Row by Row

Memorial Day is the traditional start to Maine’s garden season, but some crops actually do better planted before the last frost — or right about now.

Sow seeds for these crops directly into your garden as soon the soil is dried out enough to be worked — typically late April/early May:

Beets Instead of sowing all your seeds at once, sow some every other week or so through August, Maine Cooperative Extenstion vegetable specialist Mark Hutton suggests. You’ll have harvests all summer and into fall. Try: Chioggia, a candy-striped beet from northern Italy, or the golf-ball-size Babybeat, which is perfect for steaming whole.

Carrots Carrots also are good candidates for staggered plantings, provided you’re able to keep your soil moist enough for seeds to sprout, Hutton says. Try: a Rainbow blend, for red, purple, yellow, and white carrots, or Adelaide, a baby carrot that makes a sweet raw snack.

Peas Hutton suggests applying a rhizobium inoculant, a nitrogen-fixing bacteria, to the soil to help the peas grow. Vining peas give higher yields but require trellising; bush types produce a slightly smaller crop, but are more compact and easier to harvest. Try: Maxigolt, a super-sweet, super-plump shelling pea that can be managed as either a climber or a bush.

Spinach Sow seeds for heat-tolerant, slow-bolting types from late April through mid-June. Try: Smooth-leaved Space, which does well in both spring and fall.

Early May is too early for direct seed-sowing of these crops, but transplanted seedlings will do well:

Broccoli Choose bolt-resistant crops that can withstand the heat of summer. Try: Gypsy and Arcadia, both of which produce large, heavy heads, or Green Magic, which is equally delicious but compact enough to be grown in containers.

Swiss Chard Did you know Swiss chard is a beet without the bulbous root? Harvest outer leaves near the base of the plant and leave the inner leaves intact so the plant continues to grow. Try: Bright Lights, for its gorgeous pink, orange, purple, yellow, and red stems, or Barese, a dwarf variety with a resistance to flea beetles that makes it a good stand-in for bok choy.