The Spring Garden | Civil Eats

The Spring Garden

After hiding indoors all winter, nothing beats the brisk chill of the early spring in my rooftop garden. Cleaning up the dead branches left from the year before, turning the compost, the sweet smell of worm poop in the air as I work amendments into the cool soil. But most exiting are the first green fronds that have begun to emerge — perennials and even volunteers — and the protected annuals springing forth from the previous fall planting.

Kept under a cold frame all winter, three types of spinach and arugula got a head start when the weather started turning around a few weeks ago. The sun also fired up our blueberries, strawberries, chives and sorrel — and gave me a chance to plant some marigolds, bush beans and mixed greens, all now growing.

This past weekend, we chowed down on the early bounty: spinach quiche, sorrel soup, kale in our fresh morning juice, and an arugula salad. The kale was sweet, having been left out through the snow. I even dug up a patch of danvers half-long carrots, protected in the soil all winter and perfect for a carrot, walnut and current salad.

Spring is a constant surprise: Garlic planted last fall pushing northward, the thyme you thought was dead coming back, and even some oregano that you neither planted nor expected to volunteer on your roof.

Spring is about potential. Its about taking on new projects, exploration, and the nitty gritty practical planning for the months to come. Its about planting herbs in your windowsill again (even if you killed them the year before), spying an empty lot near by and asking around about whether can grow on it, getting a few hens and building a coup from scratch, signing up for a CSA, joining a Crop Mob, even just waking up early to get to the farmers market to score some fava greens and claytonia!

Are you new to growing? Just planning your garden and looking for some fool-proof advice? Doug Muller from the Hudson Valley Seed Library has penned some of the finest tips on planning and planting for the thoughtful and thorough gardener (they’re informative, too, for the giddy and impulsive gardener like myself). We are featuring the series on Civil Eats, check out Crafting a Seed Starting Schedule, Starting Seeds Under Protection, his instructions on building A Quick and Easy Cold Frame, and a How-to on Sowing Practices. (The next post in the series will be featured on Friday, and the last post will be up next week.)

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Let us know about the creative places your cultivating, your early spring meals, or what is surprising you in your garden!

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Paula Crossfield is a founder and the Editor-at-large of Civil Eats. She is also a co-founder of the Food & Environment Reporting Network. Her reporting has been featured in The Nation, Gastronomica, Index Magazine, The New York Times and more, and she has been a contributing producer at The Leonard Lopate Show on New York Public Radio. An avid cook and gardener, she currently lives in Oakland. Read more >

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  1. Loved your blog post! To read about my urban rooftop garden above our restaurant in Cambridge, MA (2 zones to the north!), click on this link:

    http://www.rendezvouscentralsquare.com/flavor-of-the-week-9/

    Happy Spring to you - Steve Johnson
  2. Sam
    I've constructed some planters based on your ideas. How deep is your soil?
    • pcrossfield
      Hi Sam,

      My soil is about 12-15".

      Best,
      Paula

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