Spring garden season is almost here, and what better way to usher in the garden season than with some cool weather loving crops. For those of you who live in areas where gardening year round isn’t an option, then early spring is a great time to get your hands dirty with vegetables that don’t mind cooler nights. For my year-round deep south gardeners, I’m looking at you Florida and Texas, you can already have your tomatoes in the ground in some areas. So here are some suggestions for what to grow in an early spring garden!
I have to work with what I’ve got, and where I live the nights can be cool, and the danger of frost isn’t over yet. In fact, last year our last frost was on March 25th, and it got down to 27 degrees. My poor fig tree couldn’t handle it, even with being covered. So early spring gardens should be full of veggies that can stand up to the cooler temps that those March evenings can bring.
Early Spring Garden Veggies
There is a surprising number of things you can grow in an early spring garden. And many of these veggies can go right on producing into the summer, especially if you give them a little shade during those much warmer days. So consider planting taller plants in late spring beside your early spring vegetables to keep them cool and less likely to burn up in the hot summer sun.
Spring Garden Favorites
- Lettuce: All types! You really can’t go wrong here. Lettuces enjoy cooler weather, and a lovely salad garden is perfect for harvesting weekly and enjoying fresh salad greens. Some favorite varieties include: romaine, arugula (I consider this a lettuce), mixed lettuces, buttercruch, mesclun. Have difficulty growing lettuce? Gardenary, a fantastic garden resource, actually offers an online course called Salad School where she teaches you how to grow salad well, so you can have fresh salad greens year round! The course goes into everything from seeds to soil to harvest and storage.
- Beets: I have a love/hate relationship with beets. I love to eat them, but I usually plant them too late and they grow poorly for me. I’ve been reading up on beet care this winter, and I will succeed this year! They also enjoy the cooler weather, and I can truly attest to the fact that they do not do well in the middle of summer. Lesson learned. And since you can eat both the root and the greens, they work with a variety of meals! (Double chocolate beet muffins, anyone?)
- Greens: While greens like collards, turnips, mustards, spinach, and kale are known for their winter longevity, early spring crops can still be grown. The young tender leaves that come first are delicious, and many greens are chock full of iron. And I do have a fantastic recipe for Balsamic Bacon Collards, because who doesn’t love a little bacon with your healthy greens?
- Onions: Early spring is a great time to plant onions, especially if you like to harvest them early to use in recipes. I’m going with seed this year instead of sets, as I did last year, and I had much more success. Growing your own onions is easy, and you’ll be amazed at how much better they taste than what you’re buying at the grocery store.
- Brassicas- No, we’re not growing metals here, but the brassicas family, including broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, do particularly well in the early spring weather. They enjoy the cooler temperatures with less intense sunlight, which also makes them a fall favorite. We’ve been eating a lot more cauliflower lately (though I haven’t done the pizza crust yet, have you?), so I’m going to try growing them this spring.
- Potatoes- Early spring is the perfect time to start those seed potatoes. All varieties of yellow, white, or red potatoes should be started in early spring, but hold back on those sweet potatoes until late summer. They should be harvested come the fall.
- Peas and Beans- An absolute favorite for my kids are all varieties of peas and beans. While not all types should be started in early spring, many can, so be sure to check the seed package for specific growing information. Sugar snap peas, Scarlet Runner Beans, and Blue Lake are a few we like to grow here. And if you build bean teepees for them, then you can still grow your lettuces beneath and save valuable garden space!
Harvesting an Early Spring Garden
Once your vegetables are ready to be harvested, be sure to get them up and out. By the time many of your early spring vegetables are ready, you can go ahead and replace them with summer favorites. Think tomatoes, peppers, okra, and all of those delicious summer favorites!
Our early spring garden is actually going in today, so I’d love to know what you enjoy planting in the early spring! I’ll give you some updates on my success with the beets this spring. I may have to nurture them like a newborn, but they will grow! Have a great week and happy gardening!