Vegetable-garden veterans call this "false spring" and will hold off planting any tender crops, knowing that cold weather, frost and maybe even snow could come at any time. But there are plenty of things you can plant now if you follow some simple guidelines.

Don't be fooled into starting your garden too early. After a winter of above-normal temperatures, spring is following suit.

Vegetable-garden veterans call this "false spring" and will hold off planting any tender crops, knowing that cold weather, frost and maybe even snow could come at any time. But there are plenty of things you can plant now if you follow some simple guidelines.

The worst thing gardeners can do is turn over the soil while it's too wet. This will destroy the structure, forming giant clumps that will dry and turn into impenetrable bricks better suited for building walls than growing anything.

If your garden is constructed of raised beds filled with organic matter, it might be workable. But most garden soil still needs time to dry out. The old adage says if the soil sticks to the shovel, it's too wet to garden.

This spring, I've seen gardeners who normally hold off planting early crops until April venturing out to the garden now. They add compost to the top of their planting beds and then sow seed or set plants directly in the compost. This way, they don't have to worry about disturbing the moist spring soil.

The key to planting now is choosing varieties that thrive in the coolest temperatures. I've planted seeds of lettuce, arugula, beets, peas, Swiss chard, radishes, carrots, cilantro and mixed greens. For faster germination of peas, I soak them overnight. I've also planted a flat of "Red Sails" lettuce.

The smaller, harder seeds like the greens, lettuce, radishes and carrots will sit patiently waiting for the soil temperatures to be right. The bigger seeds, like peas, stand the chance of rotting if the soil doesn't reach optimum temperatures.

With temps in the 60s and 70s, it's looking good for everything to sprout. But that doesn't necessarily mean they will be harvested before seeds started later in the season. It depends on the weather over the next month. Peas started in April are sometimes picked the same time as peas planted in March.

Many spring vegetable gardeners have floating row covers on hand to protect their early crops. The lightweight, spun-bound, translucent fabric acts as a greenhouse. It's sold at nurseries and garden centers, is inexpensive and can be used for years. Even though cooler temperatures shouldn't kill early vegetables, the plants are happier and more productive under the covers.

Many leafy greens should be planted several times during the season to ensure constant harvest. When it gets hot, lettuce, spinach and other greens will bolt, meaning they go to seed. They become bitter and inedible. Sowing a crop every few weeks will provide lettuce for salads when the tomatoes are harvested.

Tender crops like tomatoes, peppers and beans, and vine crops like zucchini and cucumbers should not be planted until May. The plants and sprouted seeds will be killed by frost.

Flower gardeners can safely plant pansies and violas now because they can brave the cold when it returns. This early in the season, I prefer to plant in containers and keep them close to the house. They are better protected from the weather that way. The flowers brighten the entryway to the house and will last into July. When it gets hot, they fade and can be replaced with shade-loving annuals offered for half price at many nurseries in midsummer.

The winter was so mild that many fall-planted pansies survived and are starting to bloom again. Flowering kale and many greens also returned for a spring encore.

By choosing cool-loving plants, the season can be extended and some things will be harvested before "normal" gardeners get started.