Don't grow this.
Or this. See that tall guy to the left? He’s gone to seed. He went to seed a month ago. Don’t bother.
Nothing you grow now will look near as perfect as this head of lettuce.
Chard wants to freeze. It wants none of your sunshine. Don’t grow it
It’s tempting to let the sunshine, sleeveless shirts and long evenings of early Spring lull you into a universe of false belief and idolatry towards the fantastical gardening concepts of places farther north. There notions of short sleeves are within arms’ reach, yet still but a dream. Their litany preaches that daylight savings has come, the last frost date has passed, and we shall soon be allowed the opportunity to frolic in the public swimming pool, and as such it is clearly time to plant lettuce, but their litany is not ours, and if our garden is to thrive, it must be ignored.
Our Word comes from a lower place, a place where the heat rises and consumes all, all too soon. This, the deep South, is a place where the heat never truly leaves us, not even in the dead of winter. We had to wear jackets and gloves for maybe three weeks this winter, and those three weeks were non-consecutive to be sure. The northern gospel takes none of this into account when it preaches ‘Plant thy lettuces now, for the soil is only now tillable and the sun is only now letting us know we are not forgotten.’
The sun never forgot us here, and it will not forgive us if we try to plant the plants our northern kin are prepping their gardens for. Just as we hibernate in Summer when they hibernate in the Winter, the plants they put into the ground in the Spring we put in the ground in the Fall.
It is April First today. For many, for most, it is too late. Do not plant any of these leafy greens, or anything that reminds you of these leafy greens:
Why? You want to know why? These are plants that love sun and long hours, but they are also plants that love to make their babies get out in the world when the heat comes around. When the temperature starts to rise, these plants start to put their energy into producing flowers and therefore thereafter, seeds. When their energy goes that way, so too do their nutrients, and we are left with flimsy leaves that taste bitter and just plain less than the way we want them to. Shortly after everything starts tasting bad, it also starts dissipating, as the plants basically give up producing leaves at all. They don’t need to collect or store any new energy, they just need to put all that energy into giving birth. After this, they die. This is what bolting, or going to seed, is. Both terms are extremely self explanatory, but let’s delve for a moment, because we can.
When greens decide to produce seed, they very quickly shoot upward, growing easily five times the height they were when they were providing you with delectable leaves to chew on and swallow.
When greens go to seed, they become useless to us, as their greens get bitter and dissipate. Hence the expression, it’s all gone to seed. That shit has become useless to you. Duh.
So don’t plant any of those plants now, okay? Fortunately for you there are some leafy green, or at least leafy greenish things you can grow right now, that will provide you with delicious nutrition through the hottest days of the deep south summer if you start them from seed right now:
It’s a short list, but a dependable one. You probably won’t find seeds for any of these plants at your local garden center, but the internet can scratch your itches quite nicely.
This is mizuna that has bolted hard. It doesn’t even kind of look like its former self. This is the eventual fate of all greens, but why tempt the fates?
Ian writes these. Fearlessly.