It’s not too late to add a splash of color to your garden. If you didn’t get your bulbs planted in the fall, don’t worry. You can still get some plants going this spring. Assuming your ground has thawed or you are using planters, these plants are perfect for planting in the spring, and will fully blossom just in time for the warm summer weather.
Arrange Your Plants
Before selecting your plants, take some time to arrange your garden or planters. Instead of planting in straight lines, stagger your plants in a slight zigzag pattern. They’ll actually absorb sunshine and water more evenly if they’re out of each other’s way, says Mary Moss-Sprague, Master Gardener and author of Stand Up and Garden: The no-digging, no-tilling, no-stooping approach to growing vegetables and herbs.
If you’ve got space, mix ornamentals and vegetables throughout your garden instead of dividing them into separate sections. You’ll save time and take advantage of companion planting. Examples include: garlic planted near roses helps keep the aphid population in check; radishes alongside spinach will keep the leaf miners away; tall flowers provide shade for lettuce.
Another helpful tip is to create microclimates in your garden by grouping plants together by shade, sun, water, and fertilizer needs. You’ll use less water and be able to maintain all the plants in one section at the same time rather than running to the four corners of your garden.
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Select Spring Flowers
Native plants will grow better and with less fuss than a nonnative; they’re acclimated to where you live and usually need less care. Check your local nursery can provide a list of plants native to your area.
When selecting ornamental flowers, annuals may seem like the obvious choice—you buy them at the beginning of the season and throw them out when it’s over. But because annuals typically aren’t native plants, they tend to need more water and fertilizer, which means more work for you. Perennials, on the other hand, will do better and need less maintenance, and you don’t have to replant every season. Examples of easy-to-plant perennials are bear’s breeches, hostas, and red-hot pokers.
A great spring project is replacing all or part of your lawn with a no-maintenance ground cover, such as white clover. Moss-Sprague says it will take a beating and is a good choice if you need an area where the kids and animals can run around. Scotch moss, Corsican mint, mondo grass and blue star creeper can all be walked on without a problem as well. Ornamental grasses are another good choice. Try pachysandra, which grows well in shaded areas.
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Choose Spring Vegetables
Herb and vegetable gardens are perfect for planting in the spring. You can enjoy their offerings just in time for your first summer bbq. Choose vegetables that you can seed directly into the ground or into containers, such as peas, beans, radishes, carrots, lettuce, and swiss chard. All are great growers that require minimal maintenance. Tomatoes can be picky when they’re young. You’re better off buying starters from a reliable supplier instead of seeding your own. Buy indeterminate varieties—they keep fruiting for as long as they want, whereas determinate varieties put out a fixed number and then call it quits.
Some plants, such as asparagus and rhubarb, and some herbs, such as mint, oregano, and parsley, just keep growing year after year. Look for varieties that will overwinter so you don’t have to replant each season. “There are a lot of new breeds coming out that are hardier, bred for cold winters,” Moss-Sprague says.
Not-so-easy choices: roses, grapes, cane berries, raspberries, and blackberries, which all require pruning to fruit well the following season.
Dwarf shrubs are easier to maintain because they won’t get tall enough to make pruning and maintenance difficult (although some can reach up to 6 feet, they take a very long time to grow to that height). There are many types to choose from, including hollies, boxwoods, rhododendrons, and aspidistra, with more new dwarf varieties being released each season. Euonymus is a good choice. “It adds a lot of pizzazz in the garden but doesn’t require a lot of shaping and trimming to keep it under control,” Moss-Sprague says.
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Where to Buy Seeds
Home and garden centers sell plenty of seeds. But Melinda Myers, a Milwaukee–based gardener and author of more than 20 horticulture books, says you’ll get a wider selection of plants with online or mail orders. Amazon has an amazing selection of seeds available.
Seeds are less expensive than plants, so you’ll save money, but the package may contain more seeds than you need. In that case, Myers says, save some for next year. Or, plant them all and swap seedlings with friends when it’s time to transplant them outdoors.
5 Early Spring Veggies You Can Plant Now
Planting spring vegetables is a task many gardeners relish. After spending a long winter indoors, gardeners are anxious to step outside and get their hands in the dirt.
But, early spring veggies don’t just offer an opportunity to exercise green thumbs, they’re also among the most delectable treats the garden has to offer.
Here are five vegetables that thrive in the cool weather of early spring, going from seed to harvest well before the summer temperatures soar.
Like their shell and sugar snap cousins, snow peas are cold-weather veggies best planted the moment the soil can be worked every spring. They germinate best when soil temperatures are between 50 and 60 degrees F, and the plants shrug off spring frosts like a champ.
To grow snow peas, sow the seeds directly into the garden four to six weeks before the last expected spring frost. Applying a granular beneficial soil bacteria known as pea inoculant to the seed rows when planting helps the plants acquire nitrogen and typically results in improved yields. Seeds are sown a half inch deep and one to two inches apart.
Because many snow pea varieties grow tall, erect a fence, trellis, or garden netting for the vines to climb. If shorter plants are desired, select a bush variety of snow peas, such as ‘Oregon Sugar Pod II’ or ‘Short N’ Sweet’. Most varieties are ready to harvest just 60 days after planting
Snow peas should be picked young, when the pods are still flat and the peas inside have just started to swell.
Lettuce is among the easiest early spring veggie to plant. While you can purchase starter plants from your local nursery and transplant them into the garden, it’s far less expensive – and easier – to start your own plants from seed.
There are thousands of different varieties of lettuce, each offering a subtly different flavor, leaf color, texture, and shape. But, no matter which varieties you choose to plant, seeds can be sown directly into the garden as early as eight weeks before the last expected spring frost. For a continual crop of lettuce, sow more seeds every two to four weeks until summer temperatures arrive.
Space lettuce seeds approximately a half-inch apart, at a depth of a quarter inch. If full-sized lettuce heads are desired, thin the seedlings to six inches when they form their first true leaves. If you plan to harvest baby lettuce greens, there’s no need to thin the resulting seedlings; simply snip off the young leaves as you need them.
For more abundant lettuce try starting your seeds in the Big Bag Bed Mini or 7 Gallon Smart Pot. Not only will you grow more lettuce, you’ll find the process simple and easy to do.
Often called a “superfood” for its nutritional punch, kale is a great early spring vegetable to plant. It isn’t the least bit bothered by the cold temperatures of spring and will produce edible leaves just a month after planting.
To grow kale as a spring vegetable, sow seeds directly into the garden as soon as the soil temperature reaches 40 degrees F. Bury the seeds one-half inch deep, and space them an inch apart. Unless you plan to harvest only the baby greens, thin the seedlings to six to eight inches apart.
Kale leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked in stir fries and soups. Try some fun-colored or frilly-leaved varieties to bring a unique touch of color and texture to the kitchen.
This is another spring vegetable well worth growing, especially because store-bought radishes pale in comparison to homegrown roots in the flavor department. With their spicy flavor and crisp texture, radishes come in a surprisingly diverse array of colors and shapes.
For good root formation, radish must be planted in the very early spring or late in the fall, when temperatures are cool. Ready to harvest in just three to five weeks, radishes seldom disappoint. For continuous production, plant a row of radish every two weeks throughout the spring and harvest the roots while they’re still small.
Sow seeds a half-inch deep and one inch apart. Thin the seedlings to two inches as crowded plants do not result in superior roots. Do not apply nitrogen-rich fertilizers to areas where radish or other root crops are planted as the plants will produce excessive green growth at the expense of high-quality roots.
Like many other members of the cabbage family, including cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts, broccoli is an excellent early spring veggie. While you can grow broccoli by directly sowing the seeds into the garden, the plants require more time to mature than some other spring vegetables and may not produce quality heads before hot weather arrives. To accommodate for this, broccoli is best grown from starter plants purchased at your local nursery, or by starting the seeds indoors, under grow lights, about four to six weeks before they’re ready to be transplanted outside.
Regardless of whether you grow your own plants or purchase them from a nursery, young broccoli seedlings can go out into the garden four to six weeks before the last expected spring frost. Space plants one to two feet apart for maximum head size.
Broccoli grows best when temperatures are in the 60s; hot temperatures can promote premature bolting (flowering) and a slightly bitter flavor. The plants are tolerant of frosts, and if you live south of USDA Zone 7, fall-grown broccoli plants will often survive the winter and produce a secondary crop.
Planting early spring vegetables brings both sanity to the winter-weary gardener and homegrown goodness to the kitchen.
What To Plant In Spring
Some plants, such as Broccoli or Pansies, grow best when air is cool and the days are shorter. Tomatoes, Zinnias and other crops thrive when both soil and air temperatures are higher and the days are long. Before breaking out your trowel and garden gloves, take a minute to learn what you should be planting in your garden this spring – no matter where you live.
Spring is a good time to add shrubs and trees to the landscape. Choose bare-root plants when you’re planting early in the season, while air temperatures are cool and rains are falling. If you’re planting closer to the onset of summer, purchase container-grown plants, which already have an established root system and can be firmly established before summer climate-stresses arrive.
As you decide what plants to add to your yard, consider selections with deer-resistant features. For a warmer region, these might include Agave, Elderberry, Yerba Buena , California Fuchsia, Spicebush or Lavender. In cooler zones, try Cinquefoil, American Holly, Dwarf Alberta Spruce, Switchgrass or Hay-Scented Fern.
Cool-season annuals grow and flower best in low air temperatures. Some of these chill-enhanced plants can withstand a light freeze (29-32°F), such As Pansy, Snapdragon, Flowering Stock and Ornamental Cabbage. In the Northern half of the country and at higher elevations in the South and West, dress up containers and planting beds with these or other cool-season charmers, such as English Daisy, Diascia, Painted Tongue, Love-In-A-Mist, Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus) or Calendula.
In spring, the right time to dig in soil is when it’s not too wet (clumps together) or too dry (like dust). It’s right for digging when the texture is like moist cake – you can compress pieces of it together, but it crumbles easily. As soon as soil is workable, direct-sow frost-tolerant vegetables, including Peas, Spinach, Lettuces, Beet, Chard and Radish.
In places like the Pacific Northwest, Mountain West, Midwest and Northeast, direct-sow cool-season crops and set out vegetable seedlings of Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower as early as 4-6 weeks before the last frost. For more information, read our articles on Direct Sowing: Starting Seeds Outdoors and how to Strengthen Seedlings Before Planting.
For sunny Southern California, plant warm-season vegetables (Tomato, Squash, Pepper, Eggplant or Cucumber). In low desert areas of the Southwest, shade Tomatoes when temperatures reach 100°F.
Southernmost gardeners can plant heat-tolerant vegetables, including Summer squash, Okra or Cantaloupe. In the rest of the South, direct-sow warm-season vegetable seeds, such as Beans, Corn, Squash and Cucumbers. Set out heat-loving veggie transplants (Tomato, Eggplant, Pepper) in late April, but be ready to protect plants if a late-season freeze occurs. To read about “Cold-Snap Care,” click here.
In warmer climes, such as Southern California, tuck container-grown perennials into landscapes so that plants can be established before dry summer weather arrives. Container-grown roses take off fast, whether they’re planted in San Diego or Colorado.
In cool regions when soil is workable, plant summer-blooming bulbs, such as Allium, Freesia, and Asiatic, Tiger or Oriental Lilies. Hold off planting frost-tender summer roots (Canna, Dahlia, Elephant Ear) until all danger of frost has passed. If these shoots emerge and a frost descends, new growth will be damaged, possibly destroyed.
As temperatures creep upward in the Northeast and Midwest, established perennials start pushing new growth. As the first green shoots emerge, dig and divide fall-flowering perennials, such as Asters, Mums and Ornamental Grasses.
It is thought that shallots come from tropical Asia. It was highly appreciated by the Greeks and the Romans, that considered it aphrodisiac. It is not a widely spread culture, and it is mainly produced in Asia and North America. The main producing countries are Mexico, Republic of Korea, Japan and China. The production and export data gathered by the FAO refer to shallots and fresh onions.
The world production is as follows:
Source: FAO Production Yearbook, 2000
The 10 main producing countries are the following:
|Republic of Korea||606|
|Pop Dem. Rep. Korea||85|
Source: FAO Production Yearbook, 1998
The main producing country is Mexico, that is also the main exporter. It is followed by New Zealand, that exports almost the whole of its production. The rest are France, Indonesia and the Netherlands. The following table shows the 10 main exporting countries:
|Trinidad and Tobago||502|
Source: FAO Trade Yearbook, 1999AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE: buy or get emailed when available
SHALLOTS GROWING INFORMATION © Frances Michaels
BOTANICAL NAME: Allium cepa var. aggregatum syn. Allium ascalonicum
COMMON NAMES: golden shallot; French shallot, eschallot, echalotte (French); khan kho (Vietnamese); bawang merah (Indonesian, Malaysian); scalogna (Italian); schalotte (German); sjalot (Dutch)
FAMILY: Alliaceae, the onion family
Australians are often confused about what a shallot actually is, as we commonly refer to spring onions this way. Elsewhere in the world the word ‘shallot’ is only used to describe a small bulb with a superb, delicate flavour. To further add to the confusion, two close relatives, shallots and potato onions, are often used as synonyms. The base of the shallot is composed of about twelve onions lightly attached to each other, its leaves are tubular like an onion’s, but shorter and thinner. Shallots come in various colours and can vary slightly in shape. The tropical Asian or red shallot has a purplish skin with a pinkish interior.
The bulbs are a culinary onion with a superb mild flavour. They can be eaten raw, boiled, pickled, baked, or fried. Shallots are long keeping and will store for up to 12 months.
Plant in a sunny, well-drained position. Soil is best prepared a few months before planting. For a good crop, shallots require a rich, loam soil. Avoid using manure, as too high a nitrogen content will reduce the keeping quality of the shallots. Check the pH and add lime to correct acidity. The pH should be at least 6.5. Traditionally shallots are planted on the shortest day and harvested on the longest. In subtropical areas March – April is a better planting time. In cooler areas the recommended planting time is late winter or early spring. Do not plant the bulbs too deeply, push them into the soil so the tops are still visible. Space the bulbs 15-20 cm apart. A single bulb should multiply into 6-12 bulbs.
Shallots are a perennial but are commonly treated as annuals. Harvest the shallots before flowering, when the tops start to fall over in autumn. If they are left in the soil too long, the cycle will start again and bulb size will decrease markedly. Spread on a wire screen in a cool, well-ventilated shelter. Because they rot easily when injured, they should be cured in the shade before the clumped side bulbs are separated off. This will help prevent any breaking of tissue. Store in a cool, dry place or hang up in open weave bags. Save the good-sized bulbs but not the largest, for re-planting.
123rf.com Drying garlic bulbs is the culmination of a months-long process that starts around now.
If you haven’t already, get your garlic and shallots in the ground now. These cool-season veges are easy to grow and can provide several weeks, even months, of homegrown produce.
Both these pungent herbs pair well with a wide variety of foods, and can be grown side by side in-ground or in a container garden. You may already have garlic and shallot “seeds” in your kitchen right now, ready for planting.
Start with good seeds. Garlic seeds are simply the cloves on the garlic bulb.
The best garden garlic will be grown from garlic cloves purchased at your local garden centre or from seed catalogues. However, you can successfully grow garlic by using the grocery store purchased variety of garlic. But if you plan to do that, buy organic only. That way you know it hasn’t been sprayed or treated with a non-sprouting formula. Wait until you’re ready to plant before separating the outside cloves from the garlic bulb.
While we traditionally plant garlic and shallots on the shortest day of the year (sometime in June), autumn is the ideal time. Autumn planting gives the garlic and shallots time to produce a root system before winter and you will harvest larger produce. But if you didn’t plant in autumn, don’t panic. Now is perfectly fine too – you will still get a perfectly good crop, but you may just get smaller bulbs.
Garlic and shallots grow best in well-drained, crumbly, fertile soil that is exposed to full sun. Neither like wet feet, so plant in raised beds or containers if your soil is frequently waterlogged.
Dig over the garden soil, mixing in compost or well-rotted animal manure to prevent soil compaction. The lighter, or looser, the soil, the larger your bulbs will grow.
For garlic, carefully snap off the outside, or fattest, cloves from the bulbs. Push each clove, unpeeled and pointy end up, into the soil about 5 centimetres deep and 10-15cm apart.
For shallots, separate the multiple bulbs and plant each individual bulb, root end down. Press them into the soil but leave at least a third of the bulb poking out. Space your shallots at least 15cm apart in rows 30cm apart. Unlike garlic, which forms a bulb from one clove, shallots form clusters of bulbs around the original bulb so they require more space.
Water well after planting, then water again over winter only when the soil is dry.
Cover with several inches of lightweight mulch, like straw. The garlic and shallot shoots will find their way up through the mulch. If you have a problem with birds digging out your bulbs or pecking at the shoots, you may need to cover them with netting.
Come spring, make sure you water your garlic and shallots well. They will need a feed too.
As soon as the leaves appear, foliar feed fortnightly for a couple of months, at which time bulbs will be starting to form. My feeding formula is this: 1 tablespoon liquid seaweed mixed with 1 tablespoon fish emulsion and a litre of water. Alternatively, you can simply use a balanced fertiliser.
Keep the area well weeded and remove any scapes (flower heads) that form, as the plant will use up valuable energy to form flowers rather than bulbs.
Stop watering garlic when the green above-ground shoots begin to turn brown. The brown shoots indicate that the garlic is almost ready to harvest and withholding water helps the garlic bulbs form their parchment paper-like outer coverings.
Mine are usually ready to harvest around the end of January. Don’t leave them in the ground too long or the bulbs will become inedible.
Continue to water your shallots until harvest time but lay off the fertiliser a couple of weeks before, otherwise storage quality may be affected. Harvest your shallots when the tops wither and turn brown, usually mid to late summer. You can harvest them earlier though if you’re anxious for fresh garden produce: when the green shoots are 15-20cm tall.
After digging them up, both garlic and shallots should be left to cure in a dry, shaded spot for a few days, then hung in bunches to dry further, or placed on a slatted tray with good air movement around the bulbs.
Make sure you save some bulbs for planting next season.
Visit Jane’s blogs, sweetlivingmagazine.co.nz and flamingpetal.co.nz.
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A big bowl in my kitchen always holds onions and garlic, but only occasionally do I have a surplus of shallots. Even though they’re my favorite allium, they’re a little more expensive, harder to cut due to their size, and, in my life, not an essential for everyday cooking. But sometimes a recipe specifically calls for shallots and the closest grocery store to my apartment is half a mile away. I usually improvise with onions, but too often end up with a far more onion-y dish than intended. That doesn’t have to be your fate, though—senior food editor Rick Martinez is here to save the day with the correct ratio to for using onions as a shallot substitute.
First off, this substitute only works when you’re cooking the alliums. You don’t want to bite into raw onion in your vinaigrette, but raw shallots are mellow enough to not totally ruin your breath for the day. Martinez notes that yellow onions are the best substitute for shallots, since sweet onions are too sweet and white or red are a little too sharp.
Shallot tarte tartin: Not a good time to swap for onions.
When swapping, make sure to measure with already-chopped onions. Once chopped, you can substitute with a 1:1 ratio of shallots to onions, but if a recipe calls for more than ½ cup of shallots, slow your roll. That means the shallots are important, and this is not a time to play with onions. Any more than that will be have too strong of an onion flavor, as shallots are a lot more mellow. For example, shallot tarte tartin and crispy chicken with shallots need shallots. In larger quantities, you’ll taste the difference more, even if you caramelize the onions.
To help mellow the flavor, cut the onions a little smaller than usual and cook them down further. Shallots tend to melt into the sauces and dishes they’re used in, whereas onions will hold their shape and have more of a bite. My first experiment with this change-up will be bucatini with lemony carbonara, and because I’m a rebel, I’m using bacon instead of guanciale, too.
If you just can’t quit shallots:
1 / 31Chevron Chevron Slow-Roasted Shallots in Skins Whole, unpeeled, and roasted to surreal tenderness, shallots are shedding their ”always the bridesmaid” status once and for all. View Recipe