Your garden might not look quite right when you walk outside, but it should be functioning fine if you took the time to put it to bed in the fall. (You followed my winterizing column, right?)

Your garden might not look quite right when you walk outside, but it should be functioning fine if you took the time to put it to bed in the fall. (You followed my winterizing column, right?)

You might feel weird digging in the dirt before the region's frost-free date, but an amazing green-thumb experience awaits those who venture into the cool-weather world. (Just imagine an entire harvest before your neighbors break ground!)

Spring is a great time to check your tools and supplies, ensure soil health and plan new ideas for your summer space. While you're out there, you might as well grow some cool-weather crops - tasty salad staples and veggies that are planted well before a region's frost-free date.

Here are some tips to help you bring in a spring bounty.

Pick the right plants. My favorite spring crops are salad greens, spinach, radishes and snap peas - which I grow from seed. Carrots, kale and beets also do well. Some plants come in varieties geared for different seasons, so check seed packets to make sure you're getting early-spring types.

Mix it up. Radishes can mature within a month, while broccoli takes around 70 days. Choose some early risers to whet your appetite for those coming later. This also is an ideal time to experiment with purple carrots, mustard greens or red kale.

Scale it down. Central Ohio's frost-free date is in May, which means spring can be cold, rainy and generally less pleasant than summer. It's likely that you won't want to be out in the garden as often you do in June. Plant four rows in the summer? Try one or two in the spring.

Consider spuds . In the right conditions, you can grow 100 pounds of potatoes in a garbage can. Get seed potatoes from a nursery, as grocery versions are often sprayed to prevent sprouting. In a large, tall can with half-inch drainage holes, plant a few starters and gradually mound dirt or compost as the leafy stalks grow up. Keep the soil moist.

Sources: bhg.com, ehow.com, ourohio.org

Want to get your hands dirty or your feet on a trail? Outdoor exploration starts at the Ohio Adventure Map at columbusalive.com/venture.