University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Spring News Article


Charlie Nardozzi, Senior Horticulturist
National Gardening Association
Stocking up on coffee grounds for your vegetables, sowing peas, and planting asparagus are some of the spring activities for this year’s vegetable garden.      

Coffee grounds contain some major nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) as well as some micronutrients, so put them to work in your garden. Allow them to dry and then spread them around the base of plants. Lettuce, especially, seems to benefit, and the grounds may benefit acid-loving plants since the grounds are slightly acidic. Coffee grounds also appear to have some negative effect on weed growth, and on slugs and snails. Some coffee shops give away bags of used grounds so you can stock up on this free organic matter.                       

Once the soil reaches 45 degrees and is dried out enough to dig in, it's time to plant peas. Choose a location in full sun and orient the rows north-south to take full advantage of the sunlight. Turn over the soil with a garden fork, or rototill if it's a new bed. Soak the seeds for a few hours or overnight (no longer or they may rot), and dust the seeds with an inoculant of nitrogen-fixing bacteria to help the roots take in more nitrogen. Set up your trellis first, then plant the seeds one to two inches deep. Cultivate very shallowly because the roots grow close to the surface; better yet, pull the weeds by hand so you don't accidentally cut off a plant.

For asparagus, select a well-drained site in at least part sun; full sun is not necessary.  Eliminate all weeds by repeated tilling, loosening the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches. Mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost. Prepare the bed by digging trenches four feet apart. The trenches should be 12 inches wide and six to 12 inches deep. Soak the crowns briefly in lukewarm water before planting. Draw a hoe along each side of the prepared trench to form a mound in the center running the length of the trench. Set the crowns 18 inches apart on the mounds in the trench, draping the roots over the sides. Cover the crowns with a mix of one part compost to three parts topsoil, burying the crowns two inches deep. Water the bed thoroughly. After about a month, once shoots have appeared, carefully add more soil to the trench.

If you don't have room to plant potatoes in the garden, try planting them in cylinders. Using chicken wire or wire mesh, fashion a cylinder that's about three feet tall and across, and place it over a tilled bed. Place a layer of hay along the inside walls of the cage, then add a 2- to 3-inch layer of rich garden soil and plant four potato tubers. Cover the tubers with more soil. As they grow, continue lining the inner edge of the cage with hay and covering the young sprouts with soil until you reach the top of the cage. Keep the plants well watered and harvest when the vines naturally die back.

Cole crops, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, can be started indoors under lights beginning in late March. These cool-loving crops can grow six weeks indoors before being transplanted outdoors two weeks before your last frost date.

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