Spring Planting during COVID-19

by Steve Salky

Fellow gardeners, spring is arriving in the DC Metro area and it is time to plant our spring crops! Spring crops include leafy greens such as spinach, kale, carrots, radishes, and even beets. We plant all of these crops by seed. In some locations, we plant primarily by broadcasting a variety of seeds into the same beds. As these crops grow, we will harvest certain plants in order to make room for others to grow. Some of these plants will shade others as the spring begins to turn into summer, which often happens very fast in our area. In other beds, we will selectively plant seeds in rows, returning in a few weeks to thin the growth to make room for the neighboring plants to expand. This is especially true for the radishes, carrots, and beets, which grow underground and do better when their roots are not crowded.

In this time of the COVID-19 epidemic, we want to support you in a planting process that will allow your garden to thrive and to support your health. 

Lettuce seedlings that we planted last week at the E26 garden location.

Planting leafy greens during this time will allow you to have an abundance of vegetables in a fairly short amount of time since seedlings typically pop up between 5 to 10 days from seeding. Leafy greens are also a great way to get a lot of fiber, vitamins, and minerals in your diet. Greens like kale and spinach can be eaten raw and cooked and can also be frozen to eat at a later date.

  • We are planting spinach, kale, chard, and leaf lettuce in our gardens. Make sure to read the instructions on your seed packet, but most instructions for leafy greens suggest seeding every 1 – 2 inches and about ¼ or ½ inch below the soil. It is important to keep your soil moist, especially when your greens are being germinated and when they are small. Do not overwater, which can wash your seeds away before they germinate. 

Planting potatoes at E26, using a potato planting method called hilling.

One of our favorite crops for spring planting is potatoes. They are relatively easy to grow and produce a filling bounty. If you have not had the pleasure of digging into the dirt with your hands early in the summer, pulling out several new potatoes, and enjoying their sweet flavor, then make sure to try them out! Potatoes are hardy, and being rich in fiber and vitamins makes them a great crop at this time. If you are planting in a raised bed, your soil should have warmed to 50 degrees by now, the end of March, which is the soil temperature a potato needs to sprout effectively.

  • One key to planting potatoes is spacing. We generally plant our seed potatoes at least twelve inches apart in a row to allow each tuber that will be sprouted from your seed potato to fully size up. To endure proper germination, it is important to cut your seed potatoes with at least two or three eyes per each piece and plant with the eyes up, approximately 2-3 inches deep. (A seed potato is either a small potato about the size of an extra large egg, which is planted whole, or a larger potato cut into blocky pieces, usually 4-6 pieces per tuber). Although some people leave their seed pieces out in the kitchen a few days before planting to let the cut surface callous over, we simply cut and plant. (We have not had any problems with our seeds rotting, but if you are worried you can even dust the cut surface with calcite or sulfur). We order our seed potatoes from a mail order farm in Maine, but if you are confident that the organic potatoes in the grocery store have not been sprayed to slow their sprouting, you can use potatoes you bought at the store.

    Our bed of herbs at E26 with newly planted ginger.

At Everybody Grows, we are specifically planting crops that have immune boosting properties. Although ginger is a root that is grown primarily in more tropical climates, ginger can grow in this area in pots.

  • We are planting ginger in pots and in one of our raised garden beds this spring as an experiment. Because ginger roots grow horizontally, we are using long pots rather than tall ones. Other immune boosting crops include garlic and turmeric, which we recommend growing in the fall. We typically plan to plant these two crops in October. Ginger, garlic, and turmeric are all considered “nature’s antibiotics” since they contain compounds that work against viruses and infections. 

In this time of uncertainty, we hope gardening can be a meaningful grounding for you and a way to help get the nourishment you need. Please reach out to steve@everybodygrows.org with any questions you may have around gardening as our gardening team would like to support you.