Home & Garden Garden 10 Easy Garden Vegetables to Plant in Spring By Derek Markham Derek Markham Twitter Writer Derek Markham is a green living expert who started writing for Treehugger in 2012. Learn about our editorial process Updated May 18, 2021 Helena Wahlman / Getty Images Share Twitter Pinterest Email Home & Garden Planting Guides Indoor Gardening Urban Farms Insects A vegetable garden is often taken as 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. Here are 10 vegetables to plant early in a spring garden. Warning 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. 1 of 10 Spinach Tania Ciolko / EyeEm / Getty Images 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. 2 of 10 Swiss Chard Jenny Dettrick / Getty Images Swiss chard, a leafy vegetable with a distinctive, peppery taste, can be planted in early spring and harvested before summer. In zones 6-10 it's biennial; otherwise, it's annual. Though chard takes about 50 days to fully mature, you can begin harvesting young leaves 25 days after planting. With bright green leaves and thick stems of purple, red, or yellow, chard can function as both a crop and a landscaping plant. USDA Growing Zones: 6-10 (biennial); 3-10 (annual). Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade. Soil Needs: Rich, fertile, well-draining soil. 3 of 10 Lettuce PhotoAlto / Laurence Mouton / Getty Images 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. 4 of 10 Radishes Hakan Jansson / Getty Images 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. 5 of 10 Kale Cynthia Sapna / Getty Images 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. 6 of 10 Peas Maksims Grigorjevs / Getty Images Tender homegrown peas are a sure sign of spring and a favorite of many home gardeners. These annual climbing plants 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. For best germination rates, pea seeds should be soaked in water overnight before planting. To get them started earlier, you can grow them indoors first and transplant them once the weather turns milder. Pea plants will stop producing in hot weather and can be replaced by a summer crop. USDA Growing Zones: 3-11. Sun Exposure: Full or partial sun. Soil Needs: Well-drained, rich, loamy soil. 7 of 10 Onions Barbara Rich / Getty Images 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. 8 of 10 Carrots Adam Hester / Getty Images 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. 9 of 10 Broccoli Inti St Clair / Getty Images Broccoli is a cool-season vegetable that is planted in early spring and harvested in early summer. It's usually grown as an annual, though it's technically a biennial and can survive mild winters. 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, watch out for cabbage worms, a garden pest that feasts on cabbage heads. To prevent damage, cover your broccoli plants with floating row covers 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. 10 of 10 Beets 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.