When to Plant Early Spring Vegetables

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Spring Planting Schedule

It’s only January and planting season is right around the corner.  Today we will discuss a when to plant early spring vegetables.  Winter is not over by a long shot.  It’s been 3 long months since the garden was put to sleep for the winter but I’m ready to wake it up.

Can you tell that I’m not a patient person.  When things get on my mind, it has to be done, or it could drive me crazy. This time of year is especially difficult.

Believe it or not, it’s not too early to be planning the spring garden though.  Last week I talked about 5 Seed Ordering Tips to Save Time and Money.    So today lets talk about now that the seeds have arrived, how soon can we plant them in the soil?

Early Springs Vegetables Carrot Crop

Remembering back in 2015 when I ordered my first seed, they arrived and then I had no idea what to do with them.  At the time, I didn’t know how to read a seed packet and my first garden was not a good experience.

Not only did I waste a lot of great seeds, things that did come up didn’t produce very much at all.

The soil that was in  my raised beds wasn’t grand  and  this had a lot to do with why the first garden was such a failure.  Healthy soil is a necessary part of your seed producing too.

I had just filled the beds with “garden  soil” I purchased from a landscape company and thought it would work great.  Wrong…

Of course, this is when my sweet husband began encouraging me and said I should take some classes, so I did.  I’ve learned a lot since then and I hope this article will give you just a bit of insight and help you be more successful than I was.

We’ll go over 11 spring vegetables and when to plant them.  Many spring vegetables can be placed directly into the soil several weeks before last frost.  Of course, if they can be started inside, we’ll briefly talk about that too.  I do start seedlings but these 11 I prefer to plant directly into the soil.

What are Planting Zones and Last Frost Dates

A garden planting schedule is determined on two key pieces of information.  So, before we begin, lets find out a couple things about the your area that you live in.  The plant hardiness zone and the last frost date for your area.  We need to know this information because it will help prepare us to have a better idea of the temperatures to be expected.   We can also look at a calendar and count “backwards.”

Some plants thrive in cool season plants, like lettuce and peas, and can even survive a light frost whereas other vegetables, like cucumbers and tomatoes, cannot.  The threat of frost needs to be gone before putting out warm weather vegetables.

Having this information can be very helpful in determining how soon you can schedule your spring vegetable garden.  You’ll often see something like “plant 2-3 weeks prior to last frost” or such on the seed packet.  When we know the zone and frost dates, we can be better prepared for planting.

A small side not for ya …I am not a big fan of “thinning.” Not that I will not do it, I just find  it extremely difficult for me to pull up a perfectly healthy seedlings and toss it into the compost pile.  I prefer to space at “thinning” intervals and then if something doesn’t come up, I will put a new seed into that spot.

So keep this in mind when looking at spacing.  I plant at “thinning” width for the vegetable to have adequate space to grow.

Early Spring Vegetables Lettuce Bed

Are you ready, let’s get started!

When to Plant Early Spring Vegetables

BeetsTip #1:  Beet seeds have really hard shell.  Soak them in warm water for about an hour prior to planting into the ground to help speed germination.    Tip #2:  Avoid fertilizers high in nitrogen.  High volumes of nitrogen will cause the leaves to grow extremely large and the root (beet) to be small.

  • Planting Time:  2-4 weeks PRIOR to last frost
  • Depth:  1/2 inch directly into soil
  • Spacing:  4-6 inches
  • Days to Harvest:   55-60 days
  • When to Harvest:  When root is 1.5 – 2.5 inches in size


  • Planting Time:    2-3 weeks PRIOR to last frost
  • Depth:     1/2 inch into the soil
  • Spacing:    12-24 inches apart
  • Days to Harvest:    60-70 days
  • When to Harvest:  Before it’s flower shows “yellow”  

CarrotsTip #1:  Carrots need to be planted in loose sandy soil free of rocks and hard objects that will cause “road blocks” for the root to grow deeply into the soil.  Tip#2: Carrot seed are super tiny and difficult to plant.

As I said, I don’t enjoy “thinning.”  So seed tape is a great idea, but can be costly.  My friend Anna at Celebrating a Simple Life.com has this great article for a DIY seed tape.

  • Planting Time:    2-3 weeks PRIOR to last frost
  • Depth:    Do not cover.  Place seeds on top of soil
  • Spacing:  3 inches apart
  • Days to Harvest:   65-75 days
  • When to Harvest:  Anytime roots are firm and brittle       

Collard Greens:  Tip #1:  Frost can improve flavor

  • Planting Time:    4 – 6 weeks PRIOR to last frost
  • Depth:     1/4 inch deep
  • Spacing:    18 inches apart
  • Days to Harvest:    65-75 days
  • When to Harvest: When leaves are about 1 foot tall but still green and firm.

Kale: Tip #1:  Kale will become bitter  and woody in summer heat.  To give it the best chance – start seedling inside 4-6 weeks before last frost if you prefer.  It can be direct sown as well.

  • Planting Time:   3-5 weeks PRIOR to last frost
  • Depth:   1/4 inch deep
  • Spacing:    8-10 inches apart
  • Days to Harvest:  55-65 days
  • When to Harvest: When leaves are large but before they turn “yellow”

Lettuce: Tip #1:  Leaf letters has more nutrition than head lettuce lettuce.  Tip#2:  Stagger planting every 10 days or so.  This will  be so you don’t have lettuce all at the same time.

  • Planting Time:  2-3 weeks PRIOR to last frost
  • Depth:   1/4 inch into soil
  • Spacing:  4 inches apart
  • Days to Harvest:    40-50 days
  • When to Harvest:   When tender and mild, BEFORE bolting

Onions:  Tip #1:  I prefer to use onion “sets.”  These are tiny onions that have been grown the year before.  They can be planted directly into the soil.  Onions are difficult to start from seed, but not impossible.  Below guide is discussing “sets.”  Tip #2:  When planting sets, place set in soil with “pointed” end up

  • Planting Time:  2-4 weeks BEFORE last frost
  • Depth:  1 inch deep leaving tip exposed
  • Spacing:  4-5 inches apart
  • Days to Harvest:  30-60 days
  • When to Harvest:
    • For Green Onions – when bulb is approximately 3/8 – 1 inch in diameter
    • For Storage – AFTER the top has died down

Peas:  Tip #1: Peas fit into 2 types- Vining and Bush/Dwarf.  Vining will need to be trellised and bush can be grown without a trellis.  I’ll define both:

  • Vining
  • Planting Time:   4-6 weeks PRIOR to last frost
  • Depth:  1-2 inches deep (they need a deep root)
  • Spacing:  in double rows 6-8 inches apart on each side of 5-6 feet tall supports with wire or sting for climbing
  • Days to Harvest:  65-70 days
  • When to Harvest: AFTER pods fill but BEFORE they turn “yellow”
  • Bush/Dwarf
  • Planting Time: 4-6 weeks PRIOR to last frost
  • Depth:  1-2 inches
  • Spacing:  2-3 inches apart, this allows the bush to tangle and support itself
  • Days to Harvest:  65-75 days
  • When to Harvest:  After pods have filled but BEFORE they turn “yellow”

Early Spring Vegetables Grean Pea


  • Planting Time:  4-6 weeks PRIOR to last frost
  • Depth:  1/2 inch in to soil
  • Spacing:  2 inches apart
  • Days to Harvest:  25-30 days
  • When to Harvest:  When firm and brilliant red


  • Planting Time:  4 weeks PRIOR to last frost
  • Depth:  1/2 inch deep
  • Spacing:  3-4 inches
  • Days to Harvest:  40-50 days
  • When to Harvest:  When leaves are crisp and dark green

Turnips:  Tip #1:  You can eat both the green and the root of a turnip plant

  • Planting Time:  2-3 weeks PRIOR to last frost
  • Depth:  1/2 inch deep into soil
  • Spacing:  about 4 inches apart
  • Days to Harvest:
    • Green Top – 30-40 days
    • Root  – 40-65 days
  • When to Harvest:
    • Green Top –  While leaves are green and crisp
    • Root –  After 2 inches in diameter but still tender

All the seeds we’ve talked about today are what are called “cool season” crops.  They don’t like the summer heat.  Many of them will bolt  or their flavor becomes bitter in the heat.  Once these crops finish producing, you can clean up the area, remove the plants and then immediately begin planting your “warm season” crops.

Depending on what area of the country you live in, you could have even a third season, called a “fall season” crop.  Here in Tennessee, we are blessed to have 3 seasons easily.

If you will find the frost dates for your area, last for spring and first for fall, you can determine if you are able to plant a fall season crop.

Spring vegetable garden scheduling can be exciting!   Hope you are excited to get started on your garden this year.

I love hearing from you.  If you have any questions or I can help you in any way, please feel free to ask.  Share in the comments area below and let me now what planting zone you live in as well as when your last frost date it.

What early spring vegetables will you be planting this year?

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How early can plant spring garden

One thought on “When to Plant Early Spring Vegetables

  • February 2, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    Thanks for sharing! Very informative! I always look forward to your next post.


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