There is no better way to get the garden season underway than by planting a few early spring crops!
As daylight extends a little more each day, and soil temperatures gently begin to rise, its time to ease into garden season with a full array of spring crops that can be grown easily from seed or transplants.
There are a whole slew of vegetables that grow beautifully in the cooler temperatures of Spring. Even better, some can go from seed to table in as little as three weeks. Talk about a great way to get fresh vegetables fast!
Before taking a look below at 7 great early season crops to grow, here are a few big keys to early spring planting success.
Quick Tips For Planting Early Spring Crops
As with most vegetables, success all starts with good soil. Seed crops perform best in loose, fertile, and well-draining soil.
Before planting, add in generous amounts of compost to your soil. It not only provides nutrients for the seeds as they grow, it helps to retain moisture and keep the soil loose for easy sprouting.
The name of the game when planting seeds is to over-seed and then thin. Over-seeding ensures you have plenty of seeds that will germinate into adult crops.
Although it’s tempting to let all of the seeds that sprout grow, thinning is extremely important. By reducing the additional starts, it allows the remaining plants enough space to grow to full size.
Don’t think of it as killing plants. Think of it as saving the entire crop!
Finally, remember with seed crops to spread planting times out. This is important to keep everything from maturing at once.
We plant a new set of seeds every few weeks in our garden and raised beds just for this purpose. It allows for a smaller, more manageable harvest that comes on slow and steady. Planting your entire crop at once can quickly lead to vegetable overload, and the inability to process or use it before it goes bad.
With those early planting keys in mind, here are a few spring seed crops to start growing early. We have highlighted seed links when applicable for more info on specific varieties.
7 Great Crops To Plant In Early Spring
#1 Sugar Snap Peas
There may be no better treat than fresh picked sugar snap peas from the garden! It is one of absolute favorites, and one we always plant on St. Patrick’s day here in Ohio.
It always seems like a huge bonus when we have enough to actually stop eating them right off the vine, and some actually make it into the house for a meal.
Sugar nap / snow pea seeds can go in the ground as soon as the soil can be worked. Plant every few inches about 1/2″ to 3/4″ deep. We love the Pea Snap Variety of sugar peas for their quick and heavy production.
For most varieties, you will need to provide support in the form of a trellis or wire fence to keep them off the ground.
#2 Lettuce – 7 Spring Crops To Plant Early
Spring is the perfect time to start growing great tasting lettuce in all shapes, colors and sizes.
Lettuce germinates quickly, and many varieties can be harvested multiple times. It is a great way to keep fresh salads on the dinner table every night.
Lettuce grows best in rich, loose and fertile soil. Sow seeds directly into the soil about 1/4″ deep and an inch or so apart.
We actually prefer the plants close to each other creating a full salad bed that not only produces heavily, but help cramp out weeds. We use the Park Lettuce Seed Mix which has 8 different packets for a lot of variety. Other favorites are Parris island, Winter Density, Red Romaine, GreenStar, Red Salad Bowl and Black Seeded Simpson.
#3 Spinach – 7 Spring Crops To Plant Early
The taste of fresh spinach is hard to beat. Especially young, tender baby spinach which can be harvested in just a few weeks.
Whether using fresh in salads, or cooking lightly to perfection, spinach is a power crop of healthy goodness. Spinach seeds can be sown directly into the soil about 2 weeks before your last frost date.
Plant seeds 1/4″ to 1/2″ deep every few inches. As they mature – you can thin to about 3″ between each plant. Thinning at this point gives you some tasty baby spinach. One of our favorites to grow is Giant Noble for its fast production and great flavor.
#4 Radishes – 7 Spring Crops To Plant Early
Radishes come in almost every shape and size, and are an early producer. In fact, some varieties can be picked in as little as 28 days.
Plant 1/4 inch deep in loose, fertile and well-draining soil for best results. Thin after seeds sprout to allow for the appropriate growth of your variety.
Radishes like consistent moisture, so keep them well watered if spring rains are sparse. Radishes are a great succession plant. Plant every 2 weeks to keep your family in fresh radishes all the way through late fall.
Two varieties we love are Watermelon (more mild) and Lady Slipper ( a bit more spicy). The watermelon variety is absolutely gorgeous for relish plates.
#5 Kale – 7 Spring Crops To Plant Early
Kale is one of the healthiest crops you can grow, and thrives in cooler temperatures. In fact, it actually grows and develops better flavor during the cooler seasons of Spring and Fall. Kale can be sown about 4 weeks before your area’s last frost date.
Last year we grew White Russian with good success. It is a fast grower with baby leaves that are ready for harvesting in as little as 20 to 25 days. The full grown leaves can be ready at just 50 days.
#6 Cabbage – 7 Spring Crops To Plant Early
Cabbage is one spring plant that is better to put in the ground as a transplant than a seed. If not purchasing transplants, start seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before planting.
You can plant cabbage into your garden a week or two before your last frost date. Allow for plenty of space as cabbage can grow big. For most varieties, leave about 24″ between plants.
As the heads begin to form,you can actually put pantyhose over them to keep out the dreaded cabbage worm. Row covers also work extremely well.
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#7 Spring Onions – 7 Spring Crops To Plant Early
Spring onions are a fantastic addition to a Spring garden plan, and are simple to grow in raised beds or containers. They can be grown from small bulbs or seeds.
Spring onions grown from seed are a great multi-purpose garden crop. You can harvest them earlier in the year if you like the tender, small bulbs found on relish plates. Or, leave them in the ground till fall to harvest a mid-sized onion bulb perfect for soups and roasts.
Sow seeds a few weeks before your last frost date 1/4″ apart. Thin seedlings to about 3/4″ inch for harvesting green onions, and about 2″ apart for larger fall harvest bulbs.
Sow seeds 3 to 4 weeks before your last frost date, sowing them one per inch and about 1/2″ deep into the soil.
Here is to getting your garden off and running this year with spring crops! Happy Gardening, Jim and Mary.
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