10 Easy Garden Vegetables to Plant in Spring

A woman in a white shirt holds a trowel and root vegetables

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A vegetable garden is often taken a sure sign of summer, but gardens can be every bit as productive during springtime. For every garden vegetable that loves the summer heat, there's another that grows better in the cooler and wetter weather of spring. In fact, a number of home garden favorites, like peas, carrots, and broccoli, are early growers that are best planted not long after the threat of frost disappears. Depending on your local weather patterns and climate, cool season vegetables can be planted either directly in the soil with no cover, directly in the soil underneath a row cover or low tunnel, or in pots and trays in a sunny window or porch. If you're looking for a way to improve your gardening game, consider planting cool-season crops so you can already be harvesting vegetables by the time summer rolls around. 

Here are 10 vegetables to plant early in a spring garden. 

Some of the plants on this list are toxic to pets. For more information about the safety of specific plants, consult the ASPCA's searchable database.

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Small spinach plants growing in brown dirt in a garden planter
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Spinach is an annual leafy green vegetable that grows best in cool weather. It is quick to sprout and can be picked as early as three weeks after planting. It's also fairly frost-tolerant, especially when grown under cover, and can be planted from seed as soon as the soil in your garden is workable. Many gardeners prefer baby spinach leaves, and will plant a small crop, harvest the young leaves, and then reseed a second crop after several weeks. Spinach tends to bolt in warmer weather, but you can extend your growing season into May and June by planting spinach in the shade of taller crops, if desired. 

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2-11
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Moist, rich, fertile, well-draining soil.
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Swiss Chard

Red-ribbed chard with crinkled leaves growing in garden
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Swiss chard is a leafy annual vegetable (biennial in zones 6-10) that is often overshadowed by its more popular cousins like kale and spinach. It's tolerant of both frost and heat and can be planted from seed in early spring and harvested throughout spring and early summer. Chard can be harvested as baby greens in about 25 days, with the leaves taking about twice as long to mature fully. With bright green leaves and thick stems of purple, red, or yellow, it can function as both a crop and a landscaping plant. It has a distinctive, peppery taste and can be eaten raw or cooked.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 6-10 (biennial); 3-10 (annual)
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Rich, fertile, well-draining soil.
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Rows of lettuce growing in vegetable garden

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Lettuce is an annual leafy vegetable that prefers cool-season weather but is not as hardy as spinach or chard. It's best planted in early spring as a seedling, rather than from seed. Do this either by growing seedlings indoors, or buying seedlings from a local nursery or garden center. While lettuce matures into full-sized heads that are common in supermarkets, many gardeners find it more practical to grow a mesclun mix designed to be planted closer together and harvested earlier. This is often called the cut and come again method. Baby greens can be harvested after just a few weeks, and by planting successions of seeds every week or two, you can have a constant supply of greens for the kitchen.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2-11
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Rich, fertile, moist, well-draining soil.
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Close-up view of radishes half buried in soil
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Radishes are annual root vegetables known for their tangy flavor. This cool-season vegetable is one of the easiest and fastest-growing additions to a spring garden. They can be grown from seed and planted in early spring, shortly after the danger of frost is gone. Many varieties are ready to be harvested in as little as three weeks. Radishes are great for interplanting with lettuce or other spring greens and can help to naturally thin those crops as the radishes get harvested.

Though round, red radishes are most familiar, they come in a lot of different colors, shapes, and sizes, and can be spicy or sweet, depending on the variety. Radish leaves are also edible, and can be used in a variety of recipes. 

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2-11
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Slightly acidic, rich, well-draining soil.
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A group of kale plants seen from above
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Kale is an annual leafy green vegetable that grows quickly in cool weather. A cousin to cabbage and broccoli, it can be planted directly in garden soil as a seed, or grown indoors and transplanted. It can handle frost, which can actually improve the flavor of its leaves, but doesn't do well in summer heat, which causes it to bolt and grow bitter. Baby kale leaves can be harvested in as little as three weeks, with leaves reaching maturity after 40 to 60 days. Like other leafy greens, you can cut the amount you need and leave the plant to regrow until your next harvest.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2-9
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Rich, loamy, well-draining soil.
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Green peas in pods growing in summer garden
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Peas are annual climbing plants with edible seed pods. Tender homegrown peas are a sure sign of spring and a favorite of many home gardeners. They prefer cold weather, and can be planted from seed after the last frost. Peas take between 50 to 65 days to mature, and can grow either as vines or as bushes, so they lend themselves equally well to both trellising and growing in regular garden beds. For best germination rates, pea seeds should be soaked in water overnight before planting them.

To get them started earlier, you can grow them indoors first, and transplant them once the weather turns milder. Once the heat of summer hits, pea plants will stop producing. If garden space is limited, you can pull them up and replace peas in the summer with another crop, such as bell peppers, that likes the heat. 

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3-11
  • Sun Exposure: Full or partial sun.
  • Soil Needs: Well-drained, rich, loamy soil.
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Red onions in a garden bed, mostly covered with soil
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Onions are biennial bulb vegetables that are usually grown as annuals. While they can be grown from seed or transplanted, onions are most often planted as sets, or small bulbs that have already grown for a season that will reach full size after another season in the ground. In warmer climates, onion sets are usually planted in fall, because they can survive mild winters. In colder climates, sets are best planted in spring. They are ready to harvest when about half the green top leaves have wilted and the bulbs have a papery outer layer. It's best to dig onions from the ground, rather than attempting to pull them up.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5-10, or in all zones as an annual.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Rich, fertile, well-draining soil. Prefers slightly acidic soil.
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Fresh orange and purple carrots lying in a pile on the ground
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Carrots are biennial root vegetables that are usually grown as annuals. They thrive in cool spring temperatures and are best planted from seed shortly after the last frost has passed. They aren't finicky, but do prefer loose soil and lots of water. Most varieties will be mature and ready to dig up between 60 and 80 days after planting. After carrots are established, adding mulch can help to conserve moisture. In general, it's time to harvest when the roots begin to rise and the tops of the carrots are visible.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3-10
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Rich, loose, well-drained; heavy soils should be mixed with compost.
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An overhead shot of a broccoli plant with large green leaves
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Broccoli is a cool-weather plant that can be grown as a biennial in mild climates where it can survive over winter. In most climates, it's best planted in early spring for an early summer harvest. To avoid frost, broccoli can also be grown indoors and transferred to the garden when temperatures rise. It can also be planted in late summer for a fall harvest. Most homegrown broccoli is ready to harvest when it's fist-sized. Wait too long, and the buds will open and the vegetable will be tougher.

When growing broccoli, be sure to watch out for cabbage worms, larvae of white butterflies that love feasting on cabbage heads. To prevent damage, cover your broccoli plants with floating row cover or lightweight bed sheets. If you start seeing cabbage worms, simply pick them off by hand.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2-11 
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Well-drained, moist, and slightly acidic; avoid sandy soil.
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brilliant purple beets still attached to stalk and leaves

Treehugger / Preeya Manoorasada-Marsden 

Beets are annual root vegetables that grow best in spring and fall. They are not quite as cold-tolerant as other spring veggies, and should be planted mid-spring, well after the last frost. Their growing season lasts about 60 days, leading to an early summer harvest. Beets are most flavorful when they are harvested small — between one and two inches across. Larger beets tend to be woody and less sweet. The greens are also edible and can be used in many recipes.  

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2-11
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Well-drained, sandy soils rich in organic matter.

To check if a plant is considered invasive in your area, go to the National Invasive Species Information Center or speak with your regional extension office or local gardening center.