables that can now be planted from seed include beets, carrots, turnips, and chard. There are some vegetables that I think it is easier to buy the plant starts and set them out into the garden and these include cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. These plant starts are available now at Wilco and while walking through the garden center of the Canby store, I noticed that they have Walla Walla onion starts as well as salad greens that are ready to set out into the garden.

With new seedlings emerging from the soil and new plants being set out, be aware of slugs. I have seen many of the small slugs in my garden even at this early date. Whether you use a slug bait or other control measures, do it when you are setting new plants out into the garden.

Most vegetable plants are going to do best in a full sun location so try to pick a location with maximum sun exposure. I like to add some compost and work it into the soil before I plant. At the time that I am working compost into my soil, I also like to add an organic type fertilizer and work it into the soil at the same time. It is also a good idea to rotate your crops just as a commercial farmer would do.

I always like to remind gardeners about planting herbs. While it is way too early to be thinking about planting basil, some herbs such as rosemary, sage, lovage, chives, and mint, (plant it in a container to keep it under control), can be treated as a perennial as they will usually survive our winters. We have a large pot of rosemary that my wife uses for culinary purposes throughout the year. We keep it just off our deck so it is easy access from the kitchen! Rosemary is also an attractive plant all year and the blue flowers in summer attract honeybees.

My advice is not to wait until summer but to begin planning and planting your vegetable garden now.

We would love to see your gardens starting, use #mywilcolife on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and tag Wilco Stores.