Lucille’s Garden Update: Starting Two Weeks Earlier Reaps Bountiful Rewards

In a May garden, everything happens at once. As soon as the soil temperatures reach 50 degrees, the plants take off and every morning when I come in it seems like they’ve doubled in size overnight. Which means I have my work cut out for me!

My goal for the garden was to get everything up and running two weeks earlier than we did last year to reflect our change from zone 6 to 7. You can learn more about the reasons behind that shift here. When I planted out the seedlings and sowed the seeds, I crossed my fingers and hoped they would do well. I expected they would survive; the temperatures in the long-range forecast looked good. However, I didn’t expect they would start to produce food that much earlier than they had in previous years.

Boy was I wrong. We started harvesting the last week in April, with our first 5 pounds of food going to the Media Food Bank on April 25. As of May 16, we’ve harvested just above 100 pounds of food.

Now, any good scientist would tell you: don’t draw conclusions based on a sample size of one. I certainly cannot say that we should all start trying to garden as though we live in Maryland or Virginia. What I can say is that, at least in Lucille’s Garden and at least in spring of 2024, the soil temperature and air temperature were such that the harvest began two weeks ahead of what I expected.

That might not sound like much. But visitors to the garden will find a space absolutely filled with the brilliant greens and soft reds of lettuces, kale, collards, chard, herbs and more all thriving and growing. That tells me everything I need to know. The plants are happy and so am I.

Every week the harvest totals tick upwards, and we add more crops to the list. Here’s a look at what we were picking the week of May 17:

  • Arugula ‘Astro’
  • Bok Choi ‘Suzhou Baby’ 
  • Broccoli ‘Rapini’
  • Kale ‘Dazzling Blue’
  • Kale ‘Nero di Toscana’
  • Kale ‘Trochunda’
  • Kale ‘White Russian’
  • Collards ‘Alabama Blue’
  • Katie’s Mustard Lettuce
  • Swiss Chard ‘5 Color Silverbeet’
  • Lettuce ‘Arctic King’
  • Lettuce ‘Black Seeded Simpson’
  • Lettuce ‘Blush Butter Oak’
  • Lettuce ‘Forellenschluss’
  • Lettuce ‘Heat Wave Blend’
  • Lettuce ‘Merlot’
  • Onion ‘Parade Bunching’
  • Assorted Herbs
  • Thyme
  • Lavender
  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • Fennel
  • Parsley
  • Mint
  • Lovage

Of course, growing, harvesting and donating these beautiful plants is just part of the fun. The other part comes in the eating. So this year, I’m excited to introduce Rachel Simpson, a Tyler Volunteer who is here to use her culinary expertise to help us learn how to use these delicious foods at home.

Everything about a vegetable garden is better when it’s shared. The work of planting, weeding and watering. The fun and excitement of harvesting. And of course, the joy of eating what you grow. So make sure to check back soon and keep an eye on our social media for Rachel’s first recipe blog entry!

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