Planting Spring Vegetables, At Last!

Yesterday, for the first time in way too long, I gardened.

I ripped out a pretty hefty chunk of grass and weeds with my trusty 4-tine cultivator. I got dirt in my hair and on my face and under my nails, just like normal, and worked until it was almost too dark to see. It was the best! Photos of the new garden are forthcoming, but in the meantime I thought I’d share glamour shots of some of the cool season vegetables I am going to fill it with.

Who can resist lettuce seedlings in spring? Not me. I picked up three beauties on Saturday at the Seattle Tilth early spring plant sale.

‘Forellenschluss’ is an heirloom romaine and my most favorite of all lettuces. It has a crunchy base and a tender top. I love its pretty speckled leaves and very mild flavor. It grows into quite a large head, so give it some room if you plant it. ‘Breen’ is a new variety for  me. I was captivated by its reddish black leaves. It is apparently quite a petite romaine, which will be nice because I think one head should make a dinner-sized salad for our two person family.

‘Tom Thumb’ is perhaps the world’s cutest lettuce. It forms a palm-sized head of the most tender leaves. It is also a baby slug magnet. I ruthlessly spread Sluggo around it to protect the heads from getting mauled.

‘Romanesco’ broccoli is such a cool plant and I’m excited to grow it again. Last year I got the weeniest heads because I watered inconsistently. And if there is one thing that broccoli and cauliflower hate, it is fluctuating soil moisture. It leads to “buttoning”, which is simply the formation of dreadfully disappointing small heads. This year I vow to keep the soil moist as a wrung out sponge at all times. If you haven’t bought broccoli starts yet, or if you are starting your own indoors, be sure to set them out when they are small (only 2 to 3 leaves). Any bigger and they are also prone to buttoning. I’m also growing ‘Purple Peacock’ broccoli, which is a seriously cool plant. I tried it for the first time last year and it produced ‘Red Russian’ kale-like leaves and purple broccoli side shoots well into summer. Loved it!

‘Walla Walla’ Onions are so delicious and sweet and a must in my garden. I’m also trying the new-to-me  ‘Red Long of Tropea’ and planting ‘Lincoln’ leeks which get super thick, fat shanks (click here for  my instructions on planting onion and leek seedlings).

‘Rainbow Lacinato’. I’m pretty sure I was a brontosaurus in a former life. Nothing else really explains my love for ‘Lacinato’ kale (also known as Dino Kale). So I am extra excited to try ‘Rainbow Lacinato’, which is a cross between ‘Lacinato’ and ‘Redbor’ kales that was developed at Wild Garden Seed. It purportedly has ‘Lacinato’-like leaves with red, purple, and blue green hues. Swoon!

‘Purple Italian’ artichoke. This artichoke gets purple flower buds. When we had a community garden plot, there was a gal who grew tons of these and they were so gorgeous. Sometimes she let them bloom and they looked like big purple thistles, but I’m sure mine will never reach that stage in my garden because I’ll gobble them up while they are still buds.