Hands in the Dirt: Spring Greens
Photo and article by Donna Iverson
One of the earliest arrivals in the spring, even before last frost, are spring greens. After a Michigan winter, planting and eating spring greens is, for me, as exciting as seeing the first crocus, snowdrop or daffodil.
When the first spring flowers sprout in late March, I know it is time to plant seeds of spring greens. Gardening friends tell me April 1 is the traditional first date to plant greens but I like going by Mother Nature’s calendar. Often I refer to a study called Phenology. Spring phenology recommendations include planting radishes and spinach when the crocus bloom, peas and onions when you see forsythia’s yellow flowers, and chard and carrots when daffodils open.
When it comes to growing lettuce, you have four choices: leaf, romaine, butterhead and head lettuce. Leaf lettuces are my favorite as they are the quickest to mature. Lettuces prefer cool temperatures and start to bolt as soon as the weather warms. So an early start is essential. Also succession planting every few weeks is recommended to provide a fresh supply of lettuce during the spring and early summer. Lettuce is susceptible to aphids and slugs but I’ve never had a problem.
An assorted variety of cruciferous leafy veggies are available in a seed mixture called mesclun. Mesclun can include kale, chervil, arugula, cress, baby spinach, chard, collards, and mustard greens. Mesclun originated in Provence, France. In the US, it is often referred to as spring mix.
Kale is a special favorite as it grows right through the winter months. Fresh greens can be found in your garden when snow covers the ground. When eaten raw, it can be a little tough but if you massage it, it breaks down the fibers and makes it easier to digest. Yes, massage your kale, says my gardening cousin who loves to cook.
Bok choy and Muzuna are probably the two most popular spring greens in this category, both in the Brassica or cruciferous family. Mizuna hails from Japan and looks like kale and can survive to -10 degrees. Young leaves are sweet with a mild mustard flavor. Full disclosure: I have never planted mizuna but am on the lookout for a seed packet. It is definitely a trendy spring green mentioned in many a recent gardening article.
In this category, lambs quarters, dandelion, and mustard greens come first to mind. These greens you don’t have to plant as they often appear on their own. Every spring, lambs quarters appear like magic in my community garden bed providing greens before any planted seed has matured. And in gathering lambs quarters, I join the bees getting my earliest taste of nature’s bounty.
Hands in the Dirt: Peas
Photo and article by Donna Iverson
Astrological spring is here ..March 1. And it’s not too early to plant cold hardy vegetables and herbs. Many of these are salad ingredients like lettuce, spinach, chard, kale, radishes, carrots, and peas. Cold weather herbs include chives, mint, oregano, parsley, sage and thyme. In fact, by late February, parsley was growing in my community garden bed. Its arrival says spring is here.
As I am eager to get my salad garden underway, I’ll start with peas. They don’t take up a lot of space as I plant them on a trellis made with bamboo sticks and twine. My trellis is in a straight line, although some of my fellow community gardeners use a teepee arrangement.
Planted in early spring, peas will be ready for harvest by June. Most of them won’t make it home, as I tend to munch on them right off the vine. As well as a gardener, I’m a forager at heart.
For beginning gardeners, peas come in three types: snow peas, snap peas and shelling peas. Snow peas, also known as Chinese peas, have edible pods and seeds. They are excellent raw, off the vine, in a salad or stir fried. The leaves and tendrils are also edible.
Planting peas is easy. They are fairly large seeds that can be pushed into the ground about an inch apart and one inch deep. As for companion planting, peas like carrots as their neighbors but are tolerant of almost any other vegetable or herb growing nearby. Although rumor has it they aren't especially fond of onions, They are somewhat susceptible to mildew, so provide a place where there is good air circulation, and don’t water from the top. Peas will grow in full sun or partial shade.
Historically, peas are one of the oldest cultivated crops, dating back to the Neolithic period and likely eaten by both Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, nearly 46,000 years ago. Jumping ahead to the modern period, in the 1920s, Clarence Birdseye first froze peas and began selling them in grocery stores. He made a fortune. Today, frozen peas sell better than fresh ones, which are seldom available even at farmers markets as a result. But gardener know that fresh peas off the vine are way better than the frozen variety.
Beginners class coming in April
“The only time I ever believed that I knew all there was to know about beekeeping was the first year I was keeping them. Every year since I’ve known less and less and have accepted the humbling truth that bees know more about making honey than I do.”- Sue Hubbell, A Book of Bees: And How to Keep Them
Fremont Area Beekeepers will be presenting a beginners beekeeping class on April 2nd at The Stream in Newaygo. If you have thought about becoming a beekeeper, are currently a newer beekeeper or are wanting to expand your knowledge of honeybees, this class is a must. Keeping honeybees is a very rewarding labor of love. This class will navigate you through honeybee biology, pest and colony management, equipment, and harvest. There will be an additional hands on colony inspection in May at a local apiary included. Cost is $20 per seat and seats are limited. Zoom meeting tickets are also available.
To reserve your seat:
Fremont Area Beekeepers meets on the 3rd Thursday of the month March thru October at the NCRESA building in Fremont where we discuss a variety of topics and enjoy the fellowship of other beekeepers of all experience levels. Join our Facebook page or add yourself to our email list by emailing us at email@example.com.