For a Lush Garden, Start These Plants Early

Spring may have only just begun, but it’s not too early to start planting.

Think about it in terms of cold- and warm-season crops, says Matt Zerby, president and CEO of Wasco Nursery and Garden Center in St. Charles.

Cold-weather crops tend to do best when sown directly into the ground while it’s still cool, he says. Good candidates are leafy veggies like spinach, asparagus, cabbage, kale, lettuce and Brussels sprouts.

“They will grow if you plant them later in the season, but the quality of the vegetable itself – the quality and taste – will be diminished when you try to grow cool-season crops in warm weather; they’re more starchy and bitter,” Zerby says. “There are more sugars in the plant when it’s cooler, so they taste sweeter.”

Most cool-weather plants are annuals, but certain fruit – like raspberries, blueberries and blackberries – are perennials so they can be planted in spring and come back every year.
An excellent kid-friendly choice is Raspberry Shortcake, Zerby says. Most raspberry varieties have thorns, but this one is a dwarf, thornless plant that does well both in a pot and in the ground.

Often, when plants are bred for certain characteristics – like being thornless – the fruit doesn’t taste as good as the original variety. “But in this case, they taste just as good as any raspberry tastes,” Zerby says.

If it’s still too cold for you to traverse outdoors, you can still get a head start on planting. Just get going indoors.

Tomatoes and peppers are warm-season crops that can be started in a pot inside and transferred outside later on, Zerby says. Tomatoes can go in the ground around Mother’s Day; peppers like warmer soil, so mid- to late May, if not June, is best.

Marigolds and herbs are also easy to start indoors and transfer outside.

However, not all plants like to be started indoors – particularly squash, cucumber, zucchini and sunflowers. It’s best to sow these directly into the ground when the soil is a bit warmer. ❚

Wasco Nursery and Garden Center is located at 41W781 Illinois Route 64 in St. Charles, (630) 584-4424.