The Spring Vegetable Garden Guide: When & What To Plant

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For many gardeners, spring is the time when most vegetable gardens are planted. The trick to a successful and bountiful spring garden is to plant at the proper time. Onion, peas and spinach can be planted in late winter to early spring. Lettuce, beets, carrots, kale and potatoes can be planted shortly before the last frost date. Other vegetables grow best when planted into the ground after the last frost date. Vegetable seeds, such as melons and peppers, should not be put in the garden until after the last frost date.

Determining the Best Time to Plant

Many garden vegetables can be planted from seed or as transplants in early spring after the last frost date and some seeds can be planted in the ground a month or two before the last frost date. Many seed packets and plant tags will indicate the best time to plant a certain vegetable crop. When putting tender vegetable plants in the ground in the early spring, it is a good idea to have some type of cover on hand in case of a late freeze or frost. One advantage of planting vegetables as early as possible in the spring is an early harvest before the intense summer heat. Also, by planting earlier in the spring, many insect pest and plant disease problems can be avoided.

Preparing the Vegetable Garden for Spring Planting

Before seeds can be sown in the ground and transplants can be brought outdoors, the garden may require a bit of cleaning up. Vegetable beds should be clean of any debris left from winter storms. Rake up leaves, pick up broken limbs and repair garden edging. Here are a few more tips to get garden beds ready for a spring harvest:

  • Add two inches of compost to vegetable beds and work into the top four to six inches of soil.
  • Put fences or other barriers around vegetable beds that are susceptible to pet, rabbit or deer damage.
best vegetables to plant in spring best vegetables to plant in spring

The Best Vegetables To Grow In Spring

When selecting which fruits and vegetables to grow in your garden, start with your family’s favorite foods. Also look for vegetables that are hardy for an area and that are resistant to local diseases and pests. Here are a few commonly grown vegetables that are easy to grow.

Asparagus is a long-lived garden vegetable that will continue to produce for as long as 20 years. For best results, purchase asparagus crowns that are one to two years old. Asparagus requires well-drained soil and should be planted after the soil temperature reaches 50 degrees. Plants will not be ready for harvest until a year after planting.

Beets prefer cool weather and can be planted from seed one month before the last frost date. Plant extra seeds to be able to harvest the beet greens during the growing season. Beet greens can be eaten cooked or raw in a salad. For best flavor, harvest the beet root when it is two inches across.

Carrot seeds require a long germination period and prefer to be planted in sandy soil. Carrots grown in heavy soil will have split roots and curved shapes. Plant carrot seeds one month before the last frost date. Radishes can be planted along side carrots to help keep the soil loose.

Eggplant grows best when planted outdoors after the soil has warmed up. If eggplant becomes cold during the growing season, the plant will be stunted and will not produce an abundant harvest. Eggplants are attractive short bushes that are relatively disease resistant.

Lettuce is another vegetable that enjoys cool weather and can be grown in partial shade in hot climates. Leaf type lettuce is easier to grow than head type lettuce. Plant seeds up to six weeks before the last frost date. When leaf lettuce attains a mature size, harvest the outside leaves and allow the plant to continue growing new leaves.

Onions can be started from seed or from onion sets. Onions started from seed are slow to sprout and mature. Some onion varieties are specific to certain latitudes and will not grow outside those areas. Onions are ready for harvest when the green tops fall over and should be dried for one week before the tops can be removed.

Pea seeds can be planted in the ground up to two months before the last frost date. Climbing varieties of peas require a trellis, produce peas later than bush-type peas and produce peas for a longer period of time than bush peas.

Peppers are an easy to grow vegetable and the number of varieties is astounding. Peppers can be sweet or hot, spicy or mild. To get the best results, select pepper transplants.

Spinach seeds can be planted in the ground a month before the last frost date. Before planting seeds, amend the soil with plenty of compost.

Squash and melons normally have a long growing season and may need to be started indoors in colder areas. Squash and melon transplants should not be more than three weeks old before planting outdoors. Older plants do not transplant well. Also, be careful when transplanting because these plants do not like their roots disturbed.

Tomatoes are one of the stapes of the garden and there are many types of tomatoes to fit every taste. Tomatoes will grow in the garden, along a trellis, in a container or upside down. Quick results can be attained with transplants. To learn more about growing tomatoes, see How To Grow Tomato Plants From Seeds.

There is no tried and true method when it comes to planting a vegetable garden. What works for one gardener may not work for another and what grows well one year may not perform well the next year. For best results, keep track of your garden results and planting dates. This record will serve as a reference for future plantings and help increase your personal garden’s success.

Last Updated: February 23, 2012
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About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

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