Broad beans are one of the first plants you can place in your vegetable garden. This cool season vegetable produces beans in June. As you can see above the beans grow out sideways making this plant very noticeable when its ready to harvest. Each pod has between six to eight beans inside. I like to shell the beans and cook them up in a bit of boiling water for about five minutes. They are a wonderful addition to a salad or served up with a bit of butter over them. Plant your seeds 2″ deep and about 9″ apart. Space your rows about 18″ apart as the plants can grow to about 3′ high and about 18″ wide. I support my broad beans using canes for each plant and tying them in.
Peas are a favourite of mine and I will be growing enough this year to freeze for winter use. That is if they get inside before I eat them. Peas love cool weather and can even tolerate a bit of frost. Peas are best sown when outside temperatures reach about 10C. I like to start seeds inside in February for a March planting but they can be direct sown outside in March. Plant your pea seeds in a furrow of soil about 1 1/2″ deep. Place each seed about 2″-3″ apart. Be sure to know how tall your plants will get so you can add a support for the vines at planting time. I like to grow an open pollinated variety called ‘Lincoln Homesteader’ as I can save seeds from the plant at the end of the season. This type only grows to 3′ so its easy to support. I place a post at either end of the bed of peas and stretch some netting across for the vines to climb on. Remember if you are growing several rows of peas, leave enough room between the rows so you can harvest them easily enough.
Kale is so popular and there are many varieties to choose from. It all depends on personal taste. I like Red Russian kale the best but many people love the curly kale pictured above. If you are planting kale, be aware that some plants will grow to 4′ high. They are biennial plants so they come back the second year and will then produce flowers and seeds.
This is one plant that will feed you all year round. Its capable of surviving the harshest winters. Be sure to place your kale in a site that has plenty of room. Sow seeds in early spring about 1/4″ deep and space them 24″ apart if you are going to let them grow to a full-sized plant. If you want you can plant a row of seeds close together and use them as ‘cut and come again’ greens. This means you harvest the leaves as you need them and the plant continues to grow. By picking the leaves regularly the plant doesn’t grow out of bounds.
If you are a first time gardener, try planting some onion sets in March. Above are red onion sets that you can buy in a bag of 80 sets for about $3 here on the lower mainland of BC. If they all grow, which they should, you will be rewarded with 80 full-sized red onions. Before you plant rake the soil to loosen it up and make a shallow drill the length of your bed. Place the onion set pointed end up spacing them about 4″ apart. Press gently into the soil and cover. The tips should be showing just a bit. Water well after planting. Keep your onion beds weeded so the roots don’t have to compete with weeds.
Lettuce is another cool season plant that is easy to grow. The seeds are tiny for this plant so be careful to plant one seed at a time. Only plant a partial row of lettuce. Come back in two weeks and sow some more lettuce and then again in two more weeks. You don’t need to have forty heads of lettuce ready at the same time unless it’s all your family eats. I will often do a third of a row in lettuce, a third in spinach and the last third in mesclun greens. It makes a lovely mix for any salad.
Spinach is a must for the cool season garden. I want to be sure I have spinach in the garden when the strawberries ripen in May. Who doesn’t love a spinach strawberry salad? Sow spinach seed directly in the soil being sure to not plant more than you can use. Like I said above, a partial row is enough to get you started. This vegetable is not fussy to grow. It can even tolerate some shade like most leafy greens. Plant your spinach seeds 1/4″ deep and about 1″ apart. Leave 12″ between rows. Keep your bed weeded and water regularly.
So start planning your vegetable with these cool season crops in mind. Next week I will talk about what I do to get my garden beds ready for planting.