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Use radishes, onions for fast food

Onions can be grown from seed, but you won't get them as fast as from sets or starts. Bunching onions, center, are green onions or scallions and will grow faster. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

These easy-to-grow favorites offer something edible in a hurry

Want quick gratification from your vegetable garden? Plant radishes and onions.

If you can find the seeds, Cherry Belle radishes
are a good choice for a quick crop. (Photo courtesy
Burpee Seeds)
The first is renowned as a fast-growing crop; Cherry Belles can be ready to pull in just 22 days.

Notoriously slow, onions are just the opposite; to reach full size, onions take months.

But onion sets – those little mini-bulbs – sprout almost immediately and grow edible-size greens within two weeks. A little later, they can be used as green onions (bulb and all).

Add a few lettuce transplants and you have salad makings in under a month.

Not all radishes are super-fast. Daikon and heirloom watermelon, for example, can take 60 days to reach maturity. Read the package or online description when planning your garden.

But their fast-sprouting quality makes radishes useful as living row markers.

From seed, plant one row of radishes parallel to a row of something slower to sprout, such as heirloom carrots, beets or bush beans. Space the radish row about 4 to 6 inches from the other row. The radishes will sprout quickly to remind you of the position of the other row. Harvest the radishes as they mature, usually weeks before their companions. That also allows more space for the developing veggies in that second row.

Or use the radishes to outline an area planted with squash or melons; again, the radishes will be long gone before the vines or bushes need their space.

This radish trick works best in spring and fall. Planted in summer, radishes often go directly to flower without forming an edible root.

Onions work well as a perimeter planting. Their fragrance wards off several kinds of bad bugs. If allowed to flower, their blooms attract abundant bees.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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