With spring around the corner, a gardener can get a bit anxious to start planting. But not all vegetables are as eager to get into the cool ground and start growing. Luckily, there are cool season crops that tend to thrive in the chill of an early spring, and again, in late summer, early fall.
Many of the most common kinds have edible leaves or roots, like lettuce, carrots and onions. Others produce edible seeds, like peas and certain types of beans. And still other cool weather thrivers are artichokes, broccoli and cauliflower. Most of these can even endure short periods of frost. In fact with a cool-weather vegetable like Kale, frost on the leaves can make them even sweeter.
These cool-weather plants also grow well in containers, which can make it easier for gardeners, especially if the early-spring ground is still a bit difficult to tend. In fact, plants like lettuce and carrots and peas are excellent vegetables for first-time growers or gardeners with limited space.
More specifically, horticulturists tend to break down cool weather vegetables into types, or categories. One such description is "hardy" or "semi-hardy" vegetables. Hardy vegetables can tolerate harder frosts and temperatures in the low 20's. Semi-hardy vegetables will tolerate light frosts and temperatures in the high 20's and low 30's. Here's a partial list of plants within each:
Hardy Vegetables: Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Collards, English Peas, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Mustard Greens, Parsley, Radishes, Spinach, Turnips. Semi-hardy Vegetables: Beets, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chinese Cabbage, Endive, Irish Potatoes, Lettuces, Radicchio, Rutabaga, Salsify, Swiss Chard.
Yes, it can get cold in early spring--a little frost, a few snowflakes. But that doesn't have to lessen an early harvest. In fact, the cooler temperatures in the spring have fewer pests around to bother gardeners or damage plants.
Whether a novice grower or an experienced gardener, cool crop growing is an enjoyable and bountiful way to extend the season. And that means more meals on your table with fresh, delicious vegetables from your garden.