(Part One is here.) Yes, it’s January and yes, we’re having the coldest temperatures of the last two years. But it’s still time to think of early spring crops. It’s almost time to start your brassica seedlings. The Brassica family is extremely cold-hardy. It includes things like broccoli, cabbage, collards, kale and Brussel sprouts. They can be transplanted outside 2-3 weeks before the last frost date, which in ND means you can plant around the first of May. That means you’ll want to start your seedlings no later than the first of March.
Other plants you’ll want to start early include onions and leeks.You can buy onion sets at any garden store. They’re pretty inexpensive. But if you want a special onion–one that stores for a long time or a Walla Walla Sweet–you’ll have to start them from seed and now is the time to do it.
These are the plants that you’ll soon want to start indoors from seed. But some seeds are sown directly into the garden before the last frost. These include peas, which can be planted a month before the last frost date. Around here that means we can start planting peas the third week of April. For a continuous supply, plant half a row every week between late April and the first of June.
Swiss chard and lettuce are two more early spring crops that are sown directly into the garden. They can go in about a week or two after the peas–late April or early May. If you want a continuous crop of lettuce, plant 1/4 a row every week between late April and early June. Lettuce (and Swiss chard to a lesser degree) doesn’t tolerate heat well and wants to bolt (starts to produce seed and the leaves become bitter) as soon as it gets too warm or doesn’t get enough water. You can prevent bolting by picking leaves every day and covering the plants with shade.