Early Spring Gardening in the Hilltowns
April Vegetables and the Family Garden
Normally by early April we can start thinking about planting the first veggies. Even though we still have some piles of snow here in the hills the soil temperature can rise up to 50’s in just a few weeks. Choosing what to plant should be dictated by the seeds ability to germinate at low temperatures and handle frost and snow. If you tried a squash or tomato seed at this time of the year it would possibly be dormant for weeks, maybe months before germination. But even more likely it would rot while waiting for the soil temperatures to rise.
I have been planting in the Hilltown’s now for two decades. Here is my list of what I am likely to plant, in order of what is most likely to germinate fastest, into the cold and wet soil of New England in the early spring:
The Big 5
- Radishes. Okay, not the sexiest of vegetables, but the radish will reliable germinate the fastest. Actually, if you have never had home grown radishes you will be pleasantly surprised that they have very little bite to them. Kids love to eat them pulled right out of the ground!
- Greens. Take your pick: spinach, kale, lettuce, tatsoi, boc choi, mesclun, etc… most of these will germinate with relative ease. Read the seed package to see which varieties you can harvest the soonest.
- Peas: While not quite as quick to grow as the above two, this is normally pretty reliable as we get into the middle of the month. Once pods appear and begin to ripen, it’s a favorite sweet treat kids love to much on in the garden.
- Roots. By mid-late month you can think about planting your onions, beets, carrots and potatoes. I always associate tax day with root crops.
- Broccoli. Maybe my favorite spring garden vegetable! You can do it from seed for an early summer harvest, or put in transplants for a late spring one. Either way you will get a good yield from this healthy vegetable.
For the novice or experienced gardener, UMass is a resource that we are lucky to have in our area. For soil testing, plant fact sheets, pets, etc… Check out their website: ag.umass.edu. Here you will find fact sheets, forums to ask gardening questions, list of resources and service in western MA.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jim is a certified arborist, certified horticulturist, licensed pesticide applicator (needed for the application of organic pesticides in MA) & a professional landscape designer with over 15 years experience. He is also the owner of Hilltown Tree & Garden LLC. Jim is on the faculty at the New England Wildflower Society, teaching courses on a diverse range of topics. He lives and works in Zone 5 (Chesterfield, MA) with his family. Once a month here on Hilltown Families you will find timely gardening tips, from a pro in the field, that can be easily used by both avid and novice gardeners, specific to Western MA.
[Photo credit: (cc) Susy Morris]