Seasoned gardeners look forward to the spring vegetable garden, starting seeds on their windowsills as early as January and counting the days until they can dig in the soil again. If you are new to gardening, starting a spring vegetable garden is rather simple – no windowsill required. In fact, many cool-season crops are seeded directly into the garden. Other spring crops are grown from transplants, which can be purchased at your local garden center.
So what crops can be grown in spring? Some vegetables, called cool-season crops, thrive during the cooler parts of the year. They can be grown in spring and fall in many parts of the country. Planting time varies depending upon where you live and which crops you are growing. Timing also relates to soil temperature and frost dates. Let’s take a closer look.
Common Cool-Season Vegetables
Cole Crops: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, bok choi, Brussels sprouts, mustard, collards, kohlrabi
Alliums: onion, leek, garlic, shallot
Salad Greens: lettuce, spinach, chard
Root Crops: carrot, potato, radish, beet, turnip
Legumes: peas, fava/broad beans
Crops Planted from Seed
The legumes, root crops, and salad greens listed above are typically started in the garden from seed. Potatoes are one exception, being started from sections of the tuber that are commonly called “seed potatoes”. Seeded vegetables are the easiest spring crops to grow!
Seeds are typically sown into the garden 1 to 2 months prior to the last frost date for your area. Soil temperatures must be 40⁰F at the depth of planting for seeds to germinate. A simple soil thermometer can help determine when soils are ready for planting. In many places, gardeners start these crops as soon as soils can be worked after the snow melts.
Crops Started from Transplants
The cole crops – broccoli, cabbage, kale and other related plants – are typically transplanted into the garden as seedlings. While garden centers carry a wide variety of spring transplants, many gardeners choose to grow their own transplants at home. The advantages include cost savings and a much wider selection of cultivars, as well as optimized seeding and transplanting times to local conditions.
Most cole crops are planted out in the garden 1 ½ to 2 months prior to the final frost date. Broccoli and Brussels sprouts are more tender and should be transplanted only one month prior to the last frost. In southern gardens, spring cole crops must race against the approaching summer to produce crops before temperatures rise. Select fast-maturing varieties to get an edge over the heat.
Methods for growing allium crops, plants in the onion family, vary across the country. In the warm south, these crops are often sown in late fall and harvested in early summer the following year. Onions and leeks are started from seed or transplants called sets, while garlic and shallots are grown from individual cloves separated from a bulb. All of these crops take a long time to mature. Spring planted alliums are generally ready to harvest in late summer.
If you are looking for an easy place to start try planting peas, lettuce or spinach, and radishes. Potatoes are stress-free crop and a lot of fun for kids, who wonder in amazement at digging tubers from the soil.
Find the tools you need for Spring at worx.com