Yes, we’re in the middle of a record-breaking blizzard. Yes, the accumulated snow will keep me from my winter work of pruning clients’ shrubs. Yes, there will soon be so much snow on the ground I won’t even be able to take measurements for clients’ designs. So I’m planning this year’s vegetable garden.
If you’ve never had a vegetable garden before, now is the time to plan. All you need is a small plot of ground, or even just some large pots, some rich soil, sun, and a plan for keeping critters away. A vegetable garden must get at least 6 hours of sun per day, and more is better.
Many early crops can be sown directly in the ground as soon as the soil is workable, usually by mid- to late March. These crops include lettuce, arugula and other bitter greens, spinach, mesclun mixes, and peas. Depending on the weather, I generally sow all these around mid-March. I begin to harvest the greens about six weeks after planting and the peas in early June. Once the weather gets good and hot, I pull all these crops up and plant something else in their place. A plot that’s roughly 4 x 4 feet gives us several large salads each week. So order your seeds now. Mid-March is only six weeks away!
Other crops can be started from seeds indoors, either under lights or in a sunny window, and then transplanted into the garden after the last frost date (which, depending on the source you trust, is somewhere around the end of April here in Bergen County). Working back from a last-frost date of April 30, here’s when you could start seeds indoors for a variety of popular crops:
- End of January: Asparagus
- End of February: Lettuce, onions
- March 5: Broccoli, endive, escarole
- March 12: Tomatoes
- March 19: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, kale
- March 26: Beets
- April 2: Leeks, summer and winter squash
- April 9: Cucumbers, melons
Other tender crops, such as corn and beans, are sown directly outdoors, but not until the soil is good and warm, usually sometime in May.
If all goes well, by late May (just four months from now!), your vegetable garden may look like this: