Growing Spring Vegetables

Seasonal delight in the garden

Once upon a time, in the not so distant past, people preserved as much food as possible for the winter. That meant canning, drying, and pickling whatever they could harvest from their gardens. By the darkest part of the winter, fresh spring vegetables were a distant memory. Little wonder they looked forward to planting the early spring garden with its little green peas, small new potatoes, leeks, and lettuces.

Now we pick up our peas in the freezer section of the market year around, but nothing matches the delectable sweetness of freshly shelled peas and new potatoes boiled then tossed with just a bit of butter fresh from the garden.

The following provides an introduction for how to grow early spring vegetables and a few herbs.

Vegetable Growing conditions Good Companions Watch for...
  • Start seeds indoors 4–6 weeks before last frost. Plant seedlings outdoors about 12 inches apart in a sunny location.
  • Water heavily through head formation, then moderate.
  • Cabbage is a heavy feeder, so plant in beds where a cover crop has been dug in to provide green manure to fix nitrogen. Wood ash provides potassium.
  • Mulch well to protect the fragile root ball.
  • Harvest when head is large enough to use.

Good: Lettuce, spinach, potatoes

Bad: Strawberries

Cabbage cutworms and moths.

  • Start seeds indoors 10 weeks before last frost.
  • Transplant outdoors when soil temperature is above 55 degrees.
  • Celery likes compost. Use lots.
  • Heavy, even watering.
  • Full sun.
  • Take stalks from outsides of plants whenever.

Good: Plays well with almost everyone.

Bad: Carrot, parsley

planting where lettuce and cabbage have been. Celery doesn't like it.

  • Sow seed outdoors after danger of frost is past.
  • Sow outdoors as soon as soil can be worked.
  • Harvest baby dill leaves as soon as they are a usable size.

Good: Cabbage

Bad: Carrot

Susceptible to white flies.

Greens & Lettuce
  • Sow indoors in trays to get started, then outdoors as soon as soil can be worked for fresh salad greens all season.
  • Light to moderate watering.
  • Full sun to partial shade.
  • Lettuces lend themselves to succession planting, so reseed every week to ten days for continuous crop
  • Harvest by gathering outer leaves, cutting an inch above the soil to regrow, or take the whole plant.

Good: Other greens

Bad: Depends on variety


  • Start indoors, then transplant in early spring.
  • Light water
  • Full sun to partial shade
  • Harvest from the outside leaves in as soon as the plant is a usable size.

Good: Tomatoes, corn, peppers

Bad: None

not planting enough. Parsley is versatile and remains productive throughout the winter in warmer climates and can overwinter inside.

  • Start indoors four weeks before last frost.
  • Transplant to fertile, well drained and composted beds.
  • Full sun
  • Moderate water
  • Harvest late spring and early summer

Good: Celery, onion, tomatoes, parsley

Bad: Peas

  • Prepare a trellis
  • Direct sow as soon as soil can be worked; space about 1 inch apart on either side of the trellis
  • Moderate water until blossoms develop, then light.
  • Full sun
  • Harvest according to type of pea

Good: Celery, parsley, early potatoes

Bad: Onions, late potatoes

letting peas over develop. They get stringy and starchy.

  • Plant early, about a month before the last frost
  • Prepare by cutting seed potatoes into chunks with two eyes. Let dry for a day or two, then treat with sulfur before planting.
  • Heavy feeder
  • Moderate water
  • Full sun
  • Mulch well
  • Harvest small, new potatoes a few months after planting.

Good: Cabbage family, marigolds, peas

Bad: Tomatoes, cucumbers

space. Potatoes take a lot of room. Make sure their roots are kept well covered.

  • Direct sow in early spring
  • Water evenly and moderately
  • Interplant with lettuces
  • Harvest when young; don't let them go too long.

Good: Lettuce, carrots, spinach

Bad: Fennel

overaging. Check out a new variety; there are dozens to choose from.

  • Start indoors two months before last frost, then transplant after danger of frost is past
  • Full sun if possible
  • Medium, even water
  • Harvest when large enough to be used.

Good: Cabbage, carrots, lettuce, spinach

Bad: Peas, beans, asparagus

  • Start indoors a month before the last frost. Transplant as soon as soil can be worked. It's frost tolerant.
  • Direct sow in early spring.
  • Likes well composted soils
  • Light, even water
  • Full sun
  • Moderate feeder
  • Harvest as soon as leaves are a usable size (see lettuce)

Good: Cabbage, celery, lettuce, peas

Bad: Potatoes

bolting. As the season warms, spinach is inclined to bolt. To extend the season, look for a slow bolting variety.


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