11 Vegetables That Are Perfect For Direct Sowing in Spring

Are you intent on direct sowing seeds into your vegetable garden or raised garden beds this season? There are a number of different crops that prefer to be sown directly into the ground, especially in the spring. In this article, gardening expert and former organic farmer Logan Hailey shares her favorite crops to add to direct sow into your garden this season.

Garden crops being direct sown in garden. Squash, beets and carrots all growing in the dirt.

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The weather is finally warming and you are craving to get your hands in the soil! But what crops can handle the chill of spring nights without a greenhouse or container?

Cold-tolerant roots, greens, and legumes can be seeded in March or April for harvests before summer’s heat. Better yet, these veggies can be planted right into your garden beds, so you don’t have to invest in costly indoor seed-starting equipment.

Let’s dig into the 11 best spring vegetables you can seed outdoors in the spring, based on your growing zone.

What Seeds Can I Direct Sow in Spring?

Carrots, spinach, radishes, turnips, lettuce, baby kale, and peas are ideal for direct seeding in spring months. These cold-tolerant crops can handle spring’s temperature fluctuations between mildly frosty nights and warm, sunny days.

As long as you prepare a proper soil bed and maintain continuous moisture, these veggies are eager to spring up and start yielding before the summer arrives.

While many gardeners start spring vegetables indoors, direct sowing means placing seeds directly into your garden soil. Some crops (like carrots and radishes) demand direct seeding because their roots cannot handle the disturbance of transplanting.

Depending on your climate and gardening setup, other crops like tomatoes or brassicas don’t mind direct sowing or transplanting.

Direct seeding has a range of benefits over starting seeds indoors, including:

  • Less steps (less work!)
  • Reduced risk of transplant shock
  • Stronger root systems
  • Establishment in place

However, direct seeding requires more precise timing and monitoring of your crops because you don’t have as much control over the germination environment.

Best Direct-Seeded Spring Crops

In USDA growing zones 5-9, March and April welcome warmer weather with light frosts at night. While you wait for the frost-free summer days, you can rely on these veggies to tough out the spring rains and chilly nights.

Pro Tip: Notice how most of these crops tolerate cold ambient temperatures but still prefer warm soil temperatures. A soil thermometer is essential for determining the ideal timing to direct seed. Instead of planting based on weather data, keep a close eye on the soil temperature in your garden beds.

Carrots

Close-up of freshly picked carrots on the ground in the garden. The plant has edible, long, pointed orange roots and compound, deeply carved, lacy leaves that form from the base of the plant.
These garden favorites should be planted directly into the garden.
  • When to Seed: 2-3 weeks before your last frost date
  • Optimal Soil Temperature: 60-86°F
  • Direct Seeding Rate: Sow ¾-1” apart, ¼-½” deep, in a 2” wide band in rows 16-24” apart. Always thin carrots to at least ¾” apart to ensure proper root development.

Carrots are the queens of direct sowing because they are one of the few crops that absolutely despise transplanting. These roots require careful sowing straight into the garden and a continuous source of moisture for proper germination. While germination requires 1-3 weeks of patience and attentive care, spring carrots can reward you with harvests as early as May.

In most climates, the extra spring rains make it easier to irrigate these roots. As a bonus, chilly nights ensure plenty of sugar accumulation in the roots, making for the season’s tastiest, sweetest carrots.

The most important thing to remember is that although carrots are cold hardy once established, they still need warmth to germinate. Use a soil probe to check that your soil is at least 40°F, ideally closer to 60°F.

Choose early carrot varieties like ‘Yaya,’ ‘Nantes,’ or ‘Chantenay’ which are bred specifically for spring sowing. A layer of row cover can significantly improve germination rates and evenness. For a continuous supply, you can succession sow several plantings of carrots every 2-3 weeks.

Spinach

Top view, growing spinach in the garden. Spinach is a herbaceous plant with green, oval, wrinkled leaves arranged in a rosette. It is a highly nutritious, tasty and easily digestible herb.
Spinach is a frost-resistant green that will provide a crop in 30 days.
  • When to Seed: As soon as the ground can be worked
  • Optimal Soil Temperature: 65-75°F, but tolerates as low as 32°F
  • Direct Seeding Rate: For baby leaf spinach, sow 3-5 seeds per inch in rows 2” apart. For full size, sow 10 seeds per foot, ½’ deep, in rows 12-18” apart.

When you need a quick fix of spring greens, spinach is ready to fill your harvest baskets in less than 30 days! This cold-hardy, iron-rich green can germinate in soils as chilly as 32°F!

Gardeners in northern climates can plant spinach as soon as the ground thaws and your garden beds can be worked. As long as the soil is cool, moist, and slightly alkaline (6.5-7.5), spinach is eager to please in unpredictable spring weather.

Opt for early spinach varieties like ‘Kookaburra’ or semi-savoy leaves. Floating row cover makes a big difference for early spinach production. Baby leaves can be harvested when they are 3-6” tall. Sow spinach every 7-14 days for a continuous supply throughout the spring.

Radishes

Top view, close-up of a freshly picked radish on the ground. The plant has an edible, rounded root with light, crisp flesh and a bright pink skin. The radish plant has a short pubescent stem and a rosette of rounded oblong green leaves.
Radish is a fast-growing crop that grows well in cool weather and yields in as little as 20 days.
  • When to Seed: 4-6 weeks before your last frost date, or as soon as soil can be worked
  • Optimal Soil Temperature: 65-85°F, tolerates as cold as 40°F
  • Direct Seeding Rate: Sow seeds ¾-1” apart, ½” deep in 2-3” wide bands. Space rows about 12” apart and thin plants to 1” spacing.

They are called “Easter radishes” for a reason! These vibrant roots are one of the first vegetables to grace local farmer’s market stands. Because of their rapid growth (as quick as 20 days!) and easygoing germination, radishes are perfectly suited for direct seeding during February, March, and April.

Radishes grow best in cool weather. When it gets too warm, flea beetle pressure rises and the roots become prone to bolting (going to seed). You need to plant radishes while the weather is still cool and harvest them small (about 2-3” in diameter). Otherwise, they can become bitter or woody.

There are hundreds of varieties to choose from, but all are grown similarly. Whether you opt for red radishes, rainbow round roots, elongated daikons, purple radishes, or spicy black Spanish radishes, these brassica bulbs thrive in springtime weather. After seeding, immediately row cover for the best results. Harvest radishes young to ensure maximum tenderness!

Turnips

Close-up of a gardener's hand plucking a freshly picked turnip in a sunny garden. Turnips have round, edible white roots with purple tops. The plant has erect stems and 8-12 leaves forming a crown. The leaves are light green in color, hairy and thin.
Turnips have edible roots that are not afraid of the cold and can be harvested in as little as 40 days.
  • When to Seed: 3-5 weeks before last frost date, or as soon as soil can be worked
  • Optimal Soil Temperature: 60-80°F, germinates as low as 40°F
  • Direct Seeding Rate: Sow in 2-4” wide bands about 12” apart, with seeds 1” apart for small turnips and 2” apart for larger roots.

Right after your first radish harvest, you can enjoy a fast harvest of early-maturing turnips. These smooth white roots don’t mind the cold and can be harvested in as little as 30-40 days.

Before you say, “Gross! I hate turnips!” give spring turnips a chance. ‘Hakurei’ or Japanese “Tokyo” turnips are an exceptional spring treat because they can be eaten fresh like a carrot.

The crisp, sweet flavor of these salad turnips is refreshingly juicy and very different from the winter purple-top turnips you may be used to. They have a fruity flavor and tender texture. Hakureis can change even a turnip-hater into a turnip fan. After tasting these round white roots, you probably won’t want to grow any other varieties.

Peas

Close-up of a large pea bush in a sunny garden. The bush is large, lush, composed of climbing branched pale green stems, covered with oval wide dark green leaves and green pods with swollen rounded edible seeds inside.
Pea is a cold hardy crop that thrives in cold and wet soil.
  • When to Seed: 4-6 weeks before your last frost date
  • Optimal Soil Temperature: 65-75°F, but germinate in as cold as 40°F
  • Direct Seeding Rate: Sow 1.5-2” apart, ½-1” deep, in rows 18-36” apart or on each side of a trellis. Ensure proper support for the climbing vines.

No matter what type of peas you plant, these legumes are a delicious spring snack. Snap peas can germinate in cold, wet soil and rapidly produce a thick stand covering your trellis. By early to mid May, you will be chomping on these sweet pods at every chance you get.

Peas are a cool-weather crop that produce prolific early harvests. They are perfect for small-space gardens because they can ramble and climb up a trellis without getting in the way of other vegetables.

Install T-posts and trellis netting or chicken wire before planting pea seeds in the ground. Choose early maturing varieties like ‘Sugar Snap,’ ‘Sugar Anne,’ or ‘Avalanche.’

Beets

Close-up of ripening beets in the garden. Beetroot has a large, round, edible root vegetable with firm, purplish-pink flesh and a dusty purple skin. The plant has erect long purple stems with large green leaves with red veins.
Beetroot tolerates rain, light frosts, and warm days and ripens within 50 days.
  • When to Seed: 3-4 weeks before your last frost date
  • Optimal Soil Temperature: 65-85°F, but germinates in as cold as 45°F
  • Direct Seeding Rate: Sow about 15 seeds per foot, ½” deep, in rows 12-18” apart. Thin to 1-2 plants every 3”.

These earthy chard relatives produce vibrant bulbous roots despite chilly spring weather. They don’t mind the rain, mild frosts, or unexpected warm days. Beets also produce delicious greens that can be sauteed and served alongside the roasted roots.

From classic round red beets to cylindrical golden beets to candy-cane striped Chioggia beets, these bulbs are widely adaptable to most climates and soils.

They prefer to germinate in warmer soil, so row cover can greatly improve your success. Beets average about 50 days to produce, but impatient growers can harvest them as baby roots or salad greens much sooner.

The only risk with spring beets is “zoning,” which describes white rings in the roots that are caused by acute weather fluctuations. This is a predominately aesthetic issue, but it can be prevented with low plastic tunnels or row cover to buffer against temperature extremes.

Arugula

Close-up of arugula growing in a sunny spring garden. The plant has a rosette of basal leaves. The leaves are oblong, dull green in color with deep lobes.
Arugula leaves have a nutty, spicy flavor that makes a great addition to spring salads.
  • When to Seed: 2-4 weeks before your last frost date
  • Optimal Soil Temperature: 55-80°F, but tolerates as low as 40°F
  • Direct Seeding Rate: Sow ⅛” deep at a rate of about 5 seeds per inch in rows 2” apart. Begin harvesting at 3-6” height. Cut an inch above the soil to allow for regrowth.

With its peppery spice and lush growth habit, arugula is one of the best spring greens. This brassica has a nutty, spicy taste that perfectly complements spring salads.

It can germinate in cold soils alongside spinach and radishes. Baby arugula is ready to cut in as little as 20 days, and full-size leaves will grow into the early summer.

In spite of its tender leaf texture, arugula is a robust and resilient green that can be grown year-round in zones 7 and warmer. It prefers well-drained soil and full sunshine to partial shade. We recommend sowing arugula every 2 weeks for a continuous supply. Use row covers to keep flea beetles at bay.

Baby Kale

Top view, close-up of freshly picked Baby Kale leaves on a gray table and in a wicker basket. The leaves are oblong, with strongly ruffled edges, dark green and deep purple in color.
Baby Kale are the leaves of a young immature kale plant that have a delicate and sweet taste.
  • When to Seed: 4-6 weeks before your last frost date
  • Optimal Soil Temperature: 70-85°F
  • Direct Seeding Rate: Sow seeds ¼” deep at a rate of 2-5 seeds per inch in rows 2” apart.

Kale is known for its cold tolerance, but it still requires some warmth to germinate. Most full-size spring kales are transplanted for maximum yields, but baby kale mixes are perfectly suited for direct sowing.

These delicate baby leaves have more sweetness and adaptability than full-grown summer kale. You can also “cut and come again” for repeated harvests from the same planting.

‘Kalebration’ is the industry standard for professional farmers, but you can also create your own blend by mixing together an array of any kale seeds you have on hand.

While dense sowing is recommended to drown out weeds and get even harvests, you still want to be sure that each mini plant has at least ½” of space. You can harvest with a knife or scissors by cutting about 1” above the soil surface. Plants grow back rapidly!

Lettuce Mix

Close-up of growing different varieties of lettuce in the garden on a bed enclosed by a low decorative wooden fence. Lettuce plants form beautiful rosettes of rounded wide bright green and dark purple leaves with wavy edges.
Lettuce Mix is a mixture of various lettuces, the leaves of which ripen in less than a month.
  • When to Seed: 2-4 weeks before your last frost date
  • Optimal Soil Temperature: 60-75°F, but tolerates as low as 40°F
  • Direct Seeding Rate: Seed baby leaf lettuce mixes at a rate of 4-6 seeds per inch in rows about 2” apart. Cover with ⅛” of soil and gently firm. Maintain continuous moisture for even germination.

Spring mix is simply a blend of different lettuce varieties and other showstopping greens. The array of textures and rainbows of colors are a delightful experience after a winter of squash and roots.

You can mix any lettuce seeds together and densely seed them to create your own blend. However, premixed seed packets like ‘Allstar Gourmet Lettuce Mix’ from Johnny’s are the easiest for beginners because they include a wide variety of species selected to germinate simultaneously.

Head lettuce takes a while to mature, but lettuce greens can grant the spring gardener a salad in less than a month.

Most lettuce varieties germinate in soils as cold as 32°F, so you can plant them right alongside spinach and arugula! Continuously sow successions of lettuce every 2-3 weeks for salads that last all summer long.

Italian Dandelion

Close-up of a growing Italian Dandelion in the garden. The plant has erect green leaves with slightly serrated edges and purple stems.
Italian Dandelion is a deliciously tasty and healthy green that grows well in cool weather.
  • When to Seed: 4-6 weeks before expected last frost date, or as soon as soil can be worked
  • Optimal Soil Temperature: 60-68°F, warm soils above 77°F will cause seed dormancy
  • Direct Seeding Rate: Sow 1” apart in rows 12-18” apart. Thin to 6-8” apart after true leaves appear.

If you’re looking for a unique healthy green for fresh eating or sauteing, the Italian Dandelion is a delectable addition to your spring garden.

Dandelions are usually considered weeds, but these unique Italian greens are not invasive. Though they aren’t true dandelions, this crop has similar flavor, nutritional value, and growth habit to the dandelion we know and love.

These hardy greens can be planted as soon as you can work your soil. It loves cool weather between 50-65°F and moderately warm spring soils between 60-68°F. The seeds are small, so be sure to cover with only ⅛” of fine soil and gently press down.

Spring Onions

Close-up of a growing Spring Onions in a sunny garden. The plant has underground white bulbs and long thin green leaves growing above the soil.
You can sow onion seeds outdoors in March or April.
  • When to Seed: 4-6 weeks before your last frost date, or as soon as soil can be worked
  • Optimal Soil Temperature: 55-90°F
  • Direct Seeding Rate: Sow ¼” apart, ¼-½” deep in 203” wide bands. If you want fatter scallions, thin to about 1” apart. Hill the plants to encourage white-blanched stalks.

Many gardeners start their green bunching onions in cell trays, but you can also seed them outdoors as soon as soils reach 55-60°F, usually in March or April.

Some extra hardy varieties of onions can survive late freezes as low as 20°F and still produce delicious scallions. For an extra head start, purchase onion sets (mini bulbs) and get them in the ground as soon as the soil can be worked.

You can grow any onion variety as “green onions,” but spring bunching varieties like ‘Nabechan,’ ‘White Spear,’ and ‘Deep Purple’ tend to produce the most uniform scallions. They average about 60 days to maturity from direct seeding.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve learned all about the best vegetables to direct sow into your garden this spring, all that’s left to do is get planting! By sticking with the recommendations outlined in the article above, you’ll be able to skip indoor sowing this season and have a bountiful harvest after putting vegetable seeds directly into the ground.

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