Spring harvest season has arrived. Whether you have planted and sowed, and are now enjoying your first spring season harvests, or are just getting started planting, (or like me, replacing what the critters have eaten), you might be wondering, "Now what can I sow?"
There are several vegetable varieties that you can sow now for a summer harvest and yet still others that you can sow in 2-3 weeks for a fall harvest.
As you harvest from your garden, or create new garden space, you can fill your free garden plots with any of the following:
1. Arugula adds a bit of spice to summer salads, pestos, pizza and pasta dishes. Best when harvested young and once per planting. When you harvest the first crop, pull out the roots and start again. Sow throughout the season for a continual crop. About 20 days from seed to mouth.
2. Nasturtiums are a beautiful garden plant and add a zing to any meal. They are also a great companion plant, attracting beneficial bugs with their bright flowers and distracting harmful ones who might otherwise munch on your veggies. Direct sow now through the end of June for bright, bushy plants well into the fall.
3. Carrots can be sown in 3-4 successions in the northeast region. Try mixing it up each time for something different. Sow Red Cored Chantenay carrots last (beginning of August) for a storage crop that will hold over until spring. (More on that next week.)
4. Beets offer triple eating pleasure. Use tiny thinnings in a garden salad mix along with lettuce and arugula. Wait a few weeks longer when you harvest the full grown beet root. The roots can be eaten after being cooked, hot or cold, plus the tops can be used in dishes like spinach or chard. 2-3 weeks from seed to baby beet, 50 days until the beet root is ready to harvest.
5. Basil often turns black and brown by the end of the season in a wet year. Avoid the disappointment by sowing basil seeds every 2-3 weeks. The tender baby plants can be thinned to 12" spacing. Use the thinnings in pesto as they do in Genoa. Two weeks from seed to baby, 40 days until plants are full grown. Make sure you snip off any signs of flowers to keep larger plants producing larger, tender, fragrant leaves. If the season allows for big, lush plants all season long, an abundant basil harvest can be frozen in the form of pesto.
6. Cucumbers often succumb to bacterial wilt two weeks after they set a heavy amount of fruit. Picklers and cuke lovers can keep enjoying this summer fruit by sowing another crop of cucumbers any time now through the end of June. Make sure you plant the new crop away from the older crop so that they have a less likely chance of catching wilt early on. Start seeds in small pots. Transplant when the first "true leaves" appear. 60-70 days from seed to harvest.
7. Lettuce is undeniably a staple in most households, and one of the easiest fresh greens to grow. Sow seeds several inches apart and thin to 8" for head lettuce. Sow seeds 1" apart for baby lettuce, which is the best option for hot summer months when lettuce bolts easily. Baby lettuce can be harvested from the same plants as many as 3 times before you should pull the plants out and start all over.
8. Snap Bush Beans won't produce beans all summer. Plan on a good harvest for about 2-3 weeks, then rip out the plants. If you sow more seed, you can just move on to harvesting from the new crop! Like with the carrots, it's fun to mix it up a bit by planting different varieties with each succession. Pole Beans take a lot longer to produce beans, though the harvest window lasts longer. They can only be sown for the next two weeks or so for a guaranteed harvest. 50 days from seed to harvest for bush bean varieties. Always direct sow beans; 6" apart, about 1" deep.
9. Broccoli likes cool weather, but for a fall crop, start indoors now through late June, then transplant when the plants have 4 true leaves. Make sure to baby them with plenty of water and nutrients to make up for the summer heat. The plants you planted several weeks ago can be left in the ground after they produce a head. In a week or so, you will notice tender side shoots coming up. Harvest asap when ready for a nice side dish of broccoli. They will continue like this all summer long.
10. Bok choy and Baby Bok Choy don't bolt as quickly as other Asian greens. Plus, the light crunch makes bok choy pair well with many fresh summer vegetables and fruit. On hot days, try it on the grill. About 4 weeks from seed to mouth means you can sow bok choy several times throughout the season. Sow directly in the garden 2-4" apart and thin to 4-10" depending on the variety.
The list doesn't end here! There are well more than 10 shorter season crops that can be sown now for a summer harvest, including Komatsuna, kale, chard, Red Express Cabbage, Florence Fennel, Evergreen Scallions, most herbs, and even summer squash and melons if sown ASAP.
Tip: All this talk of ripping out plants and starting new ones often intimidates and shocks home gardeners. Fret not, turn those "wasted" garden plants into nutrients for next season by building a compost pile with them. Remember, what you take out, you need to put back. Compost is one of the best ways to replenish the garden.