The need to stay at home and grow some edible plants has never been greater. Doing so will help you minimize exposure to crowds of grocery shoppers and improve your food security.

You could be eating your own homegrown food in as little as three weeks — if you start planting now. Late April is not too late to plant cool season vegetable crops, and the weather is getting warm enough to begin setting out some summer vegetables.

The cabbage harvest starts around Memorial Day, if you set out transplants, and in June, if you sow seeds. This applies to green, red and savoy cabbages, as well as relatives such as broccoli and cauliflower.

If you sow carrot seeds at a rate of 50 per foot of row, and remove the extra seedlings to get a final spacing of one inch between carrots, they will have the room they need to grow. Cover them with a light coating of soil, about one-quarter of an inch, and water regularly to keep the soil surface from forming a hard crust that will prevent carrot seedlings from coming up.

Beets are grown in a similar fashion with 15 seeds planted per foot of row and a final spacing of two inches between plants. For a constant supply of beets and carrots, sow seeds every three weeks until September.

Growing baby leaf kale is a matter of sowing 60 seeds per foot of row and having plants crowded together. For full-size leaves of curly, Siberian or lacinato (dinosaur) kale, space your kale plants four to six inches apart.

Lettuce and greens mixes such as mesclun are ready to start eating after one month of growth. If you plant their seeds every three weeks, you will have a steady harvest until winter weather arrives in late fall.

Onion plants and sets must be planted soon, if you want to grow onion bulbs.

The bulbing process is triggered by May’s longer days, and the bigger your onion plant at that time, the better its bulb will be.

Fresh snow peas cost $4 per pound at the store so you can save real money by growing your own. Peas, whether they are the shelling, snow or snap variety, are best sown thickly — 25 seeds per foot of row — and grown under crowded conditions.

Baby spinach will be ready to cut in as little as three weeks, if you sow seeds heavily at 40 per foot of row. For full-size leaves, the amount to sow is 10 seeds per foot.

Both bush and pole beans come in green, yellow and purple, with pods either flat or round. If you plant their seeds two to three inches apart and continue planting every three weeks until Aug. 15, you will be eating beans until October.

Warmer than normal weather conditions have been with us for months. While this could mean you can plant other heat loving crops such as tomatoes a little earlier than usual, frost damage remains possible until May.

Don Davis is a retired Virginia Cooperative Extension agent. He can be reached at dodavis2@vt.edu.

Don Davis is a retired Virginia Cooperative Extension agent. He can be reached at dodavis2@vt.edu.

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