Mary Beth Shaddix Mary Beth Shaddix
April 04, 2013

We're starting to see signs of Spring, though I think the groundhog that supposedly saw an early spring coming should be checked for cataracts. Much different than last March, this season has had a windy, chilly start. We optimistically planted a crop of broccoli, cabbages, radicchio, bok choy, Swiss chard and many more cool-season vegetables for a quick harvest before putting in our upcoming tomatoes, peppers, squash and summer crops. Southern springs historically go from icy 30 degrees to a balmy 75-and-sunny day, causing us to jump straight into tomato and cucumber plantings. If so, we risk these cool-season crops "bolting" into bloom without a tasty harvest, but it's a fun gamble.

Waking up with the longer day-length and warmer soil is our patch of Swiss chard (to the right) and Purple Sprouting broccoli. This broccoli is almost a year-long crop that is best overwintered, sprouting deep purple heads for harvesting in April. I haven't seen any florets forming yet, but check it daily. Other gardeners really tout this one for sweeter, better flavor that is hard to find in stores. Our garlic patch (below) boasts a handful of varieties planted last fall, from Elephant to Chesnok Red to Georgia Fire. I caught a solitary radish I left in the bed (below); it's now in bloom amidst the beet greens.

We're adding lots of berries to the lineup in our Cooking Light kitchen garden this year. We've taken 30 blackberry plants from our Maple Valley propagation houses to install along the garden fence. The varieties are thornless, bearing large purple-black fruits and Indian names like Ouachita, Navaho and Apache. David and I planted a 25-foot stretch with Eversweet strawberries, with hopes they'll overhang the wooden bed border for easy picking.

We have countless blueberries on the property, all covered in massive amounts of blooms, such as this very beautiful Sunshine Blue variety (pictured to the left).  The quince are in full bloom now, and the Asian pear in the middle of the garden patch is covered in white blossoms and leafing out.

In the greenhouses we have seedlings growing by the minute. New colorful peppers like Cayenne Purple will be gorgeous underplanted with purple Red Rubin basil (pictured in seed trays below).  Tomato seedlings are ready to go, as soon as the calendar hits mid-April and danger of frost has passed. Also new in our 2013 garden: potatoes! We're prepping the seed potatoes now, or chitting them, by letting the eyes produce shoots that will eventually be planted for a future crop 20 times its size (below).

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