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Spring vegetable gardening

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By Dennis Morgeson

Mid-to-late March is an ideal time to plant your cool season or spring garden.  
Potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, peas and many other crops can be planted this month.  

Lettuce can also be planted. However, you will want to cover it with remay fabric (tobacco canvas).

If you haven’t started cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower etc.) seedlings yet, you should just buy the plants in a few weeks from a trustworthy nursery. This will save you time and trouble unless you are growing a great deal of it.

If you haven’t had your soil tested you still have time to get it back before it is too late for your spring garden.

It generally takes only a couple of weeks to return.

Vegetables for a spring garden grow best at relatively cool temperatures (55-65 degrees). These plants produce their vegetative growth during spring’s short cool days. If they are planted too late, summer heat will reduce the quantity and quality of your produce.

Cool-season crops planted too late may bolt, become bitter and have a poor texture.

Spring vegetables should be planted as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. A light frost will not harm most cool-season plants after they have become acclimated to the garden.

When working the soil in the spring, make sure it is dry enough.  

If the soil is too wet, it will become cloddy and hard. This could change the soil structure and cause you problems for several years.  If you squeeze a handful of soil and it crumbles easily when you let go, then the soil is dry enough to work.

Generally, organic mulch is a very good idea in a garden, although not in a spring garden.  

Mulch will shade the soil and keep it cool; in the spring, however, it is better to let the sun reach the soil.  

The soil will warm faster and your crops will do better.  

A black plastic mulch will help warm the soil; however, it will have to be removed later in the spring because it will become too hot for cool-weather plants.

You should plant cool-season plants together so you can use the same place later.  This will make working the soil in the summer for your fall garden much easier.  

Most spring garden crops can be “double cropped” in Kentucky. Credit our long growing season and the fact that we have relatively mild spring and fall seasons.  If you are going to plant a spring and fall garden and are going to “double crop,” be sure not to plant closely related crops in the same area.  

This will increase the chances of disease and insect carryover problems. For more   information on growing vegetables in Kentucky, stop by the Washington County Extension Office and pick up booklet ID-128 Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky.

I wanted to let you know that the Wheelbarrow Series is underway, and each class is taught twice, once on Tuesday mornings at 10:30 a.m. and once on Thursday evenings at 6:30 p.m.  

Upcoming classes include:  March 13, Growing Root Vegetables in Kentucky; March 18 and 20, Growing Medlar and Rosehips and Their Uses; March 25 and 27, Growing Jostaberry and Goji Berry In Kentucky.  

Happy Gardening!