Winter is definitely not my favorite time of year. Not only is the cold weather hard on my physically but the lack of sunlight and outdoor time has me counting the days until spring each year. One way I combat winter is by planting these 5 vegetables to grow for a quick later summer harvest. Some are so cold hardy I can also plant them very early in the spring to get a jump start on summer.
- Radishes – Plant seeds about an inch apart and cover with about 1/2 inch of soil. You should see seedlings in about three to five days! If necessary thin the plants so the roots (the radish you’ll eat) have room to grow. Be sure to water your radishes in hot weather. By planting small batches every month you’ll have radishes all summer long. And radishes are a great plant for kids to grow. Most radish varieties sprout within about 4 days although some require 10 days to germinate. And kids won’t have to wait long to harvest their crop because the radishes should be ready to pick in about 22 days! Protect your radishes with row covers to avoid flea beetle infestations.
- Greens – Arugula, lettuce, and mustard greens along with the other greens are great to fill in those areas of the garden where other vegetables have been harvested. Sow the seeds at the depth and distance recommended for each variety. Most are ready to begin harvesting only a few weeks after planting! You may have to thin the plants. By picking only the outer leaves you’ll keep the plant producing and have a variety of greens for salads or cooking. If you have hot summers you may need to use shade cloth to protect these cooler weather crops. Row covers may be used to protect again flea beetles and other pests.
- Bush beans – These are another great plant for kids to grow with harvest-ready beans available in about 60 days. New seeds can be planted once the first plants have been harvested. Plant seeds about 2 inches deep, 2 inches apart, and in rows 18 – 36 inches apart. Harvest when the bean pods are young and tender. Only eat the extremely young beans raw. Picking the beans regularly, every day or two will ensure the production of even more beans. Sow a new crop every few weeks for fresh beans all summer long.
- Carrots – There are varieties of carrots that are meant to be eaten when they are still babies. These are a great, quick vegetable to grow in the garden or in pots. From planting to harvest these varieties will be ready for harvest in about six weeks! In the garden, sow thinly in rows about 6 inches apart. In pots sow thinly in good soil. Cover with about 1/4 inch of soil, gently pat the soil down and water. Since carrot flies can be a problem you may want to cover the carrots with a row cover. Thin the seedlings to about an inch apart on a rainy day to avoid these pests from laying their eggs and ruining your carrots. You can also thin seedlings on a still, cloudy day when the carrot flies will be less likely to be around. After thinning, water the soil to help tamp down the soil and protect your crop.
- Spinach – Whether cooked or eaten raw, spinach is one of my family’s favorites. And this fast growing vegetable can be planted every month for fresh spinach the entire growing season. Since spinach leaves become bitter in hot weather keep the ground moist in summer. Spinach is ready to harvest after only about 30 days! This is a cold hardy crop and you can grow it right up the first frost. Seeds should be planted 1/2 to 1 inch deep about an inch apart or just sprinkle the seeds over a wide bed. Thin the plants to about 8 inches apart when they are established. Spinach roots are shallow so be careful when harvesting the young, outer leaves.
A special note about slugs: These critters can destroy seedlings so set up a beer trap to protect your plants. Simply pour beer into a shallow dish and let the slugs collect. You can also use an upside down grapefruit with the fruit mostly scraped out. Slugs will crawl under them for the shade and you can dispose of them by picking them up and….well, whatever you decide.