15 Best Vegetables to Plant in Spring

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15 Best Vegetables to Plant in Spring

Which Vegetable Seeds Grow Well in Spring?

A spring garden is a rewarding and welcome sight after the winter. After several months of eating squash and carrots or canned foods, the thought of enjoying fresh food from the garden is exciting. This past year, many people started gardening for the first time. This will be their first spring garden. So, where do you start?

Step 1: Order Your Seeds and Plants

The first thing to do is order your vegetable seeds and plants. The seed catalogs for this year are out online or you can get a paper version. Vegetable plants won’t be shipped until it is safe for you to plant in your growing zone, so don’t worry about trying to store your order somewhere safe until it’s time to plant. Remember, it’s important to order your seeds from a reputable site that ensures high quality and organic seeds––which brings us to the next step.

Step 2: Find Your Growing Zone

Find out what your growing zone is. Your growing zone will tell you the average date of the first frost in fall and the last frost in spring. It is an average, but it gives you a date to shoot for. There are lots of online resources that include charts on grow zones and some which allow you to find your grow zone by zip code. Another great resource for growing gardens is your local County Extension Office. There may be a Master Gardener program in your area and some offer a call-in service to answer any questions related to gardening. Also, check if there are any gardening clubs in your area.

There are plants that like the cool temperatures of spring. These are plants that will germinate in cold soil, can tolerate and even thrive in cooler air temperatures and will grow well in shorter days with less sunlight. Not all plants can handle these conditions. Summer garden plants, like tomatoes and peppers, will not survive the spring weather conditions.

Step 3: Start Planting

Once you decide what you want to grow in your spring garden and have the seeds, you will be ready to plant. Check your garden soil for any signs of frost still in the soil. It should be frost-free when you plant seeds. Also, spring often comes with lots of rain. Don’t try to plant in wet, muddy conditions. You will want to be prepared to protect your plants if there is a surprise late frost. All you have to do is cover them for the night with an old sheet, newspapers or frost cloth.

If you live in the north, your growing season is much shorter, and it isn’t unusual for the spring garden to overlap the summer garden. You can gain some time by starting your cool weather vegetable plants indoors and transplanting them into the garden when the soil is ready.

Vegetables to Grow in the Spring

Here are some great vegetables to consider for your spring garden.

1. Peas. This is one of the best cool weather crops. The seeds will germinate in soil temperatures as low as 40 degrees and pea plants can tolerate even being snowed on. There are lots of varieties of peas––from sugar snap peas to peas you shell and eat and snow peas. Depending on the variety you choose, you may need to have a trellis for them to grow on. Some varieties grow up to six feet tall. There are also many bush varieties and even peas for patio container gardening.

2. Spinach. Spinach is so cold tolerant that you can sprinkle the seeds on frozen ground and they will germinate as soon as the ground thaws. Just watch out that the birds don’t get the seeds first. Much like peas, spinach can tolerate some pretty cold temperatures and even a little snow. 

3. Lettuce. Lettuce likes cool temperatures, but is more sensitive to cold. Be prepared to cover the lettuce if you have a late cold snap. You can plant directly in the garden as soon as the soil can be worked, but, in the North, you may want to start the seeds indoors to be safe.

4. Radishes. Radishes are one of the first vegetables you can harvest after sowing. Plant two to four weeks before your last frost when the soil can be worked. Most people think of the radish as a vegetable that is eaten raw, but try it roasted with a little oil and salt. You may want to plant a lot more.

5. Broccoli. Broccoli is a cool weather crop that actually doesn’t grow well in the heat of summer. Direct sow the seeds or start indoors and transplant outside about two weeks before your last frost date. Broccoli is a delicious addition to any dish or can be used as a side to a main course.

6. Cauliflower. Cauliflower is much like broccoli. Both are from the same family and should be grown the same. Additionally, once the cauliflower head starts to form, you will need to protect the head from the sun to keep the head a pure white. Most cauliflower has longer leaves that encircle the head for this purpose but might need securing to keep the light out. There are also now cauliflower heads that are in various colors.

7. Beets. Beets can be sown in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. They are a root crop; however, you can also harvest some of the leaves to add to a fresh salad. Just make sure there are four to five leaves remaining to provide energy to the plant for forming the beet root.

8. Swiss Chard. This is a cold tolerant plant, but it doesn’t like the frost so be prepared to cover it if necessary. Swiss chard is so beautiful it is worth growing just to look at. The cool weather makes it taste even better.

9. Kohlrabi. Kohlrabi forms an edible bulb above ground. This is another plant that prefers cool weather and, in fact, the sweetness of the bulb is enhanced by the cool temperatures. But keep the protective sheets available because kohlrabi cannot tolerate a frost or freeze.

10. Cucumbers. Trust us, you want to get these in the ground about two weeks after the last frost so you can enjoy them as early as possible. Make sure to treat your soil with fertilizer and choose a sunny place in the garden. While you can start them early, they love a good sun bath whenever possible. Tip for new gardeners: Give them space in rows about six feet apart because they will spread.  

11. Carrots. We’re cheating a little bit here. Truth is, you want to plant these before the first frost, but if you didn’t get around to it, you can plant your carrots early! Give them a little space or pull them when they start to grow to make space for the carrots to grow big and healthy.

12. Potatoes. There’s nothing better than potatoes—one of the most versatile veggies in your garden. Potatoes can survive a frost or two, so get them into the ground as soon as it’s easy enough to do so. Once the stems are about eight inches, cover them or your potatoes will taste bitter and have a bit of green to them. No one wants a bitter French fry!

13. Raspberries. Okay, not a vegetable, but a great plant to sow in the spring. But it’s true—you can absolutely plant raspberries in early spring. If you don’t want them going crazy in your garden, they also do really well in pots or raised beds. Prefer to put them in the ground? Make sure you have good draining soil in order to keep the root rot away.

14. Rhubarb. Rhubarb stalks are the perfect addition to your garden in the spring, but there’s just one catch—you shouldn’t harvest your rhubarb the first year. That being said, though, if you’re willing to be patient, you can have delicious rhubarb year after year. It handles the cold perfectly and is typically both insect- and disease-free. Just keep it in good draining soil and you’ll be able to enjoy this plant for years to come.

15. Herbs. Again, technically not a vegetable, but herbs like parsley, mint and even oregano typically come back year after year, making them a great addition to a spring garden.  

 Keep in mind that these cold tolerant spring crops are also great cold tolerant fall plants. Many gardeners plant them at both times of year.

Spring Garden Tasks

In addition to planting your garden for spring, make sure you offer your new (and existing!) plants a little bit of a balanced fertilizer to ensure they have a healthy start for the year. Then, give a look over your garden to start some spring cleaning.

  • Check fences. If you have perimeter fencing or a stone fence, give it a look to ensure the weather didn’t cause any damage. You may also consider putting up any fences to keep critters out that you took down before the winter. They’ll be coming out soon, too, and the last thing you want is for them to eat off any of your newly awakening plants.
  • Check your trees. Sometimes, the weather can take a toll on limbs of your favorite trees, and it’s best to get those down before the tree starts to come out of dormancy—especially if they’re over a structure or your home.
  • Trim existing plants. Some of your perennials love to be trimmed either before or right after winter and, best of all, it helps them grow bigger and stronger once they do wake up for the season.
  • Get your tools ready. Pull your tools out of the shed and give them a look. Does your shovel need a new staff this season? Do you need to sharpen your pruning shears to make trimming a lot easier? Does your watering can need a patch at the bottom thanks to a bit of rust? Also, consider what gardening tools you wish you had last year and treat yourself to these tools this year.
  • Start prepping your compost pile. Doing some spring raking? Throw those leaves and that plant debris into the pile! Trimming your perennials? Into the pile! Ensure that the compost you’re going to use for your garden beds is removed and you add more to the pile with the spring cleaning you do.

Getting your plants into the ground during the spring is just one step for getting your garden ready for the season. Plant your favorite vegetables to get them going and then consider other flowers and shrubs you want to add to fill in spaces in case something died off in the winter. You could also consider trying something new that you haven’t tried before. New varieties of plants and vegetables come out every year, and you may just find a new favorite for your garden.

Remember, you don’t have to do it all at once. Take your time getting your garden ready and enjoying the time outside of the house. Talk to other gardeners to see how their gardens fared during the winter, and see if they have any recommendations for your garden. And then, be sure to start thinking about what plants you want to add to pots and containers outside your front door for a pop of color and fun. Pansies are a great option in the cooler months if you’re really looking for some bright color to tide you over until summer-friendly plants are ready to go.

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Have fun and happy gardening!