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Just as the sap starts to rise in trees at this time of year, so the excitement starts to rise in the hearts of gardeners and farmers. Whether or not it's time to start planting outside, it definitely is time to get ready for the season ahead. In this issue of JSS Advantage, we'll suggest ways to use your pent-up gardening energy so that you will be well-prepared to fly into action as the weather warms.
Quick crops for early markets
Don't start your markets with a skimpy selection of produce; with careful variety selection, you can offer a wide menu of fresh spring vegetables at your earliest markets.
The key is to count back from opening day with the number of days to maturity for multiple cool-loving crops. If your market opens in May, you still have time to grow at least 18 kinds of early spring vegetables! In most parts of the U.S. and Canada, you need to grow these vegetables in a protected environment such as a hoophouse, under row cover, or in a Quick Hoops tunnel. In the South, you may be able to grow without protection. In case of cold, cloudy weather, the crops may take a little longer than the days to maturity stated in the catalog, so this list gives you an extra 10 days of growing time.
Direct seed 55-65 days before your first market:
Beets The earliest varieties, at 45-46 days, are 'Early Wonder Tall Top' and the monogerm variety 'Moneta', which doesn't need to be thinned. Other varieties, such as golden and Chiogga beets, take 55 days-plus but can be sold sooner as baby beets.
Broccoli 'Happy Rich' and 'Green Lance' produce florets that look like mini heads of broccoli. Popular in Asian cooking or salads.
Carrots Grow the early varieties 'Mokum', 'Nelson' and the organic variety 'Yaya' for slender, sweet carrots 54-56 days from seeding.
Chicories, Endive, Escarole and Italian Dandelion 55 to 58 days to harvest when direct seeded.
Corn salad/mache It takes 10-14 days to germinate, but grows to full size in 50 days. It's a salad delicacy.
Mustard greens Johnny's has a great selection of colors and shapes for making gorgeous mixed bunches in 45-50 days. Or, you can pick them smaller for salad mix.
Kale and collards Better as a fall crop, but can be grown early in places where spring is cool. 50 days to full size, or it can be picked earlier for salad mixes.
Kohlrabi Can be grown early in the North, but is better as a fall crop in the South.
Lettuce Nearly all full-size lettuces will be ready 50 days from direct seeding, or 35-40 days from transplanting.
Bunching onions/scallions 'Guardsman' is the earliest variety at just 50 days from seeding.
Peas, snap 'Sugar Sprint' doesn't need stringing, and is ready in 58 days.
Swiss chard Full bunching size in 50-59 days, but delicious younger as a salad ingredient.
Direct seed 45-55 days before your first market:
Broccoli 'Spring Raab' is ready in just 42 days, and will hold up well as the weather warms.
Greens Arugula matures to full size for bunching in just 40 days, or can be picked sooner as a salad green. Asian greens such as Mizuna, Shungiku, and Pac Choi, also can be grown to full size in about 45 days.
Spinach Among the smooth leaf types, 'Emu' is the slowest to bolt as the weather warms; among the savoy types 'Tyee' is slowest to bolt. They take about 40 days from direct seeding to full size, or can be picked younger as baby spinach. Faster varieties can be planted if the weather will remain cool for the next six weeks or so.
Direct seed 35-45 days ahead:
Radish Varieties range from 21 to 30 days to maturity.
Salad mix Lettuces take about 28 days from direct seeding to harvest at the baby stage. Other greens can be ready in 21 days
Visit Johnny's Selected Seeds for more free information about growing produce, herbs, cover crops and flowers.•
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Reprinted from JSS Advantage March 2010