Written by - Kaitlynn from MIgardener
Inspired by one of our most recent videos, this post is especially written with northern gardeners in mind! The varieties mentioned in this post are all extremely cold hardy, and following these suggestions will supply you with a harvest before most people have their gardens in the ground!
To prepare your garden beds for planting this early, it's important to remove any mulch layers. MIgardener suggests high-intensity spacing methods which will act as a living mulch. Leaving mulch on the ground when planting high intensity would result in too much moisture in the top layer of soil. Excessive moisture in the soil will lead to uncontrollable mold, mildew, and rot. Planting seeds in cold weather will not have the added benefit of as much evaporation in the soil, so mulch leaves would act as unnecessary soil coverage. Compost excess mulch before you start planting in your beds.
Here are a few varieties that can be planted with snow on the ground and the threat of frost or snow still on the horizon:
You might think of cilantro as a warm-weather herb, but as it turns out cilantro will grow far better if it is started in cooler conditions. Too much heat and cilantro will bolt quickly and go to seed early. 40 degrees F soil will start the germination process.
Early spring is one of the best environments to grow carrots, especially when it comes to seed starting. Damp soil, minimal sunlight directly on the soil, temperatures that aren't extremely hot are exactly what carrot seeds need to germinate well. Dry soil, bright sun, and hot temperatures all affect germination rates of carrot seed negatively. This slow beginning will benefit your carrots in the long run.
Purslane is technically an edible weed, which means the seeds are resilient and are bred to grow in the harshest conditions. Germination will happen slower than usual with this variety, but the seeds will be just fine. Super nutritious and high in antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids. Seeds are resilient - able to germinate when it's really cold.
Planting radishes as early as possible is one of the most rewarding steps a gardener (especially beginners) can make. Radishes are one of the quickest veggies to mature in the garden. Because radishes germinate in any soil above 38 degrees F, you can harvest them all season long with this technique. Letting radish seeds germinate slowly will produce a stronger and more nutrient-dense harvest.
Beets grow remarkably well in cold weather and even handle frost and snow. Cold weather will sweeten the greens, and allow the root growth to happen slowly. We recommend planting 2-3 seeds where you would normally plant one before for consistent germination rates.
Super cold hardy and resilient. Spinach loves cold weather and has a tendency to bolt early in hot weather. Sewing lettuce this early will take longer than usual to germinate, about 2-4 weeks. However, the germination will begin slowly and result in a much healthier plant.
Lettuce is super cold-weather hardy. Planting your lettuce now will result in a super early lettuce harvest even before you'd typically begin to plant your spring lettuce. Pull out of the ground to make room for spring lettuce crop in late April/early May, or let grow for a cut and come again harvest into late spring.
Note: risk of mold and rot are present when planting this early no matter what, so we suggest planting 25-50% more seed and plant densely. This will account for inevitable mold when planting outdoors this time of year. Continue to check the soil after planting to make sure there is a suitable moisture present. Just because you are planting in early early spring doesn't mean you are free of watering responsibilities.
Keep your eyes open for future posts! Hopefully, these posts will help all of our northern and Michigan dwelling readers plan their best gardens ever in 2020.
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