Early spring weather is fickle, and gardeners are normally wary of it; the temperatures are still a bit chilly and prone to abrupt change, plus the ground is still too damp for planting. But thankfully, there are some hardy, cool-season spring crops that you can plant already to keep you busy and get an early start in your garden. The joy of seeing fresh herbs and vegetables on your table after a long winter, and long before the summer crops are ready, truly makes the effort pay off tenfold. All these herbs and vegetables are easily planted from seed. Additionally, these hardy plants set your gardening season off to a great start, as you can take advantage of cooler weather and fewer pests and insects – for some perfectly meditative digging.
Spinach is remarkably frost-resistant, and there are many varieties to choose from. If it’s still very cold in your part of the world and there might be more frost, it’s enough to just grow it under a cover and you’ll have nothing to worry about. It sprouts very quickly, so you can have fresh, tangy baby spinach in your kitchen in a matter of weeks. That’s when the delicious fun starts and you can try out this great cheesy spinach orzo pasta or combine it with artichokes for yummy spinach quesadillas.
Just like spinach, lettuce also comes in numerous varieties, all of which love the cool, fresh spring air. Lettuce grown in such conditions is crispier and unbelievably more delicious than anything you can find in the supermarket. It takes some extra frost protection so make sure to grow it under a cover and check on it from time to time. That’s all it takes, and once it starts sprouting, it definitely won’t bolt. The harvest will be long and you’ll have an almost constant supply well into summer, so you might want to check out how to prolong its life in the refrigerator to avoid rotting (there are also some great recipes to give you ideas for using it all up).
Kale and chard
Okay, you might be thinking “That’s enough with the leafy greens already,” but leafy greens simply love the spring weather – and growing them in your garden in numerous varieties will bring you closer to, well, truly appreciating their taste and superpowers. Kale and chard are also very easy to grow from seed, and in about 3-4 weeks you can already use baby leaves for salads, green smoothies, stir-fries or steamed as delicious sides to meals (tip: splash some lemon and olive oil on them to enhance the taste and make sure to massage kale if you want to eat it raw.)
Radishes are the perfect addition to your spring garden, because not only do they grow quickly (some varieties are ready to be harvest in just three weeks), but they are ideal for planting along with the leafy greens. Harvesting radishes helps naturally thin those crops, and if you have kids it will be easy and fun for them to help you plant them and pull them from the ground – just make sure you provide adequate gardening gloves so there are no mishaps in the process, especially as the crops get in the way of each other. They’re delicious raw and a great addition to fresh salads, but you can check out other recipes with radishes for more inspiration.
If you don’t have asparagus in your garden, now is the time to plant it! You’ll need to devote some space to it, but it’s absolutely worth it because this is a perennial vegetable – meaning you’ll be able to harvest it for many years to come. You’ll know true spring has officially blossomed once you see the first tender springs of this amazing vegetable, and all you’ll need for a delicious side to a meal is some butter and seasoning for roasted asparagus.
Cilantro, lemon balm, dill, and borage seeds are hardy and tolerant of the cool spring weather much more than in summer, so they’re ideally planted in early spring. It’s a good idea to plant them into a container sunk into the ground, so you can move them around at your will, and also because these herbs tend to escape and grow wherever they can spread. They look beautiful and freshen up the whole space around them, not to mention the zest they add to meals and salads – you can experiment with herbs and enrich your kitchen incredibly. Cilantro is one of the all-time favorites and is used in many recipes, especially with garlic as the two really complement each other. Try this cilantro and lime fish recipe for a simple, healthy, and incredibly delicious dinner.
For plants that come in numerous varieties, such as the leafy greens and radishes, make sure to do some research on which varieties work best in your part of the world and inquire when shopping for seeds. Also, you can use this Plant Hardiness Zone Map to help you make the best decisions for your early spring garden. Roll up your sleeves, get muddy, enjoy the cool spring air and pretty soon you’ll feel the ultimate bliss and pride of seeing the fruits (or vegetables, ha) of your labor – in the form of healthy food for the whole family.
Lena could be tagged as a passionate gardener, nature and photography enthusiast. When she is not working, she is seeking inspiration and watching DIY videos.
She can be found on Twitter at twitter.com/lena_hamsworth
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