10 Vegetables You Can Plant In Early Spring

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey
Credit: Shutterstock / Eurobanks

After a long and cold winter, many gardeners are eager to grab a shovel and get to work in the soil. The trouble is that even though the soil thaws out and the days grow longer in the early spring, there is often still a strong possibility of frost and even snow. This unpredictable weather makes planting young crops and seeds problematic. The good news is that while these conditions are not ideal for some species, some vegetables thrive when you plant them properly in the early spring.

You can begin your early spring vegetables indoors as early as late February or early March. This includes broccoli, kale, and cabbage. Make sure you slowly transition them into the outdoor climates by placing them in sunny outdoor locations during the day before being transplanted outdoors. Other plants, including peas, arugula, and spinach, can be sown directly into the outdoor soil in mid-to-late March. Follow the care instructions for best results.

It is possible, and sometimes even easy to plant vegetables in the early spring with great success. The key is knowing how to plant vegetables in the early spring when temperatures can be cold and unpredictable. It’s also important to know which vegetables do well in these conditions, and which ones are likely to shrivel up and die. Keep reading to learn more about the best vegetables to plant in the early spring, and tips to success when gardening this time of year.

Four Tips For Success When Planting Vegetables In Early Spring

1. Only Plant The Right Species In Early Spring

The key to success when planting vegetables in the early spring is knowing what species to plant. Some species do quite well in the cool shoulder seasons of early spring and late fall, while others will shrivel up and die. Only plant species that are proven to thrive in the early spring where you live. Consult with your local garden store for advice, and follow care instructions closely.

2. Start The Plants From Seed Indoors

If you are planting from seed, or are eager to get a head start on your vegetable garden this spring, consider starting your plants indoors. You can use planting trays or cardboard egg containers to start certain vegetables as early as late February. This allows them a month to six weeks to grow in climate-controlled conditions before you plant them in the ground in mid-April when the weather is generally warmer and less unpredictable.

3. Slowly Acclimate The Plants Before Transplanting

To ensure a high success rate when transplanting young plants from controlled indoor conditions to the outdoors is the process of acclimation. Abruptly moving your young and vulnerable plants from the comfort of your controlled indoor temperatures to unpredictability can cause shock and death.

To ease the transition, place them outdoors at first only during long stretches of sunny daylight. Then you can extend this to overnights when the low temperature is well above freezing. After your plants survive this, they are ready to be transplanted into your vegetable garden.

4. Follow The Care Instructions And The Growing Calendar

Lastly, when you are planting vegetables in the early spring, don’t try and reinvent the wheel. There is a reason some plants are only planted in late spring; it’s because they die when planted earlier.

Follow the care instructions the growing calendar for your vegetables carefully. Remember that these guidelines have been developed over hundreds of years, and you will have the best success when you follow them. Pay close attention to the exact species of plant you choose, and remember that not every type of pea, lettuce, and root vegetable should be planted at the same time of year.

The Best Vegetables To Plant In The Early Spring

1. Peas

One vegetable type that has great success when planted in the early spring are peas. Sugar snap peas and snow peas in particular are great vegetables to plant in your garden in the early spring. They both have edible pods and are delicious in stir fry, salads, and as a side. They prefer the cooler spring climates to the oppressive sunlight in the summer months.

2. Cabbage

Cabbage is known for its hearty nature and resilience when faced with unpredictable weather. This makes it a great vegetable for areas with short growing seasons. It is also a great plant to start in your home in early spring, and then transplant outdoors in April. Remember not all cabbages are equally resilient, so choose cabbages like “April” cabbage that are known to do well in early spring weather.

3. Arugula

If you are looking for a leafy green that you can plant directly into your garden in the early spring, look no further than arugula. Arugula is one of the few greens that you can plant in the soil in early spring. As soon as the soil is workable and the risk of freezing earth has passed, you can sow arugula seeds directly into the vegetable garden. If you want a continuous harvest of this delicious spicy green, add more seeds every two weeks or so for six weeks to enjoy a long growing season.

4. Radishes

Radishes are a healthy and delicious root vegetable that is a welcome addition to any vegetable garden. They are also a great plant for those looking to start a vegetable garden in the early spring. They can germinate in temperatures as low as 40 degrees. This makes them perfect for planting in any climate where the risk of freezing has diminished but cold evenings persist.

5. Kale

Kale is a hearty green that is far more frost-tolerant than most greens. This is partially because it is a member of the cabbage family. Unlike many other greens, kale is tolerant to an occasional spring and fall frost. This makes it an ideal vegetable to plant in the early spring. It also does well in the early fall, as it can tolerate the occasional frosts of fall as well.

6. Lettuce

Lettuce is a plant that thrives in the late spring but can be started indoors as early as late February. If you are a gardener who likes planting vegetables from seed, then lettuce is one of the first species you should start with. Romaine and butterhead lettuce are great varieties to start with, as they can be transplanted to the outdoor garden as soon as the soil is workable and the temperatures are constantly above 40 degrees.

7. Beets

Another fantastic and popular vegetable that you can plant in the spring are beets. This delicious and sweet root vegetable, which is a great plant for home pickling, can be planted directly in the soil once it thaws and dries out after winter. They can tolerate occasional frosts and when temperature dips as low as 28 degrees. If you live somewhere where wet and cold weather persists, start your beets indoors and then transplant them into the ground in April.

8. Broccoli

Broccoli is a vegetable garden staple, and it does quite well in the spring. You can begin this stalky vegetable indoors in late February and early March, and then transplant it into your garden in April. Once transplanted, this delicious vegetable can tolerate occasional frosts, making them a great candidate for spring vegetable gardens in most climates.

9. Spinach

Spinach is another leafy green that prefers the cool spring temperatures to the heat of the summer. You can plant spinach by seed as soon as the temperatures are reliably 40 degrees or higher, as they need to reach this threshold to germinate. It can tolerate occasional frosts and temperatures as low as 28 degrees. Best of all, you can enjoy these greens before the heat of summer arrives.

10. Turnips

Another resilient root vegetable that you can grow in the early spring is the turnip. You can plant these tasty roots outdoors as early as March, as they are frost tolerant. You can also grow them in late fall, making them a great plant to enjoy during both shoulder seasons. This allows you to make the most out of your vegetable garden real estate.

Final Thoughts On Planting Vegetables In The Early Spring

Most vegetables produce the bulk of their crops in the summer, but this doesn't mean you can’t plant many species in the early spring. The key to successfully planting vegetables in the early spring is to plant the right vegetables at the right time. Some of the best vegetables to plant outdoors in the cool early spring months include peas, spinach, arugula, and several cabbage varieties. You can also start lettuce, broccoli, radishes, and other root vegetables indoors in late February before carefully and slowly transplanting them outdoors in early April.

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Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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