It may still be February, but it is not too early to investigate around the garden for early signs of growth! Honestly, one of the greatest joys of gardening is looking forward to something new all year long. Sometimes gardeners forget ‘year-round’ includes the winter months as well, and it is certainly fun to see signs of spring emerge after a snowy winter. This post is devoted to the earliest joys uncovered by melting snow that I found growing in my garden on February 28th. Enjoy!
- Spring blooming crocus: Post holiday lights come garden delights. Early blooming bulbs are the ultimate post-holiday gift for any gardener because their blooms radiate color in late winter and early spring. Just as Master Gardeners tend hover around to admire the season’s first flowers, spring blooming bulbs, like crocus and winter aconite, are an important ‘first meal’ for hungry bees – talk about a sight for sore eyes! Plant spring blooming bulbs in late fall and, just like a squirrel that forgets where it buried its acorns, get ready to experience the excitement of forgotten bulbs brightening up your once dreary garden.
- Rhubarb: Quite possibly the earliest garden plant to emerge in my garden is rhubarb. Rhubarb, a perennial, is grown for its stalks (the leaves contain oxalic acid so they should not be consumed). The stalks are usually cooked down, often with a little sugar, and made into a sauce or pie. My next door neighbor picks stalks from a plant that borders our yards and likes to eat them dipped in salt. It is not atypical to see rhubarb leaves pushing their way through snow in my garden. Later in the season, my rhubarb plants continue to push out new stalks and become an attractive addition to my garden (my neighbors always comment on my rhubarb plants and are amazed that they is so beautiful)!
- Red-leafed Spinach: One of the earliest leafy greens to emerge in my garden is red-leafed spinach. A prolific re-seeder, my garden bed explodes with tiny seedlings each spring. Later in the year, the plants produce beautiful burgundy and green leaves that contribute a colorful show in combination with other cool season garden plants, like carrots, radish, sugar snap peas, and asparagus. As you can see from the picture, red-leafed spinach might be considered too weedy for some gardeners, but it is a welcome sight in my yard and makes me happy thinking of all the garden fresh salads to come in a month or so.
Bonus tip: As soon as the snow melts and the soil has thawed, it is time to plant sugar snap peas. Rehydrate the peas in a cup of water (soak overnight) and look for desiccated peas that float to the top. If the peas plump, they are ready to be planted in the garden (1 to 2 inches deep). Sugar snap peas will germinate as soon as the soil temperature is just right and remember peas are legumes (fix nitrogen in the soil) so plant plenty of pea plants for additional soil nitrogen and yummy eating!