When to Plant Early Spring Vegetables

There are many general guidelines as to the best time to start planting early spring crops. One such recommendation is 6 weeks before your last spring frost. In our location in West Hartford, Connecticut, our last spring fronts tends to be around May 15. Therefore we target April 1 to put in our early veggies such as Swiss Chard, radish, lettuce, spinach, beets, snow peas, sugar snap peas, and kale. If you happen to live in an area where you have forsythia bushes, they can give you a very good indication when it is time to plant. I once was told by a landscaper that if you want to treat your yard with a chemical which prevents weeds from germinating, the treatment has to be done before the forsythia bushes bloom. If you see those characteristic yellow flowers on forsythia bushes, (see top picture) you have missed the window. We do not like to treat our grass with chemicals, but I always remembered his insight and have found it accurate in terms of early spring germination of grass, dandelions, lettuce, and other spring vegetables. Since we like to cook our dandelions, we do not try to kill them.

We had a warm spring this year, and the forsythia began blooming before April. We also saw lettuce germinating in the third week of March. These were from seeds that had fallen from last year’s lettuce plants. We had a few cold nights with temperatures which dipped below freezing, but the lettuce was unharmed. Once you have your indication that plants are germinating outside then you have your green light to start planting seeds directly in the ground outside. Swiss Chard, lettuce, and spinach that you may have started inside your home can also be transplanted outside. Be careful to only plant the vegetables that can tolerate cold. Tomatoes and Basil are not tolerant of a hard frost. The picture below was from our spring planting on April 5. Beets were being sown using seed tape. Early spring vegetables such as beets, lettuce, radishes, and spinach can also be sown in succession such as every other week to allow for an extended harvest.