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For a new twist on spring greens, cultivate rapini and sorrel

Spear-shaped green leaves in clusters grow from the ground.
Sorrel is just one unusual green to plant in your garden, raised beds or containers.

Spring greens can add brightness and flavor to your meals. Forage for some wintercress or dandelions or cultivate new types, like rapini and upland cress.

Add some freshness to your menu by using foraged spring greens, like wintercress and dandelions. And learn to cultivate other easy-to-grow greens that come in all sorts of flavor profiles, from sour to peppery.

Fairly soon, you can grow some unusual, cool-weather greens in your garden. These are fast-growing, too, maturing in as little as 40 to 50 days.

Lamb's lettuce

So named because baby lambs eat this in the mountains of Switzerland, where it grows wild, lamb's lettuce or mache is a mild-flavored green. Grow this one and harvest the small leaves to mix its nutty flavor with rose overtones in with eggs and pastas.


Rapini or broccoli raab is in the cruciferous broccoli family. The rapini plant even looks like broccoli with its similar stem and leaves.

Rapini has a strong, slightly bitter flavor and tastes great grilled, steamed or sauteed. Eat the whole plant, stem, leaves and flowers — before the flowers open.


If you like sour or tangy flavored things, sorrel makes for a great cool-weather green to try in your gardens. Sorrel makes a great addition to soups and salads. One variety is a red-veined sorrell that looks beautiful in a container.

Upland cress

Different than watercress and much easier to grow, upland cress is zesty, and peppery when eaten fresh and slightly milder when cooked.

A question about powdery mildew

Q: Towards the end of summer, powdery mildew gets up in the garden and it seems impossible to keep it at bay. It gets to every plant I have in the garden. I live in a condo and my garden does get direct southern light from dawn until about mid-afternoon in the summer. - Oliver, via email

A: If you have flowers in the garden that are getting powdery mildew, try instead to plant disease-resistant varieties of plants and flowers.

If you've got phlox in your garden, go for varieties like "Shortwood," "David," and "Gina." If you've planted beebalm, switch it out for a disease-resistant variety, like Jacob's Climb.

Also, try to thin out clumps of plants that get a lot of mildew to add more air circulation.

A question about a hydrangea's second year in the garden

Q: I bought a hydrangea from a big box store last year. I planted it. It did well. It's now coming back but it's not blooming on the old wood. I was told it was probably a macrophylla (bigleaf hydrangea) and grows from new wood. - Sharon, via email

A: The big leaf or the macrophylla hydrangea does grow on the plant's old wood. That means the plant set its buds last year and then this spring, it'll flower.

In Vermont, sometimes the plant dies back to the ground with a cold winter. So that might be what's happened. And you might get flowers later from the new wood but might not be until October.

Something to try is to protect the plant in the fall by putting a one-foot deep layer of wood chips around the plant to protect the stems, and then next year, it'll be ready to go.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, our audience! Send us your toughest conundrums and join the fun. Submit your written question via email, or better yet, leave a voicemail with your gardening question so we can use your voice on the air! Call Vermont Public at 1-800-639-2192.

Listen to All Things Gardening Sunday mornings at 9:35 a.m., and subscribe to the podcast to listen any time.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.