The first day of spring is fast approaching, and now is the time to plant cool season crops, or root and leaf vegetables, outdoors. These plants are hardy and can survive northern Nevada’s temperamental early spring weather. They germinate in soils 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, withstand light frosts and moderate snow once germinated and perform best in spring and fall. They also form a delicious and nutritious kitchen garden. Plant these cool season crops now to reap the many benefits of starting a garden early this spring:

  • Carrots: Plant in rich, well-drained soils. Clay soils or soils with hard pan or debris will cause root disfiguration, and too much organic matter can cause excessive root hairs. For good production, soil must be kept moist and plants should be mulched. Carrots can be planted in rows for easy thinning when seedlings are 1- to 2-inches tall. Succession planting in three week intervals is recommended for an extended harvest.
  • Garlic: Best planted in the fall, garlic can also produce well when planted in early spring. Generously space them apart in fertile, well-drained soils so they have room to grow.
  • Lettuce: Plant in rows of single or mixed varieties, or broadcast seeds to make solid blocks of mixed salad greens. Follow the spinach tips below to provide an ideal lettuce-growing environment.
  • Onions: Sets or starts and bulbs can be planted now in fertile, well-drained soils; seeds can be started indoors and transplanted within a month of germination. Onions have a small root system and do not perform well with competition, so space them with room to grow.
  • Peas: Join in on an old Great Basin gardening tradition: sow peas this Saint Patrick’s Day. When planted in mid-March’s cool temperatures, peas have a sweeter flavor than those planted in warm temperatures. Plant seeds directly into fertile, well-drained soil, and provide trellises for climbing vines.
  • Spinach: Plant only cool season spinach in March and April; warm season varieties will not geminate now, nor will they withstand frost. Spinach requires soil rich with organic matter, but can do well in clay soils. To extend the spinach harvest, provide filtered shade before plants begin to bolt or go to seed. This can lower temperatures and extend the growing season by several weeks.

With the many cool season crop varieties available, it is easy to over-plant. Remember to leave room to transplant the warm season vegetables that you’ll soon be starting indoors out into your garden. 

Hanson Mazet, W. and Andrews, A. 2014, Plant Cool-Season Crops Early for Payoff Later, Reno Gazette-Journal

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