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Spring Fever is a Real Thing!

Is spring really here, though? All signs point to yes! Crocuses and daffodils are blooming. Tulips are up. Redbud trees are budding. Spring allergy symptoms are starting to flare. I went outside without a coat! We have officially entered both astronomical (March 20, 2021) and meteorological (March, April & May) spring here in the Northern Hemisphere.

romaine lettuce in the spring garden
Romaine Lettuce - a great cool-season plant for your spring garden.

Does this mean we don’t have to worry about winter weather anymore? Absolutely not!!! Kentucky spring weather is notoriously fickle, my friends. (Fickle - love this word) I can almost guarantee we will see more below-freezing temperatures. Additional snow is certainly a possibility as well. So on any given day, we can expect the temperature in Central Kentucky to be somewhere between 0 and 90℉. Yep, that sounds about right.

Spring in Kentucky usually includes a pretty wide variety of weather conditions. From a vegetable growing perspective, it is important to know your local seasonal weather trends. It’s also good to become familiar with terms like “last killing frost date” and “cool-season crops”. Knowing what to grow when greatly increases your chances of success.

The University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment, Department of Horticulture has a great selection of publications available online for free ( for home gardeners. I recommend starting with ID128: Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky ( I regularly refer to some of the tables in this publication, especially this time of year. Not all cool-season crops have the same tolerances for heavy freezes or day length. And these publications do a good job of explaining why you should pay attention to the details.

We are nearing the end of March and are having some really nice spring-like temperatures! I know a lot of folks are itching to get out and grow something - anything! Most of us are tired of winter and all the gray skies. Now that the days are getting noticeably longer and the sun is getting higher in the sky, what can we safely plant? Lots of stuff!!!

It’s a great time to plant an asparagus bed using crowns (not just-sprouted from seed asparagus, that needs to wait until May.) Asparagus is a delicious perennial that can live for 15-20 years or longer if well cared for. In my opinion, asparagus should be in every backyard! I imagine if Spring had a flavor it would taste like freshly picked asparagus. I would love to hear from any synesthetes that have an opinion about this!

homegrown strawberries
Now is the time to start that strawberry patch!

Spring is the best time to plant berries, including strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. As perennials, once established and properly maintained, these plants will produce fruit for many years without the need to replant.

Most of your brassica plants can start going out. Brassicas are a genus of plants in the cabbage and mustard family. They’re also sometimes referred to as cruciferous vegetables or cole crops. This group includes broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, collards, radishes, and bok choy. These are all cool-season crops that grow best in the cooler temperatures and shorter days of spring.

spring garden seedlings, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower
Spring garden seedlings waiting to be planted.

You can plant peas, potatoes, lettuces, spinach, swiss chard, arugula, carrots, beets, onions, and rhubarb crowns. As you can see, we have lots of options here in Central Kentucky for spring vegetable growing. Some of these crops do great starting from seed sown directly in the garden. Others benefit from transplanting seedlings.

If you're new to spring growing, I suggest picking no more than five plants to try. Read about the growing requirements for each of your choices. A lot of these cool-weather crops will do great in containers so don’t fret if you don’t have a garden bed ready. Seeds/plants are designed to grow. It’s what they do; their sole purpose in life. As a farmer, I am not really “growing” broccoli, I’m simply providing that tiny seed with the opportunity to fulfill its destiny. Gardeners are nurturers.

My second suggestion for new growers is to keep your expectations low and think of it as an adventure. No two growing seasons will turn out the same. You’ll likely have disappointments, surprises, and amazing achievements all in the same garden. Like most everything in life, the more you play around with growing the easier it gets and the better your results become.

Don’t get bogged down in the details - just grow! Pick a plant, preferably something you actually want to eat, add soil, sunshine, water (and occasionally plant food), a little love and watch what happens. It’s an amazing process!

lettuce seedlings, transplants
Samantha adding a few more lettuce plants to the garden.

I will end with just a little word of caution: Do not let Spring Fever jeopardize your gardening experience. Do not be tempted to start planting out your warm-season vegetable crops. I don’t care how perfectly summer-like it is out. Tomatoes, for example, do not like cold temperatures. They balk at even light frosts, much less heavy freezes. We still have 4-5 weeks before we are out of the danger zone here in Central KY. That last killing frost date I mentioned earlier, usually happens in our area between April 30 and May 5. Here’s your chance to work on patience! It is a virtue after all, or so I’ve heard.

Happy Spring Growing!

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