In Vermont, most farmers’ markets start in May. This may seem late to those of you growing in warmer climes, and it is. What’s even more shocking is that at that time of year, there’s only just enough produce to even have a farmers market – you’ll find kale, salad greens, scallions, radishes, some overwintered roots and…not much else. Many farmers are now supplementing their spring offerings by selling transplants and value-added products from the previous season to stay competitive.
Historically gardeners in Vermont play it “safe, not sorry” and refuse to plant tomatoes before Memorial Day (and for those of us who have been burned by late frosts these past few years, we understand why). But at long last, the times they are a-changin’ – consumers of local food are demanding more local produce earlier in the season, and growers are responding. So we’re excited to share our varieties and ideas to help you be the first at market with the bright, colorful vegetables your customers look for.
Plan for Early Crops
Growing extra-early crops isn’t that difficult, it just takes a little extra-early planning. With a little special attention given to direct-sown and transplanted crops, you can harvest them weeks earlier than your neighbors.
Prepare several beds for early spring planting in the fall. Choose locations with the best possible drainage, as spring flooding can slow down spring planting. Thoroughly amend the soil and form a smooth level bed to allow for planting as soon as soil can be worked. Beds can be covered with black plastic the week before planting to warm the soil for tender crops. After spring sowing, cover beds with row cover to keep the germinating seeds moist and protected from frost. Remove the row cover or add hoops before plants strain against it, replacing the row cover for protection on cold nights.
Start your transplants 2-4 weeks earlier than you ordinarily would. When their roots fill out 4” pots, transplant them into 12” diameter or 3 gallon pots. Keep the plants in the greenhouse or indoors under grow lights, watering thoroughly on sunny days and fertilizing lightly every 2 weeks until it is warm enough to plant outdoors (usually when all danger of frost has passed). Then harden off as you normally would, over several days to a week, before transplanting.
Choose Early Varieties
This trick may seem obvious, but it can’t be understated – choosing varieties that mature earlier can mean getting to market with them a full week or two earlier, and that translates into paying back your investment sooner. Here are some of our earliest varieties in each category to get your season off to a colorful start!
NEW! Gemstone Greens Mix provides an eye-catching, flavorful mix of deep maroon and emerald green leaves, with an incredible array of leaf textures in just 21 days.
Vivid Choi Pac Choy offers a rainbow of stem and vein colors for baby or full sized leaves. 21 days baby, 45 full size
Azur Star Kohlrabi produces gorgeous purple, eye-catching globes in just 50 days.
Napoli F1 Carrots offer that welcome splash of orange in just 45 days for baby carrots or 55 for full size, while White Satin F1, Cosmic Purple, and Yellowstone create an irresistible rainbow in 70 days.
Poona Kheera Cucumbers will have customers asking questions about their endearing stubby, russeted appearance in 50 days, while Silver Slicer steals the show with its mild flavor and elegant creamy white color in 54.
NEW! Purple Viking Potatoes are stunning with their pink-streaked purple skins. A versatile Early Season potato that will delight your spring customers.
Toronjina F1 Tomatoes will win the race to first orange cherry with prolific yields of seductively sweet fruits. Perfect in high tunnels for the absolute earliest tomato in just 55 days from transplant.
Golden Midget Watermelons will catch eyes and hearts everywhere with golden yellow rinds and delicious bright salmon-pink flesh in just 70 days.