The 18 Best Vegetables to Plant in Early Spring

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While early spring may not be an ideal planting time for many vegetables, there are some plants that can still perform well. Despite the reduced temperatures and damp ground, some vegetables can still manage to produce a bountiful harvest in the spring. They go from seed to harvest even before summer settles in completely. Due to the fact that not all vegetables are suitable to plant in early spring, it’s important to focus only on those vegetables that boast greater cold resistance. Check out the following vegetables that can deliver a solid nutritional load even when planted before the last frost time.

1. Lettuce

Lettuce can be successfully planted in the cool spring time. Once it gets going, lettuce will only need around 50 days for harvest. Pick the lettuce before it starts to bolt as it will lose that fresh flavor. There’s a bit of a narrow window for harvesting but lettuce is a rewarding crop to plant in the spring. The wet weather seems to offer the right conditions for lettuce to thrive but make sure you plant it at a good time to protect it from frost.

There are lots of varieties to select when it comes to lettuce so that makes it a versatile choice to enjoy crisp salads in the spring. You can try out different lettuce types until you’re happy with the flavor and texture. Our best recommendation is this pack of 8 different varieties of non-GMO seeds. The best part is that lettuce is very simple to plant directly from seed. You can get a continual crop of lettuce until summer creeps in. Expect three succession plantings if you time it correctly. Lettuce grows ideally in partial shade and rich soil.

2. Spinach

Spinach prefers cool weather and grows fast enough to work nicely for a spring planting. It can thrive in the wet ground of the spring season and become ready for harvest within two months. It’s a bit tricky to avoid this plant from going to seed but you don’t have to worry about that if you harvest it at the proper time. The more difficult part is to extend the harvest to get more out of this nutritional vegetable.

A good rule of thumb to know when spinach is ready to eat is to check the number of leaves. When a spinach rosette has at least 5 leaves, it’s safe to say you can harvest it. Make sure you don’t leave these leafy greens to turn yellow. This can happen when the hot weather appears. Spinach leaves are amazingly versatile in the kitchen. They work nicely for salads or sautés but you can also boost the vitamin content of your next omelet.

3. Peas

All peas varieties work great for early spring planting. While this vegetable can’t handle freezing temperatures, it’s even more vulnerable to strong heat. There’s a nice window of opportunity to get a bountiful crop of peas. Sugar snap peas, in particular, represent a great solution if you’re looking for tasty vegetables to plant in the spring. You can eat this type of peas whole as the pod is edible.

To ensure you’re getting a healthy crop of snap peas, we recommend sowing the seeds 5 weeks before the last frost date is over. It takes a little over two months for the peas to become ready for harvest. You’ll know it when peas appear plump and vibrant green. This is a very prolific legume that can grow up a trellis with ease. Bring snap peas to stir-fries or salads for a sweet and crunchy addition to any dish.

4. Radishes

Many gardeners agree that store-bought radishes can’t really compare with homegrown ones. There’s a very noticeable difference in terms of flavor. You can safely plant this vegetable in early spring to take advantage of the radishes’ crisp texture and spicy aroma. While most radish varieties can grow well in late fall, you can also try growing the vegetable during the chilly spring season.

The cool weather conditions are ideal for proper root formation of the radish. It takes around 4 weeks to get the radishes ready for harvesting. This is a recommended vegetable for prolific gardens as it can be planted for continuous production throughout the spring. You don’t have to wait for the radishes to grow to their full size as even small roots taste great. Once the roots get to 1 inch in diameter, you can start testing them to see if they’re good for harvesting.

5. Carrots

There are lots of great root vegetables that can be successfully planted in early spring. Carrots are one of them. There are many varieties of carrots that prefer cold temperatures. You can plant orange, yellow, or purple carrots without problems as long as their water and sunlight needs are met. The good news about carrots is that you can harvest them early as baby carrots if you prefer a softer texture.

To reach full maturity, carrots require a bit more time compared to other vegetables that can be planted in the spring. You have to wait approximately 70 days but it depends on the type of carrot. Inspect the diameter of the carrot tops to figure out whether they’re fully grown. If their tops measure ¾ to 1 inch, the carrot is probably mature and ready for being incorporated into all kinds of tasty dishes.

6. Potatoes

Although more difficult to grow in early spring compared to other vegetables on this list, it’s worth a try. The secret is to grow a new potato plant from a cut-up potato. As long as you cut the vegetable in quarters, you should be able to get a nice crop of potatoes after 3 weeks from the moment the plant starts flowering.

Keep in mind that this is the case for the earliest potatoes you can get. For mature ones, it’s recommended to wait an extra 3 weeks after the foliage is gone. If the skin of a dug-up potato is thick, then it’s safe to say that it’s properly ready for harvesting. Planting potatoes in early spring can be risky as the green tops are very vulnerable to frost. This is why it’s important to add some mulch to protect the delicate new potato leaves from freezing temperatures.

7. Beets

Beets are capable of withstanding very cold temperatures so they’re highly recommended for northern gardens. This is an ideal vegetable for early spring planting. With the help of proper fertilization using aged manure, you can boost the growing potential to impressive heights. Beets grow nicely in soils that have a temperature between 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Seeds will start germinating in around a week.

Beets require solid irrigation levels during the growing season so the rainy weather in the spring can offer the ideal environment for them. As both the root and the leaves are edible, you don’t have to wait for the plant to fully mature. Before the roots get ready for harvesting, you can pick up some young greens to boost the nutritional content of your salads. Beets can be eaten in multiple ways as you can slice, dice, or grate them or even incorporate them into smoothies.

8. Asparagus

Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that can offer a very rewarding crop every year after the first planting. It can thrive when planted in early spring but it takes a longer period of time to establish itself properly. Asparagus can be grown from seeds but it’s easier to use 1-year-old or 2-year-old plants to get a head start. It’s safe to say that a lot of patience is involved when growing asparagus. The vegetable may require up to 3 years to start being really productive.

To help asparagus grow as expected, it’s important to add a good layer of mulch and keep a consistent level of moisture. The plant won’t be ready for harvest in the first year but requires maintenance by removing dead foliage and adding compost. Mature spears of asparagus need to reach around 9 inches in height to get ready for harvesting. You can also pick up thinner spears if you prefer a more tender taste.

9. Rhubarb

While not as used as other vegetables on this list, rhubarb has great potential for planting in early spring. It’s very easy to grow and can be prepared like a fruit. This plant takes a bit to get established but then you can expect a new crop each spring. It’s often grown from root divisions instead of direct seeding. Plant rhubarb in early spring at the first sign of the soil becoming workable.

For the best growing results, select a full sun spot in the garden for your rhubarb plants. Moist but well-drained soils offer the most benefits for this vegetable. Rhubarb plants tend to be more productive when spaced correctly. There’s also the problem of growing a particularly dense rhubarb crown. This makes it difficult to separate the plant. If you wish to divide the rhubarb, it’s best to do so when the plant is still developing. Once it gets strong roots, it will be much more difficult. Make sure you avoid the leaves of the rhubarb as they’re toxic. The stalks can be prepared into jams and pies.

10. Kohlrabi

Part of the larger family of plants that include cabbage, kale, and broccoli, Kohlrabi represents an excellent choice to get an early start for your garden. This is a hardy vegetable that looks like a cross between a turnip and a cabbage. It has a distinctive flavor compared to these plants as it’s milder and sweeter. Kohlrabi seeds can be sown a month before the last frost date. It prefers full sun and rich soil.

It takes a maximum of 60 days to start harvesting Kohlrabi. Make sure you plant it at the right time because you will have difficulties with the harvesting unless the temperatures stay below 75 degrees Fahrenheit. While a bit underrated compared to other vegetables, Kohlrabi is simple to grow and can be eaten in various ways. The tops can be sautéed for making some creative dishes.

11. Cabbage

A classic cool-season vegetable, cabbage can be conveniently planted in the chilly weather of early spring. It’s a fairly easy plant to grow as it’s not as fussy compared to other vegetables. As long as you plant it at the right time and offer satisfactory growing conditions, you will be rewarded with a delicious and versatile crop. Cabbage can be planted either through transplants or directly sown from seed.

With the help of a high-quality type of soil, your cabbage plants can get a proper start. The roots of this vegetable don’t grow very deep but good levels of moisture can do wonders to preserve a juicy and sweet flavor. Harvesting time can vary depending on the variety of cabbage. It’s safe to say that when the base of the head reaches more than 4 inches, the cabbage is ready to eat. You can let it mature up to 10 inches but make sure you avoid cabbage head splits because it leaves the plant vulnerable to pests and diseases.

12. Broccoli

Broccoli represents a solid vegetable for spring planting. It can grow directly from seed but you can skip some waiting time for proper maturing by using starter plants from a nursery. Alternatively, starting seeds indoors can also give you a head start to enjoy a quicker harvest of broccoli. Regardless of preference, it’s recommended to plant broccoli 5 weeks before the last spring frost. Make sure the plants are generously spaced to accommodate the growing head size.

Hot temperatures can cause problems for broccoli. The plant performs best when the weather is chilly. This is why it’s a great solution for early spring planting. Temperatures should remain under 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit for the best flavor and growing results. Broccoli is fairly tolerant of frost and heads should appear through May. It takes up to 150 days to get this vegetable ready for harvesting.

13. Kale

If you’re looking to grow a very nutritious vegetable in the spring, kale is worth a shot. You don’t have to worry too much about cold damage because kale is a very hardy plant. It can be grown directly from seeds in the ground. Just make sure you start planting them as early as possible. You can sow the seeds as soon as the soil becomes workable. It’s possible to space the plants closer together if you prefer harvesting only the baby greens.

Light and well-drained soil are pretty much required to allow kale to thrive. It’s similar to radishes in terms of toughness but the plant can still benefit from seedling protection if the temperature gets particularly cold. You can only harvest the lowermost leaves if you wish to allow kale to keep growing and extend the season. The leaves pack quite a punch in terms of nutritional value. Add them raw to salads or cook them in stir-fries to incorporate some color and texture into any dishes.

14. Turnips

Getting a summer crop of turnips requires planting them early in the spring. This is a very appreciated root vegetable that forms a great pairing together with carrots and radishes. Turnip’s relatively easy to grow directly from seed. A full sun location works best but if you’re primarily focused on the leaves, turnips can manage in partial shade conditions even if they don’t necessarily flourish.

If you plant turnips at 10-day intervals, you can enjoy a fresh harvest more often throughout the whole season. It takes around 40 days after planting for the first turnips to become mature and ready for harvest. The roots of well-grown turnips should measure around 3 inches in diameter. Summer turnips tend to have a more delicate texture compared to the hardier type of turnips produced in the fall.

15. Onions

Depending on your location, some types of onion can be planted in very early spring. For sooner harvesting, it’s recommended to go for started bulbs that can be conveniently replanted. You can also grow onions directly from seeds but you need to be patient to reach the maturity date. A better solution is to plant onion seeds inside to speed up the germination process and prevent freezing weather damage.

Onions are generally hardy vegetables but you need to make sure that weather conditions can be described as cool and not cold. Caring for onions isn’t very difficult. There’s no need for consistent watering as long as you provide good mulching. Onions stop growing when they produce flower stalks. Yellowing tops represent an important indicator that the onions mature. It’s recommended to harvest the onions in late summer when the tops start to develop a brown color.

16. Brussels Sprouts

When properly cooked, brussels sprouts can become surprisingly tasty. This is a solid vegetable to plant in early spring considering the nutritional value and prolific yields. You will be amazed to see how nicely they taste when freshly picked. The process of growing brussels sprouts in your own garden is very similar to cabbage or kale. It makes sense given how these are all vegetables part of the same larger family of plants.

Brussels sprouts love cool temperatures so that means they can be planted in early spring. The only problem is that they take longer to mature so this planting time may not be optimal for certain locations. This vegetable grows more effectively from transplants as the seedlings are quite delicate. Mature brussels sprout plants resemble tall green towers with knobs of little cabbages. The vegetables are ready for harvest when they get a large enough width and certain firmness. When planted in spring, brussels sprouts will grow completely in the fall.

17. Cauliflower

This broccoli relative is a bit harder to grow in your own garden but it can be worth the time. Cauliflower has very stringent temperature requirements. Anything above 75F will result in plant buttoning or bolting. Similar to kale and turnips, cauliflower is a cool-season vegetable. It’s critical to plant it in the spring to get the flower heads started before the warm summer weather. There are a few varieties that tend to fare better if planted in the middle of the summer.

Cauliflower planting works best if you start seed indoors. Seedlings need a lot of sun after germination and consistent moisture. When transplanting the cauliflower plants in the garden, make sure it’s properly spaced – 2 feet apart should suffice. Another difficult aspect of growing cauliflower is the need for blanching to obtain that creamy white flower head color. After this process, you have to wait around 10 more days until the vegetable is ready for harvesting.

18. Collard Greens

Obtaining a spring crop of collard greens is possible thanks to this vegetable’s natural resistance to frost. They can easily manage the chilly weather in the early spring. Collard greens can be planted from seed or transplant. While this vegetable can also be planted in mid-summer for a fall harvest, it’s safe to say that you will get a sweeter leafy green with a crisper flavor in the spring.

Considering the large size of these plants, it’s recommended to be careful when sowing seeds to space the vegetables around 20 inches apart so they can grow comfortably. There’s not a lot of maintenance involved when it comes to taking care of collard greens. Make sure they’re properly irrigated and try to harvest them regularly to encourage the development of new leaves. Mulch can contribute to keeping a good level of moisture for the soil.


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