Get your garden started early this spring by planting quick and hardy plants! You don’t have to wait until the weather is warm and sunny to start your garden. There are many cool-season vegetables that you can get started even before the last frost date. If you’re excited to get your garden going early, then you might want to try some of these quick-growing, hardy spring vegetable plants.
These plants are quick, hardy additions to your spring garden:
- Swiss Chard
- Collard Greens
A garden won’t grow overnight, but these plants are some of the quickest and hardiest plants to grow in early spring. Keep reading to discover just how early you can plant each of these vegetables, how fast they grow, and how you can make them taste their best.
Radishes are perfect for early spring gardens. We know they taste great in salads or roasted like potatoes, but did you know they are easy to grow, as well? You can plant radishes in your garden as early as four to six weeks before your last frost date as long as the soil can be worked. One seed grows one radish, and while it may be tempting to plant the entire packet at once, you are better off planting a few at a time every ten days or so. Succession planting will give you a steady stream of radishes to eat. Although radishes do great in cool weather, they don’t love the heat, so your radish harvest may drop off in the warmer months.
Radishes can grow in part shade to full sun. These hardy little gems will be more flavorful if they are grown in full sun, though. They won’t grow well in hard soil, so you may need to till or double dig your beds if they are full of hard clay soil. Radishes mature quickly, and most varieties will be ready to eat in 25 to 35 days. Don’t leave them in the ground too long, though, or they will develop a woody taste and texture. When the weather gets hot, they will go to seed quickly, but you can use those seeds to replant in the fall if you desire.
Peas are easy to grow and can be planted just as soon as your soil can be worked, just about four to six weeks before your last frost date. In fact, in many places in the United States, it is a tradition to plant peas on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th. A little snowfall won’t hurt these hardy veggies at all.
Peas are easy to grow and can be planted just as soon as your soil can be worked, just about four to six weeks before your last frost date…A little snowfall won’t hurt these hardy veggies at all.
Most pea varieties fall into three categories. Snow peas produce flat, stringless pods with petite peas, but the entire pod can be eaten. Sweet peas, or English peas, as they are sometimes called, have inedible pods. The peas are removed from the pods and eaten. Snap peas have thick pods which are edible and produce large peas. Bush varieties will grow about 18 inches to 30 inches high, while pole varieties will grow four to six feet tall. Offering some kind of support for your peas, such as trellis or poles to climb on, will help them be more productive and easier to harvest.
Peas can be grown in part shade, but they are more productive and tastier when grown in full sun. Peas planted in cold soil below 40 degrees Fahrenheit will germinate more slowly than peas planted in warmer soil. You can speed germination by soaking seeds overnight or planting them in a cold frame. Plant them about an inch deep and two inches apart. Harvest often for the best tasting peas and to keep your plants productive. Peas don’t grow well in the summer heat, but you can plant a fall crop about six weeks before the first frost date in the fall for an additional harvest.
As a bonus, peas will correct the nitrogen level of your soil. Once your pea harvest is over, consider planting a warm-weather crop in the same spot.
Spinach is another cool weather crop that will get your garden growing in a hurry. It takes about six weeks to harvest spinach in cool weather from seed to maturity, but baby spinach can be harvested in 20 to 25 days. Spinach can regrow several times if the base of the plant is not damaged by harvesting.
You can plant spinach as soon as the soil can be worked. Seedlings should survive a light frost just fine, and mature plants can handle temperatures down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Spinach seeds germinate best at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but they can germinate in temperatures down to 35 degrees! Except for particular varieties, Spinach is unlikely to germinate if the weather is over 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Plant your spinach in part shade to full sun. You will probably want to plant 30 plants per person in your family. However, you don’t have to grow them all at once! You can succession plant your spinach every two weeks for a consistent harvest until summer. If the plant bolts early, cut off the entire stalk near the base and allow the leaves to regrow. Spinach can turn bitter once it bolts, so be sure to harvest often.
Lettuce loves cool weather and lots of sunshine, but it doesn’t need a lot of space. Varieties of lettuce such as romaine, leaf lettuce, and buttercrisp can be planted directly in your garden just as soon as the soil can be worked. They’ll germinate best in temperatures between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lettuce seeds are extra tiny. It’s easy for them to get lost or washed out, but it’s also easy to plant too many small seeds close together. Leaf lettuce can be planted ten seeds per foot, while romaine needs about six inches in between seeds. If you grow too many, you can always thin them later and add the seedlings to your salads.
Although lettuce can stand a little cold weather, you may want to protect it from frost. Look for cut and come again varieties if you will keep harvesting from the same plants, or succession plant your lettuces every ten days or so. .
This member of the beet family is known for its brightly colored stems and rich green leaves. A great reason to grow chard is that while it grows well in cool temperatures of spring and fall, it will also tolerate summer heat. It has a mild flavor and can be grown as an ornamental as well as a vegetable!
Plant your chard directly in the garden two to three weeks before the last frost date. You can speed up germination by soaking the seeds overnight before planting them. You can succession plant your chard about every ten days, or you can treat it as a cut and come again veggie by harvesting leaves often.
Often known as a superfood, kale is an excellent addition to your garden and your diet. Kale is one of the easiest and hardiest cool weather crops to grow, and it reaches maturity in only two months.
Plant kale anywhere from three to five weeks before your last frost date in containers raised beds or your garden. Kale grows best in full sun, but plants grown in part shade will still be edible and nutritious, just not as robust. You can also raise a secondary kale crop in the fall. Don’t worry if your fall kale gets hit with frost; frost will not damage the plant and will make it taste even sweeter. Kale is so hardy that mature plants can overwinter even under snow, although growth will slow down and even stop.
If you harvest the outer leaves first, your kale will continue to grow.
Chives can be planted in the garden from seed six to eight weeks before your last frost date. However, it can take a couple of weeks for your chives to germinate. You can begin to harvest chives in as little as 60 days. For best results, don’t plant chives near your peas.
Chives can be harvested several times the first year, but you can harvest them up to once a month in the years following. Cut chives all the way down to the base to harvest, or just snip off what you will use.
When the weather gets warm, chives will begin to flower and go to seed. The flowers are edible and make a pretty garnish for salads and dishes. Remember that once chives go to seed, they will spread quickly throughout your garden, so you may want to keep flowers trimmed to prevent chives from spreading everywhere. Chives do best when divided every year.
Chive flowers are edible and make a pretty garnish for salads and dishes.
Beets get a bad rap as a bad-tasting healthy food, but they are a tasty addition to the garden when grown right. There are many different colors and varieties of beets. They can typically be direct sown in the garden two to three weeks before the last frost date or started inside six to eight weeks before the last frost date. They’ll germinate best if protected with row covers.
Beet seeds are small clusters of seeds. You can speed up germination by soaking the seed clusters for 12 hours before planting. Plant the seed clusters about one inch deep and one inch apart. As the plants grow, you can thin them, so the beets have plenty of room to grow. You can cut them with scissors, but these seedlings are pretty hardy, so you can even separate them carefully and replant them.
When you harvest your beets, don’t toss out the leaves. You can cook the leaves and stems and eat them like a tasty green.
Carrots are a garden staple, and for a good reason. They are easy to grow in early spring. You can start your carrot seeds outdoors in the garden three to five weeks before your last frost date as long as the soil is workable. Because carrots are root veggies, they prefer loose workable soil. Tiny carrot seeds can get lost easily, so you may want to consider using pre-seeded planting tape to get them in the ground more quickly.
It can take two or three weeks for carrots to germinate, so be patient if you don’t see anything happening right away. Smaller carrots will have better taste; carrots that have seen a frost will be sweeter. If you forget to harvest your carrots, they’ll bolt in the second year and produce seeds.
Collard greens are relatives of broccoli and cauliflower but similar to cabbage. These quick-growing greens can be planted three to four weeks before your last frost date. Although collard greens can take 60 to 85 days from seed to maturity, you can harvest small young leaves at any time.
You can harvest collard green leaves up to ten inches long. However, older leaves can be tough and stringy. Collards can survive freezing temperatures, but the plants may become brittle, so harvest carefully during this time.
Arugula has a bold flavor. It grows easily in most soil types and conditions, but it does prefer full sun. You can direct sow arugula seeds just as soon as your soil can be worked, and they can be harvested in as little as six to eight weeks.
Seeds take about a week to germinate in soil temperatures over 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but you can speed this up a little by soaking the seeds for a few hours before planting them. Arugula seedlings can survive light frosts, although it doesn’t hurt to provide them a little cover in extreme temperatures.
The leaves taste best when young, and flowers are edible, as well.
What fruit can you plant in early spring?
Bareroot strawberry crowns can be planted when nighttime temperatures stay about 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Blueberry bushes can be planted just as soon as the danger of frost is passed.
What flowers can you plant in early spring?
Pansies and violas can be planted before your last frost date. Once mature, they will bloom until the heat of summer arrives. Other flowers, such as crocus, daffodils, and tulips, can be planted in the fall but will begin growing early in the spring.
What is bolting?
When the days lengthen, and the sun gets hot, many cool weather vegetables will bolt. The plants will typically produce a tall stalk which will develop seeds. Unfortunately, vegetables such as spinach and lettuce will turn bitter when they bolt. While technically still edible, they aren’t very tasty at this stage. However, you can save the seeds to plant for a fall harvest.