Story by Lindsey Chester. Photos by Hal Goodtree.
Cary, NC- The weather is warming up, and suddenly things at the garden center are looking very tempting. Here’s what you CAN plant now: cool season edible plants. Not as sexy as mixed beds of flowers, but these satisfy not only the eye, but the palate.
Cool Season Herbs & Veggies to Plant Now
Roots and shoots and leafy lettuces like cooler temps, and in fact will bolt once the weather gets too warm. We are still experiencing the cooler nights which are not good conditions for annuals or summer heat-loving plants.
What you can plant now are edible leafy vegetables and herbs. These are great right in the garden now through the middle of May. Then it will be time to rotate in your summer heating-loving plants.
Spring has come a little late to the Triangle this year. February was cloudy, and it has slowed the growing season somewhat, with nurseries bringing in plants that are smaller or a bit later than usual.
This advice is from Audrey at Garden Supply Company here in Cary:
For best results, you need to grow spring herbs and vegetables to maturity in cool weather; otherwise, they can turn bitter tasting, or bolt to seed rather than producing edible parts. Except in coldest climates, plant them in very early spring so the crop will mature before summer heat settles in, or in late summer for a crop in fall in winter.
Group a few herbs together in a pot and place it in a sunny spot right outside your kitchen for a handy cook’s garden. Just be sure your selection shares the same light and water needs.
When you need a bit of oregano or a bay leaf, you can step right outside with your scissors, clip what you need and add it to your cooking pot. Super fresh!
What to Plant Now (March)
2013 has been cooler than average in the Piedmont. In other years, we’ve planted the spring veggies in late February.
These are just a few of the possible selections. Try a few things and see what works in your garden and on your table.
- Leaf Lettuce
- Cabbage (the edible kind; in Fall you plant Ornamental)
- Bok Choy
- Strawberries- everyone’s Carolina Favorite!
- Bay Leaf
- Rosemary (this is a good perennial and can stay all year)
- Lavender (this will also thrive for years in the right spot)
Be sure to first turn over and amend your soil with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Edible plants need nitrogen to produce those nutritious leaves. Whether you are using a raised bed, a pot or planting directly in the ground, everything will do better with adequate drainage, and a good dose of fertilizer. If you compost, add that into the soil for added nutrients.
All of the above plants prefer a very sunny location and good drainage. None are shade lovers, and this time of year, they will benefit from as much sun as possible.
These plants will peak by Mid May and need to be replaced. Herbs can stay in their pots or be moved if not looking as pretty as you would like. If they are in the soil, rotate in with your summer vegetables and annuals like tomatoes, cucumbers, melons and peppers. The climate here in Cary is too hot to grow lettuce in the summer, but you can plant it again in the fall.
All of the above plants will do very nicely alone or grouped in a container. Happy gardening!
Photos top to bottom: Baby lettuce, lavender, Greek oregano, Rainbow chard, garlic chives.