University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Spring News Article

Charlie Nardozzi, Senior Horticulturist
National Gardening Association
Starting seeds indoors, making coldframes, and planning the garden layout are some of the spring activities for this year’s vegetable garden.        

If you start seeds under grow lights or fluorescent shop lights indoors, check the tubes for signs of age. Tubes that have been used for two to three seasons probably have lost much of their intensity even though they look fine. Dark rings on the ends of the tubes are a sign they need to be replaced.

To get an early harvest of lettuce and other greens, dig out a large shallow container and sow some seeds. Grow them indoors until the weather warms enough to put them outside during the day. Keep cutting leaves from the outside of the plants to prolong the harvest. Or you can sow seeds for a mesclun mix and cut off the leaves when still young. They will regrow for another harvest in a few weeks.    

Long-season alliums, such as leeks and onions, should be started from seed now. Sprinkle the seed on top of seed-starting mix, keep it moist, and as soon as the seedlings emerge place the flats under grow lights. Snip the ends periodically to keep them about 3 to 4 inches tall and help them grow strong.

Cold frames are handy for hardening off seedlings. You can make a simple cold frame by placing hay bales along the perimeter of a rectangle, and placing old windows or a glass storm door over the top. Purchased cold frames are convenient -- some have thermostatically controlled tops that open automatically when the temperature inside hits a designated point. Since the midday sun can heat things up quickly, this feature is especially handy if you're away for long stretches during the day.

When your soil is dry enough to work sow peas, spinach and greens .  Transplant cole crops such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage into the garden. Set up the pea trellis before you plant so you don't disturb emerging seedlings in the process.

In planning your veggie garden layout, avoid planting members of the same plant family in the same spot they were in last year, or even the year before. Members of the same family are susceptible to the same diseases and insect infestations. For example, avoid planting members of the tomato family (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant) in the same place year after year.

Check seed packets for recommendations, then plot out planting times for seeds you'll be starting indoors. Don't try to get a jump on the season by planting earlier; larger plants are more easily stunted than smaller ones and won't necessarily grow faster once they're transplanted outdoors.  This is especially true for melons and squash that only grow when it is warm.

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