We have had a strange spring this year. By this time where I live in the Four Corners area, people would have planted their crops by now. The danger of frost would have been all but gone. In my own family, they have told me they had to put off planting the white, yellow, and blue corn and green and yellow squash because it is still too cold.
It has also been challenging for me. I have been sitting on edge waiting for a week of warm nights so I can put out my warm-weather seedlings that I’ve been nurturing indoors for the past two to three months. I have tomatoes, eggplant, and chili peppers all eagerly waiting for their time to go outdoors!
But, that’s the way it goes with gardening. Some years, as much as you plan, things just don’t go as you would like. Over the winter I wrote down dates of exactly when I was going to start seeds indoors, all the way down to when I was planning to fertilize. My plan is just not working.
But with all this cold weather, it’s given me a good time to reflect and revise my gardening plans. It’s even given me some extra time to plant more varieties of cold weather vegetables that I didn’t plan to plant earlier this year.
If you are thinking of growing some cool weather crops, here is a quick guide a few vegetables that I personally grow in my garden and recommend you start now. Typically, spring weather vegetables can take a cold snap and can even be fine in the night as cool as the mid-20 degrees. These vegetables include many root-based and leafy vegetables.
Radishes. These are the quickest growing and come in many different colors. If you are just starting out gardening, radishes are a good choice if you want to start eating what you grow right away. There’s even an Easter Egg blend that makes this fun to pick! You are able to harvest these as early as one month.
Beets. Like radishes, you can get these in many different colors and they grow underground. We eat the roots and they are very rich in antioxidants. As a double bonus the tops can be sautéed or thrown in salads for an extra dose of healthy greens. These are ready to eat in thirty to sixty days.
Carrots. Just like beets and radishes, they grow underground and are usually ready in thirty to sixty days. It is important to keep these, and all other roots crops, well-watered because it can cause the roots to be tough and woody and make the flavors taste off. The tops are usually not eaten.
Beans. These vegetables are such a great source of fiber and so pretty to look at! As one of our Native people’s staple crops, these plants come in many colors and grow differently. They can grow in bush or pole bean varieties, so knowing how they grow is important when planting them so they can be provided with the right environment to thrive. Beans are also good for the soil because they add nitrogen to the soil. These take thirty to sixty days to harvest.
Peas. Just like beans, these are such a great source of fiber and protein! Peas grow in similar ways as beans and can take a light frost. There are different types of peas and are eaten differently. Depending on your likes, you can grow peas as green peas, shell peas, or garden peas. I personally like green peas because they are sweeter. Peas are ready to eat in about sixty to eighty days.
Leafy greens. Just like radishes, these are vegetables you can start eating within a month. This includes spinach, lettuce, spring mixes and baby greens such as kale, collard greens and Swiss chard. These veggies can be added to almost any dish for a quick splash of nutrition. And they aren’t just for salads! Add them to scrambled eggs, ramen noodles and in sandwiches. These are ready to eat in thirty to sixty days.
Even though we’re still struggling with the cold weather here, that doesn’t have to stop you from having a productive garden! Think about the spring vegetables you and your family would enjoy and get digging!
Denee Bex is a Registered Dietitian and advocate for healthy traditional diets and home-grown foods within Native American communities. She can be reached at Denee.Bex@gmail.com.