What to Plant Now: Spring 2014

by OAEC Garden & Nursery Director Doug Gosling

Doug GoslingWith the welcome moisturizing rains, Bay Area gardeners can anticipate planting more than we had thought possible just a few short weeks ago (though the California drought is still on--read our article on growing in a drought).

Below are recommendations for what to get in the ground now to yield vegetables throughout the rest of the year. We will offer all of these varieties at our Spring Biodiversity Plant Sale weekends (first two weekends in April at the OAEC Nursery).

 

A Tour of Spring Annuals

Calabrese broccoli

 

1. BROCCOLI

Now is a great time to plant one of my favorite foods: broccoli will keep producing side shoots all summer long after you harvest the central head.

  • There are very few heirloom or open-pollinated varieties left in existence and the OAEC Nursery has 4 of them! They are much more flavorful and nutritious than the modern commercial hybrid varieties available in supermarkets.

 

pretty kale

2. KALE

More and more people are appreciating the attributes of kale. I've always loved this green, and try to grow new varieties each year.

At our 2014 Spring Plant Sale, we will have 12 varieties to choose from, including:

  • 3 BRAND NEW varieties: Delaway, Oregon Curl and Steeley Green from wizard plant breeder Alan Kapuler
  • Shiney DineyDoug's very own selection 
  • Russian Red, the best variety for many recipes 
  • Frizzy, perfect for fresh-rubbed kale salad and the most delicate and delicious kale chips ever
  • Lacinato Rainbow (pictured) and Wild Red, two beauties from plant breeder extraordinaire Frank Morten of Wild Garden Seed
  • If you can’t choose, you can get 6 varieties in our Biodiversity Six-packs!

 

3. SAUTE GREENS

I think it's wonderful to always have an assortment of sauté greens in your summer garden, even when enjoying tomatoes, peppers and other summer crops.

Bacon and collards, anyone?

 The OAEC Nursery offers:

  • 3 varieties of collards, including Tree Collards
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Ethiopian Texcel greens
  • The rare Portuguese Cabbage Beira Tronchuda

 

secret life of mustard

4. MUSTARD GREENS

Whether you're a bacon lover (bacon and mustard greens are a delectable pairing) or want the punch of raw mustard greens in your salads and pesto, we recommend these varieties:

  • The Doug Gosling original, Red Feather
  • A stunning new variety called Dragon Tongue, from plant breeder Frank Morten
  • You can try several of our favorite mustard greens in one of our Biodiversity Six-packs

 

5. CHARD

OAEC chard

Swiss Chard provides mild, sweet sauté greens throughout the spring and summer. Not only can you pickle the midribs, but you can use young leaves as colorful additions to salads. 

We offer 6 varieties, including:

  • A hugely productive variety, Fordhook Giant
  • The smoothest and sweetest of all chard varieties, the Alan Chadwick, brought to the U.S. by the legendary gardener and teacher for which it's named
  • Perpetual Spinach, a chard grown for its tender greens and used fresh in salads like spinach
  • You can experience the incredible beauty and diversity of chard in our Rainbow Chard Six-pack

 

6. LETTUCE

OAEC is renowned for its salads, and we've grown and saved seed for hundreds of heirloom lettuces - more than for any other crop. We are sharing 40 of our favorite varieties at our Spring Biodiversity Plant Sale!

 

iconic salad mix

  • Among them are workhorse varieties grown here for forty years such as Marvel of Four Seasons, Capitane Butter and Bronze Arrowhead Oakleaf
  • Drought-tolerant lettuces: we’re excited to carry lettuces that were originally developed in dry, hot Israel, such as the variety Ben Shemen, and the drought-tolerant romaine Kalura
  • We have a nice selection of heat-tolerant romaines and 3 miniatures perfect to serve whole as a single serving: Akcel Butter, baby English Tom Thumb Leaf and crunchy Little Gem Romaine for your “Gems Salad"
  • I am obsessed with red speckled lettuces (pictured below) and we offer 9 of my favorites
  • We offer a wide selection of salad greens to round out your spring and summer salads, including Arugula, Mizuna, and if you want it all, the ever popular Salad-in-a-Six-Pack, with up to 15 varieties in one planting. Other embellishments include the edible-leaved Shungiku chrysanthemum, Miner’s Lettuce, Curly Mallow and Upland Cress

red speckled lettuce

 

7. EDIBLE FLOWERS

I often wonder why more people haven't discovered the joys of edible flowers. They make your salads beautiful and are a delicious and colorful garnish. Try some of these varieties:

  • edible flowersCucumber-fresh White and Blue Borage
  • Radish-like Stock 
  • Confetti-like Bachelor’s Buttons
  • The edible Shungiku chrysanthemum
  • 9 varieties of the always brilliant Calendula

 

8. ALLIUMS

alliums drying

Now is the time to get alliums into the ground. They tolerate the cool of spring but can also withstand the heat of summer. You'll be harvesting them come June or July, so plant now to reap the rewards later.

  • We offer 6 favorite heirloom leeks, including the only violet-colored variety, the 19th Century French heirloom Blue Solaise and the huge, thick-shafted Bulgarian Giant
  • We have a nice selection of early Long & Intermediate Day red and white onions to plant right away
  • We have scallions or bunching onions, including two beautiful red varieties, Crimson Forest and Deep Purple, and the perennial Welsh or Evergreen Hardy White
  • We also have 3 varieties of the popular Button or Cipollini Onions

leeks

 

9. CELERY

Garden-fresh celery is far more flavorful and potent than the store-bought kind. And we love to promote the under- appreciated celery root. There's nothing like remoulade made with celery root straight from the garden.

celeriac

We have 4 varieties for you to try, including:

  • The beautiful red-stemmed Frank Morten celery selection, Red Venture 
  • We're offering 2 varieties of celery root or Celeriac (pictured): Diamant and Large Prague

 

10. PEAS

It's time to sneak in your spring succession of peas!

  • We offer snow peas, shelling peas and sugar snap peas, and have the rare, yellow-podded snow pea variety from India called Golden Sweet

 

11. HERBS

Finally, I recommend getting a jump-start on the following cool season herbs:

  • AjwainParsley. Doug's favorite parsley (which doesn’t bolt in the summer heat) is the large-leaved Gigante d’Italia
  • Cilantro
  • 2 new interesting herbs we offer are Sculpit, a fragrant herb used in Italian cooking, and Ajwain, grown for its spicy seed. Ajwain (pictured) is frequently used for Indian curries and pickles

 

Good luck with your spring plantings, and may your garden be abundant all year long.

Little boy in the OAEC Nursery

 

We hope to see you at our 2014 Spring Biodiversity Plant Sale (April 5-6 & 12-13)!


 

Little boy at the OAEC Nursery