Want to start a garden but aren’t sure what you can – or should – be planting yet? Here’s exactly what you need to know what to plant in early spring.
Now, of course, not everyone lives in the same plant hardiness zones, so you can easily reference simple lists like What to Plant in March or What to plant in April to help you out.
But this article is much more of a deep dive.
Not all plants are created equally. Plants that we consider staple crops like wheat, corn, and potatoes take months to grow from seed. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t eat freshly grown food in just a few weeks at the start of Spring. This is a list of plants to sow in early spring for fresh food fast.
Why Are Fast Growing Spring Foods Important?
Since the dawn of humanity, we have been facing Winter, a time of little plant life, a time of struggling. Thanks to agriculture and the progression of technology and a globalized world most of us don’t have to worry about Winter scarcity anymore. But, if you have a goal of feeding your family 100% off your land, then you will know all too well that come the start of Spring your supplies are low and there isn’t much to eat. Having food that you can plant and can harvest quickly can mean the difference between life or death.
Thankfully though, most of us aren’t in that situation anymore. We can simply go to the grocery store if we need food. So then, why should we care about fast-growing food? One big reason is that it’s exciting! That first fresh food from your own garden is such a mood booster! And if you’re new to gardening it’s proof that you can garden. They’re also great for getting kids involved since you see results faster – it’s also super fun to pair with our adorable spring garden printable for kids.
And don’t forget, it your aim is to spend less on groceries, you can really stretch your grocery budget with a garden, and fast-growing plants are absolutely vital to getting started.
Why Is There Such a Large Period of Time For Some Plants?
You will notice that there is a large span of time given for some plants. Beets in 40 to 70 days, Kale in 30 to 65 days. Why is that? Well, there are a few reasons. The first one is that growing plants isn’t an exact science. You can’t plant a seed and know 100% for sure that it will be ready to eat in 30 days. Every single day has a number of factors that can change the growth speed for a plant. More on that below.
Another reason is that how long a plant takes to grow will depend on the variety. If you aren’t familiar with gardening, you might not know that pretty much every plant has a few varieties that you can grow. So, for this example, I will use the most famous plant with a lot of well-known varieties, tomatoes. Just keep in mind that tomatoes are NOT fast-growing. Little cherry tomatoes that you can eat straight off the vine will grow faster than slicers, the type of tomatoes that go on sandwiches and burgers. The same thing is true for different varieties of beets, bush beans…you name it. If you specifically want to find a fast-growing variety of the food you’re growing check the seed packet. They will usually say if it is a fast-growing variety.
That’s not to say slow growing varieties aren’t great, by the way. I’m a big fan of growing both! For instance, I like to grow my own popcorn, even though it takes up room, and is so much slower than sweet corn. The trick is to make sure you grow the fast varieties as well to both have produce over a longer period of time, and get the garden started faster like we talked about above.
Factors That Can Slow Down Plant Growth
I mentioned before that there are a number of factors every day that can slow down your plant’s growth, well now it is time to look at those.
Not Enough Light
If your plants aren’t getting enough light to meet their needs they will start stretching out, trying to get closer to the light and they won’t grow as fast or as healthy. Plants need fuel to grow and one of their best sources of fuel comes from light. So definitely pay attention to the light (full sun, partial shade, etc) of your plants!
Not Enough Water
If your plants are thirsty they can’t grow as quickly as they would with the appropriate amount of water. But, you also don’t want to overwater, which is a more common problem than underwatering. Overwatering invites mold to take hold and it damages roots.
Not Enough Nutrients
Most store-bought seed starting mix comes with enough nutrients in the soil to give the plants about 4 weeks of food. At that point, you will need to start adding some kind of additive if you’re not transplanting into the ground (and maybe even if you are, such as compost. Organic liquid seaweed extract is also an excellent feed for plants.
It’s Too Cold
If your plant is spending all of its energy fighting the cold it won’t have anything left to grow with. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to start seeds indoors or wait until it is past your last frost date before you start sowing seeds.
These are all plants that you can grow indoors if you still have snow on the ground or you just don’t have any garden space to work with. You will need a bright sunny window and having a grow light wouldn’t hurt either.
What to Plant in Early Spring
And now, we finally get to the list of plants to sow in early spring for fresh food fast. I’ve included a few notes here and there as well.
- Arugula, aka Rocket – Grows in 20 to 40 Days
- Baby Carrots – Grows in 45 to 70 Days – Eat the carrots young at 45 days, or, if you have the time you can let them grow to their full size in 70 days.
- Beets – Grows in 40 to 70 Days – The tops and roots are edible
- Broccoli Sprouts – These are grown exclusively in jars on your kitchen counter in just a few days!
- Broccoli Raab – Grows in 40 to 60 Days – The leaves and tops are edible
- Bush Beans – Grows in 50 to 60 Days
- Corn Salad – Grows in 45 to 50 Days
- Endive – Grows in 35 to 50 Days
- Green Onions – Grows in 40 to 50 Days
- Kale – Grows in 30 to 65 Days – Can be eaten as a baby or wait to grow fully.
- Kohlrabi – Grows in 40 to 50 Days
- Leaf Lettuce – Grows in 40 to 60 Days
- Microgreens – Grows in 14 to 25 Days – Microgreens are a fantastic option if you have no concern about seed shortages. These are harvested in just a couple of weeks and they are packed full of nutrients. But, you will only get one microgreen from each seed and you will have no way to save seeds from that plant as it will never mature that far. So if seed shortages are a concern, do not grow microgreens.
- Mustard Greens – Grows in 20 to 45 Days
- Pak Choi – Grows in 40 to 55 Days
- Pickling Cucumbers – Grows in 50 to 70 Days
- Radishes – Grows in 20 to 30 Days – Fastest growing food in the spring garden. The tops are edible if pests haven’t infested them.
- Rutabaga – Grows in 35 to 50 Days
- Spinach – Grows in 30 to 55 Days
- Sugar Snap Peas – Grows in 50 to 60 Days – Pea shoots are edible, but don’t pick off too many, or else you won’t get any peas.
- Swiss Chard – Grows in 30 to 60 Days
- Tatsoi – Grows in 20 to 45 Days
- Turnips – Grows in 35 to 50 Days – Leaves and roots are edible.
That about wraps it up for what to plant in early spring! Pick a few to try out and make your own list of favorite things to grow fast.
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