Winter vegetables prove the worth of raised beds. When it's too wet to work the native soil, the raised beds won't stop you! As soon as the soil is dry enough to crumble in my hand, I’m planting vegetables. Red LaSoda potatoes cut in pieces will suberize in about a week and the process helps speed sprouting in damp soil. Planted eighteen inches apart and fertilized twice, they’ll be ready to dig by Mother’s Day. Cabbage can take more cold than its cousin broccoli, so I get Dutch and sometimes a Savoy planted right away.
Cabbageworms will find the buffet I’ve laid out for them soon enough, so I try to keep them covered with insect barrier cloth to exclude the mama moth. Onion sets, red, yellow, and white, go into the herb bed; I’ll use the green onions and coax them to make bulbs before the heat gets them. I’ve found it works well to poke the hole first using a the recycled broken hoe handle, then drop the sets in and fill the hole with sand to cover the bulbs. If English peas have a chance in the south, it’s now or never. I have mixed success with these legumes, as well as snow peas and flowering sweet peas, too, if the truth be told. All these morsels want is loose soil, steady doses of sunlight and water, plus a trellis to climb on. A string trellis works well, but weather conditions are a roll of the gardener’s dice. Too often, it rains until the temperatures rise out of pea-range, and I’m left with an empty trellis to cover with annual vines later. But when the peas make it, they quickly remind me why I keep trying. Like peas, beets and carrots taste best when they’re homegrown, and stunningly unlike their canned counterparts. When I wanted my young children to learn to love these vegetables, I let them seed the early spring garden. Big Thomas Laxton peas are easy for little fingers to handle, good old Detroit red beets look so impossibly unlike food, they fascinate youngsters, and Danvers half long carrots need only be sprinkled and pressed since they need light to germinate. My kids readily joined the fraternity: once the seed they planted broke the earth, they were hooked. The fact that you can make mom smile while getting muddy in the late winter garden makes it all the better.