Although Maine has a relatively short growing season, careful attention to maturation times can allow for multiple plantings in a single season.

The way to achieve this feat is to get early maturing vegetables in the ground as soon as conditions permit. For truly early plantings, remember while in-ground soil temperatures may remain unacceptably cold, soil in containers, especially those situated in a south-facing direction, warm up remarkably fast.

And that is the reason why I am such a fan of containers such as the EarthBox. The EarthBox utilizes a special water reservoir below a thick layer of potting soil. The plant’s roots grow through a mesh and into the water. Fertilizer is applied just once, at planting time, and the plant draws in fertilizer as it needs it.

Another thing about the EarthBox is you can situate plants much closer together than with in-ground gardens. I once got several dozen ears of sweet corn from one EarthBox.

Lacking an EarthBox or a similar device, any container will suffice, as long as it is large enough that the soil doesn’t dry out too quickly.

The crops

Many early-season vegetables are well-suited for container growing. I usually grow garden peas in a container, but last year decided to use a raised bed instead. However, some pest stole the seed as fast as I could plant it and I got no peas. This year, I’ll plant my peas in an EarthBox. Not only will this protect them from in-ground pests, it allows for extremely early planting since the soil won’t be so cold the seed rots, a perennial problem with in-ground plantings.

But even in-ground peas, as long as you don’t have the same varmints around your place that pestered me so last year, will grow and mature early enough so you can do a second planting of some other vegetable after the peas have gone by. I like to grow lettuce in the now-vacant ground. Swiss chard also does well for mid-season planting.

Many other greens mature quickly, making them suitable for growing after you harvest other early crops. Some kale varieties take only 50 days to mature after germination. And since kale is extremely cold-hardy, it stands as a great choice for a mid-season planting.

Spinach top choice

For a first early-season crop, you couldn’t do better than spinach. This fast-growing, leafy vegetable matures extremely fast. For instance, Acadia, a new spinach variety offered by Pinetree Seeds in New Gloucester, Maine, matures in an incredible 27 days. Other varieties take only 39–50 days, allowing plenty of time to plant warm-weather crops in their place.

Turnips

Turnips make another great choice for a first, super-early planting. Note I’m talking turnips, not rutabaga. Rutabagas, commonly called “turnips,” take far longer to mature.

Actual turnips take from 30–50 days to mature, plenty of time to put warm-weather crops in their place. Or, if you wish, you can just keep on planting turnips right through late summer.

Also note turnip greens make a wonderful cooked green; tasty and full of vitamins. I plant turnips as much for the tops as for the roots.

I like the earliest-maturing turnips because by using them, you circumvent those pesky little worms that like to dig into turnips. Also, such early turnips preclude the need for pesticides. The hybrid Tokyo cross matures in 30 days. While most people pick their turnips when quite small, Tokyo cross can be left to grow to a fairly large size. I think it best, though, to pick small turnips. This assures a clean flesh, without any woodiness.

There are many other choices out there, so why not make this the year to get two crops from the same space?