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6 Easy Spring Vegetables You Can Start Now

Many standard garden vegetables can’t be started from seed or planted outside until the soil is warm enough and the threat of frost is gone. However, there’s a great variety of cool season spring crops that can be started early to give you a jump start on the gardening season, so that you’ll have food on your plate long before the summer vegetable start coming in.

spring vegetables small plants

Assess Your Local Climate and Weather Patterns

Based on your local climate and weather patterns, the cool season vegetables can be planted in trays and pots in a sunny porch or window, directly in the soil underneath a low tunnel or a row cover, or even directly in the soil with no cover.

Planting your vegetables under a low tunnel or a row cover will not only warm up the soil faster, it will also protect the seedlings from frost; although a hard freeze or extended periods of really cold weather can still kill plants under a row cover.

Planting in trays and pots that can be moved into the sun on the warmer days and then brought inside for the night is a great way to alleviate the risk of frost damage. Of course, don’t forget to bring them back inside. Container gardening is also a great way to start growing some of your vegetables on balconies, windowsills, or even decks, even if you don’t have a plot for an outside garden.

Great Choices for an Early Garden

The following spring vegetables can be easily planted from seed and are great choices for an early garden. They are also foolproof enough to grow, and most beginner gardeners will be able to reap a good harvest.

1. Spinach

One of my most favourite greens to eat is the fresh baby spinach. It’s fairly easy and quick to sprout and grow in a spring garden and can be incredibly frost-resistant, especially when it’s grown under cover. There are lots of spinach varieties, most of which can be categorized as savoy and semi-savoy (these tend to have curly or crinkled crisp leaves) or smooth leaf (which have a smooth texture and flatter leaves).


2. Chard

Chard is a beet relative and another perfect spring green that’s easy to grow from its seed. It can be eaten cooked or fresh, or you can toss it into a smoothie or a salad. I prefer planting chards a bit closer than the instructions on the seed packet recommend. I then start to harvest the crowded baby greens while thinning the beds.

Chard is available in a variety of sizes, textures, and color, though most of the color tends to show on the thick stems while the leaves remain dominantly green. Growing some white, red, and yellow chard along with the traditional green chard will help add some color to the spring salads. At the same time, it will liven up the look of your garden with color. Some varieties can actually be harvested as baby greens in about 25 days, with the leaves taking about twice as long to grow to full size.

3. Lettuce

Although lettuce can grow in full-sized heads that we are all used to from the grocery store, I’ve found out that growing it for the baby greens is a lot easier and quicker. It also ensures you have an almost constant supply of lettuce from spring to the better part of summer. I like to use mixed lettuce seeds (also called mesclun mixing) and rather than sowing them and leaving the recommended spaces for the head lettuce variety, I like to sow them closer together per row. This yields a row of healthy lettuce leaves that you can harvest easily and do so continually through the season.

Lettuce is available in a number of leaf shapes and colors, not just the standard romaine green; there’s also green and red leaf lettuce, and butterhead variants. Growing mixed baby greens will give you a wide variety of colors and textures for your salads. You can harvest the baby greens in a couple of weeks and planting the successions of seeds every week or two, and you can have a constant supply of fresh greens.


4. Radishes

These are some of the fastest greens that you can grow, with many radish varieties being ready for harvesting in as little as 3 weeks. Radishes are also great when it comes to inter-planting with veggies like lettuce and other spring greens. In fact, they can naturally help to thin these crops as the radishes get harvested.

Many people are only familiar with the round pink, red, and white radishes often sold in grocery stores. However, radishes come in lots of different shapes, colors, and sizes, and they can range from spicy to sweet based on the variety. They are such a great vegetable that helps kids grow, and the seeds are large enough for small kids to help with the planting. They are also quick to mature and easy to harvest, which makes them a perfect plant for the impatient gardeners.

5. Kale

Although it’s quite possibly the most hated vegetable on the list, kale is another perfect spring veggie that’s easy to grow from seed. It can be harvested as a baby green or as full-sized leaves and can provide lots of food with little effort. Whether you prefer eating it raw in your smoothies, as part of your salad, or stir-fried or steamed in a main dish; kale is a great addition to any diet.

Kales can be crinkly and dense, much like the dinosaur kale, or more ruffle-y with flatter leaves as with the red Russian varieties. Kale is often sweeter as a baby green during spring, and later in fall just after the first frost. I have harvested baby kale leaves in as little as three weeks, and the full-sized leaves tend to mature in anywhere from 40 to 60 days based on the variety.


6. Peas

Peas such as snow peas and other pod pea varieties are also perfect vegetables for kids. Pea seeds are large enough for them to help with the planting, and I’m yet to meet a kid who didn’t enjoy going searching in the garden for peas to harvest.

Snap peas and shelling peas have a tendency of taking a little longer to mature, but they’re still a major hit with kids. In fact, many kids like to just scarf down snow peas fresh from the pod and some actually hate eating cooked peas. And honestly, I’m not that much of a big fan of cooked peas either.

Peas usually take anywhere from 50 to 65 days to reach full maturity, depending on the variety, and can grow as bushes or as vines. They also lend themselves well for trellising and can grow in a regular garden bed. If you want the best germination rates, soak the pea seeds in water overnight before you plant them.

Getting Rid of Poison Ivy in Your Yard

Poison Ivy Effects …

Regardless of how you remember to identify poison ivy, the effects that you suffer when you rub against this plant will be the same.  An itchy, terrible and blistering rash which is caused by urushiol in the plant.  This is an oily resin location in the leaves and stem of poison ivy. 

The problem comes when you have this plant growing in your yard.  You will want your children to be able to play out there, but this plant will be a ticking time bomb.  At some point, someone will venture to the plant or fall onto it.  This is why you need to know the techniques you can use to get rid of poison ivy without the use of any harsh chemicals.

Pulling the Plants

The first technique you should try is pulling the plants. This is considered one of the best ways to get rid of poison ivy because it is fast, and you will get immediate results.  An interesting fact is that some people who are practically immune to the effects of this plant.  If you happen to know anyone who is, you should see if they are willing to help you pull the plants. 

However, if you have to do this all alone, you will need to wear the right clothing.  You need to wear:

  • Gloves that do not have any holes and cover your entire hand.
  • Clothing that covers every part of your body which could come into contact with the plant.
  • Duct tape the edges of your pants around your socks and the edges of your shirt about your gloves.

While this could seem a bit extreme, these extra precautions will save you from any potential discomfort resulting from contact with the plant.  Once you have pulled the plants, you will need to wash your clothing at least twice.  This should be done at the highest water temperature recommended for the clothing. 

Once you are ready, you can start to pull the plants.  You should start by digging around 8 inches beneath the plant to ensure that you are getting all the roots.  You should then cover the area with mulch or cardboard to ensure that there is no regrowth.

After pulling the plant and all of its roots, you need to place it in a garbage bag and set it aside for collection.  You should never burn the plants because the oil can spread through the smoke.  Composting the plants is also a bad idea because it could pop back up in your garden.


If Pulling Is Not for You

If pulling the plants is more manual labor than you are comfortable with, there is another option.  You can mix a cup of salt into a gallon of water then add a tablespoon of dish soap.  The mixture should then be poured into a water sprayer and then applied to the poison ivy.

You do need to be careful with this solution because it will kill any plant that it comes into contact with.  It is recommended that you apply the solution on a sunny day as rain will wash it off the plant.  You might have to repeat the application a few times before you start to see results.

What to Do After Contact

As we are on the topic of this plant, you need to know what to do if you come into contact with it.  If you happen to be close to running water, you need to rinse off as quickly as possible.  Attention will need to be paid to the affected areas.  A full rash can often be prevented when you rinse the area within 30 minutes of contact. 

If you are out hiking when you come into contact with the plant, you should try to find a stream to rinse off in.  If you cannot find water in time, there are some things that you can do to help with the discomfort of the rash.  You can try rubbing a paste of baking soda and water onto the area. 

Taking a bath with a product made for irritated skin can also help.  A cold compress may also help to sooth the rash.  However, if you wet the area, you need to pat it dry because rubbing with a towel can start the itching. 

While poison ivy does have very painful effects on humans, it does have a value in the ecosystem.  Birds, deer and some insects will eat this plant while small animals will often use poison ivy as a shelter.  If the poison ivy in your yard is in a place that no-one will come into contact with it, you should consider leaving it for the wildlife to use.

Buying A Barbecue Smoker

Making True Barbecue With A Smoker

Are you considering getting a smoker that can be used in making true barbecue or even foods like smoked turkey and pastrami? There are hot smokers on the market that come in quite a few sizes and shapes and even powered by various kinds of fuel. Here are a few things you should consider when you start shopping for your next smoker.


Food Smoker Costs

You can find smokers for around $50 or more than $10,000. If you don’t plan on using it heavily, then you might want to start off with a smaller and vertical water smoker. Those are often the cheapest ones you can buy. You can make some good barbecue, even in these smokers, so for many, it’s the only one they ever need. Then again, there’s far more to smokers in general that just these basic units.

Smokers and Fuel Types

Smokers can get fueled using propane, electricity, wood pellets, charcoal, and hardwood. Each of these various fuels has their own benefits, and some of them have drawbacks too. Wood smokers and charcoal are more common and typically give your cooking more of an authentic flavor. The market’s most affordable smokers are typically charcoal, but there are really expensive charcoal smokers too.

Electric smokers are obviously quite convenient, but many of them wind up lacking in authentic flavor. Some of them are computer-controlled, which means you can set up your smoker and let the thing run until your food is ready.

Pellet smokers are powered electrically, but they do burn wood pellets in order to have smoke and heat. Units like these have many of the same conveniences as electric smokers, but they also give you the same flavor you might get from hardwood and charcoal smokers.

Propane smokers usually heat the fastest and easiest, even compared to electric smokers, and they’re also generally easy to use.



Depending on what you’re willing to spend on a smoker, you can get tremendously tasting barbecue without a lot of effort. One thing you’ll have to ask yourself is just how involved you’d like to get in the process. Barbecue itself is a long and even noble tradition coming from people by sitting around the fire making good food. Do you want to be able to just set it and forget it? Or would you like to be more of an active participant in cooking your food? Look for computer control or electronic features that might automate some of the work for you.


The smallest smokers might make enough food for a big family and sometimes even several dozen folks. Larger smokers can put out enough barbecue to keep a party going all day long. It’s essential that you think about how much barbecue you’d like to make prior to buying a smoker. If you only intend to smoke for your family on weekends, then you can get by with a small unit. If you’d like to be able to smoke enough for a corporate event, then you’ll need quite a bit more space. A lot of smokers will actually say just how much food you can make with them. As a general guideline, you’ll have to have 1 pound of raw meat per person. That involves quite a bit of food.



Some units that are on the market that can both grill and smoke. If you’d like to enjoy the best of both worlds, then one of these units is right up your alley. Charcoal units are the most frequent type of multipurpose smoker. There are many budget-level units that claim to have this feature, but you should know that it really takes a good design that can both smoke and grill really well. Many of the cheapest models can do one well or the other, but rarely both.


You might not immediately recognize the brand names that many smokers have stamped on them, but it’s well worth your time to look into the companies making the smoker that you’re thinking about buying. Some generic units are actually store brands that don’t come with support or service in the future.

If you find a smoker that you think is right for you, check out the smoker reviews that other users and industry experts have provided.

Salix viminalis – Uncommon Abilities Of The Common Osier Willow

The Uncommon Abilities Of The Common Osier Willow

As with most plants, the Salix viminalis goes by many different names depending on where you are located. It’s most commonly used name is the osier willow. Sometimes it is referred to as the common osier willow, the common osier, or the basket willow. This willow has been heavily cultivated for many centuries. As such, it has spread through many countries where it did not grow natively.

It is known to be native to central Europe and eastward to western Asia. Some believe it is also native to the southeast in England. It is commonly cultivated throughout all of Europe in regions with low altitude. The Salix viminalis happens to be among the least variable of all Willow plants, yet it can easily form hybrids with many additional species. This is one reason why it is so heavily cultivated.

Salix viminalis catkins

The common osier actually has various uses in modern society. It earned its name, “the basket willow” because its twigs are extremely flexible and can be used to make baskets. The willow’s twigs are referred to as withes. Not only are they useful in basket making, but in roof thatching and various forms of crafts.

Some of the uses of the common osier are slightly more scientific than basket making. For example, it is one of the few plants that can grow in soil with a very high concentration of certain metals. The plant actually absorbs these metals and thus has high levels of the metal in its tissue.

This metal would be toxic to most other plants. Plants that are capable of this absorption, such as the osier willow, are known as hyper-accumulators and are important to the scientific community. The osier willow easily absorbs mercury, chromium, lead, cadmium, uranium, silver, and more. This makes it one of the most versatile hyper-accumulators known to exist.

While the plant may go by the name the “common osier” its ability to absorb these dangerous metals is not common at all. Of course, if you decide to plant one of these in your lawn you probably won’t be doing so for its ability to absorb uranium. Nonetheless, it’s an impressive feat that very few plants are capable of.

Many people grow them for their use in arts and crafts. They may make baskets with their stems or they may make living willow sculptures. Either way, it’s a unique plant with an impressive appearance and abilities.