Winter’s starting to wrap up, and we’re looking forward to warmer weather. Whether you’re enjoying an early spring, or weathering the last snows of the season, now’s the time to start planning (and maybe even planting) your spring vegetable garden.
These seven garden favorites are perfect for the cool weather of early spring. Plant them outside as soon as the ground thaws, and you’ll be able to enjoy them for dinner by early summer. The best part: these plants are all so easy to grow, they’re great for garden beginners and seasoned experts alike.
Photo courtesy of Harvest to Table
Almost all lettuces are cool-season crops, and will do best when lightly shaded for part of the day. This preference makes lettuces a great vegetable to grow in the early spring, when days are still relatively short and chilly.
Expert gardener tip: Lettuces are great for beginning gardeners and families because of their “cut-and-come-again” quality: when leaves are mature, just cut the bunch about an inch from the ground, and the whole plant will grow back for a second harvest.
Photo courtesy of AgriMissouri
If you’ve ever pulled a potato out of the fridge to find that it’s grown little white shoots, then you know firsthand how easy it is to grow potatoes. Sprout thumb-sized potatoes by leaving them outside for a week or two, then plant them in well-tilled, compost-rich soil. Potatoes take about three months to mature, so expect to dig up your buried treasures in mid-summer.
Expert gardener tip: For potatoes that continue to yield throughout the summer, try planting your potatoes in a potato box, an easy-to-build crate with removable slats that makes it easy to harvest and hill up your potato plant.
3. Snap Peas
Photo courtesy of Spoon With Me
If you love sweet, crunchy, delicious veggies that are good raw or cooked, then snap peas are for you. Tasty, crispy snap peas should be grown on a trellis, so their leggy vines can rest where it’s sunny and dry. Steal a trick from seasoned gardeners, and plant lettuce beneath your snap pea trellis, so that the trellis can shade the leafy greens and both plants can have the amount of light they love most.
Expert gardener tip: Some snap pea varieties can be tough to grow from seed, so make sure to try a variety that’s recommended for your hardiness zone.
Photo courtesy of Gardening Know-How
Carrots are an especially easy spring garden crop because they can be planted from seed directly outdoors while there’s still frost on the ground. Make sure your carrot plot has great drainage, is well-tilled, and is free of stones and clumps, so carrots can push through the soil and grow long and straight.
Expert gardener tip: Plant your carrots in alternating rows with leeks, another great early-spring plant, to deter pests and help both plants thrive.
Photo courtesy of Seasonal Potluck
If you ever shop at the farmer’s market, you may have noticed that broccoli is always at its best in the early spring and late fall. That’s because broccoli prefers soil that’s between 40 and 65 degrees fahrenheit; even the mild days of early summer are hot enough to make broccoli “bolt,” or go to seed.
Expert gardener tip: Because broccoli loves cold weather so much, you can plant the seeds directly outdoors 2-3 weeks before the last spring frost date. In some regions, that means you can start your broccoli garden right now!
Photo courtesy of Bonnie Plants
Spinach is yet another plant that prefers cool weather, and will go to seed if it’s too warm. For dense, dark, healthy plants, sow the seed directly outside as soon as the soil thaws. Plant spinach next to other tender lettuces so they can share the moist, cool, partially-shaded environment that they both do best in.
Expert gardener tip: Plant broccoli and spinach at the same time in alternating rows. The broccoli leaves will shade the spinach until the spinach is mature; as the broccoli continues to grow, it will fill in the empty spots left by the harvested spinach.
Photo courtesy of Living the Life in Saint-Aignan
Kale is another leafy green that actually prefers to grow in cool weather. Once established, some varieties of kale can even withstand icy temperatures; garden lore even goes so far as to say that the dark green veggie will taste better after a light frost.
Expert gardener tip: Start kale seeds indoors now for seedlings that are ready to plant in early spring.
Top Image Credit: Gardening Know-How
Which veggies will you try to grow this season? What are your favorite garden picks?