If you love to garden, you probably particularly love spring gardening. The ability to plant diverse types of lettuces and have a crop long before the summer vegetables are ready can help you extend your growing season, save money and ensure you have a steady supply of fresh produce you can control — by making it all organic, for example.
Of course, some plants work particularly well for a spring garden. These plants are so easy to grow they are almost fail-proof. You can start them from seeds in February or purchase starts from your local nursery. Keep in mind heirloom seeds will allow you to save your own seeds and grow the plants over and over again, while store-bought plants don’t always have this capability.
Here are 10 of the best plants to grow in your spring garden.
Spinach is a cool-weather plant that works well in spring and fall. Spinach needs about six weeks of brisk weather to reach maturity, so you’ll want to get the seeds in the ground the minute the soil is thawed enough to plant in. Spinach seedlings are not easy to transplant since they are quite fragile. It’s best to plant seeds as soon as the weather warms ever so slightly — you may even have to cover your plants to protect them from late winter frosts.
There is nothing quite as delicious as a fresh salad made from lettuce you’ve cut out of your spring garden. Lettuce loves the cool weather and will thrive, allowing you to cut plants that grow back several times before the hotter weather hits and they begin to wilt. Lettuce can be transplanted, so you can either start seeds indoors or pick up some varieties at your local nursery.
Radishes develop quickly from seeds to developed root vegetables. Planting them from seeds without having to start them is simple. Plant in the early spring and you should have mature plants within two to three weeks. Raw radishes are delicious in salads, or you can dice and fry them like potatoes. This vegetable has grown somewhat in popularity as people seek alternatives to the starchier potato.
Sugar snap peas grow well in the spring and are ready to harvest by the time the weather warms up in late spring or early summer. These plants will handle some frost, but you’ll want to cover them if there’s ever a heavy frost. Go ahead and plant as soon as you can work the soil in the early spring. Space seeds about two inches apart and add a dowel or some other type of support for the plant as it grows.
Arugula is a versatile green that’s easy to grow in the spring. This plant grows fast and matures within a few weeks. It’s easiest to plant them from seed directly in the ground as soon as you can work the soil. They start growing when it is cool outside. This plant needs a lot of water, though. If it is a dry spring, you’ll want to supplement moisture for your arugula plants.
Fresh broccoli makes a great side dish for your family, or as a component of a larger casserole. It is relatively easy to grow in the spring or fall, germinating in soil temperatures of around 40 degrees. Start seeds indoors — or buy them from your local nursery — and transplant about two weeks before the last frost is predicted. Plants should be spaced about 24 inches apart. Broccoli plants need a lot of water, so keep an eye on weather conditions and dryness of the soil.
Cauliflower doesn’t care too much for heat, so cooler weather is the perfect time to try your hand at growing your own. However, cauliflower is notorious for being a bit difficult to grow — conditions have to be just right. If this is your first time planting cauliflower, get seeds into the ground as soon as the ground thaws and baby the plants as much as possible. If you have an unusually warm period, the plants might not thrive. But when they do, it is worth the effort.
Asparagus is a perennial plant, so you can plant it once and have a new harvest of asparagus each spring. So, choose the location of your asparagus carefully, as it will come up in the same spot year after year. You’ll want plenty of sunshine for the plants to thrive. You can start your asparagus from crown or seed. Be sure to wait two years after planting before harvesting asparagus.
Chard is a leafy green vegetable that comes in a variety of colors. Plant chard seeds two to three weeks before the last frost of spring and continue to plant seeds throughout the spring growing season. This will give you edible sprouts as you thin the plants coming in, as well as a crop you can eat from for most of the spring. Harvest when the plants reach about six inches in height.
Even though a lot of people profess to hate kale, this super veggie has a ton of nutrients and grows easily in the spring. You can harvest baby kale similar to spinach, or you can allow it to grow to maturity. Kale is part of the cabbage family but doesn’t tolerate hard frosts well — be sure to cover if a late spring frost arrives. Seedlings come up in about two weeks. You’ll want to thin them, as you can eat the seedlings. Plants reach maturity in about seven weeks.
The U.S. growing zone you live in will determine whether you can plant directly in the ground or need to start and nurture the plants first. Pay attention to the timing of the last frost in your area. You can, of course, go ahead and plant some of these vegetables — just be prepared to cover them or offer other protection against late winter cold snaps.