In the UK, we usually associate spring with budding blossom trees and the first bursts of colour from early-blooming flowers. But where does that leave the vegetable patch? Very few crops can handle the frost, so it’s unlikely that you’ve got much going on veg-wise by the time March and April roll around. So, how do you get started on your kitchen garden? Let’s take a look at which garden vegetables to plant in spring and get your growing season off to a great start.
A quick note before we get into it – I’m not going to assume today’s readers have a greenhouse, so will be ignoring the fact that, if you do, you can get a head start on most of these veggies. Hopefully in the future I’ll have time to give you some greenhouse tips for the early part of the year!
What are the best garden vegetables to plant in spring?
If you haven’t planted any spring-harvest crops, your garden vegetable patch is probably looking a little barren. Here are some garden vegetables to plant in spring, which will all tolerate cold weather with a little extra love and care.
- Peas are surprisingly hardy, and can be planted outdoors even in January and February, and all throughout spring.
- Root vegetables, like radishes, turnips, carrots and parsnips can all be grown outdoors from early spring, in the ground or in containers.
- Leeks sown in spring will be ready to continuously harvest from autumn, over winter and right through to the following spring.
- Cabbage comes in varieties that can be grown virtually all year. Take a look at our tips for growing cabbage for more details.
- Actually, most brassicas – like broccoli, kohlrabi, pak choi and cauliflower – will grow happily once the last frost has passed.
- Chard can be grown from spring for an autumn yield, and you can sow a second batch in late summer for a yield the following spring.
- Broad beans are very forgiving in lower temperatures, and you can nurture seedlings indoors from February, to plant out in early spring and possibly achieve your first yield by the end of the season.
- Quick-maturing varieties of lettuce can be planted from mid-spring, ready for “cut and come again” harvesting.
Of course, climates can vary dramatically across the UK. Always check your growing zone and ask staff at your local nurseries for the best crop varieties to grow in your soil. Gardeners in the north of the country should expect to start planting at least 2 weeks after southern estimates, with yields coming in later too.
Other garden vegetables to plant in spring (indoors)
This might seem contradictory to my “no greenhouses” caveat at the top of the article! The thing is, I only have limited outdoor space. At this time of year, my best gardening is happening on my kitchen windowsill, so that my plants are prepped and ready to go by the time outside warms up! So if, like me, you’re happy to grow some seedlings inside, ready to harden them off later in the season, here are a few options.
- Brussels sprouts
- Cucumber (take a look at our cucumber growing tips)
- Chillies (my personal favourites)
- Tomatoes (again, we’ve got a beginner’s growing guide here)
There are lots of other garden vegetables to plant in spring indoors, but these are my favourites for being relatively simple.
Ways to help your spring vegetables
When planning which garden vegetables to plant in spring, it’s wise to factor in ways you can help them off to a healthy start. For example, cultivating a spacious vegetable patch so you’re not growing crops too close together (which can cause leaves to harbour too much moisture).
Spending a bit of extra time working on your soil can help, too. Pick a well-draining spot, and mix in plenty of well-rotted manure and compost to both provide nutrients for strong growth in harsher weather, and loosen the soil.
Wherever possible, harden young seedlings off each time you move them from a heated indoor space, to an unheated (but sheltered) space, and then to outdoors. Exposing them to their new conditions for a few hours each day and gradually increasing the length over the course of a couple of weeks will do wonders in preparing them for permanent outdoor growth.
Plastic covers – like growing tunnels and propagation lids – will shield tender seedlings from the most damaging wind, rain and cold. Fleece and cloche covers are also an excellent way to protect young plants from late frosts.
What are the challenges of growing vegetables in spring?
Starting your growing season early unfortunately doesn’t mean you’ll get a headstart on pests and problems.
Bugs are going to pose a year-round challenge, so make sure you cover early crops with a mesh. If not, caterpillars and beetles will make short work of anything leafy! Look out for whitefly on your cabbages and other brassicas, and treat infestations with a spray as quickly as possible. Don’t forget to take a look at our tips for keeping snails and slugs out of your garden, as wet spring weather can bring them out in droves.
Overall, try to avoid your crops from getting too damp. Club root can affect cabbages (and other brassicas), and mildew can develop in leafy crops and around flowers. Generously spacing your seedlings out will help, and double-checking the moisture of the soil before watering them.
We’ll have heaps more gardening content coming for you in the coming weeks – keep an eye out for our next seasonal growing guides, and don’t forget to check the basics of growing your own vegetables. Which crops are you keen to grow? Let us know, and tell us any tips and tricks you have for keeping them healthy in cold weather!