11 Vegetables to Start Seeding in February
February is a great month to start getting your favorite vegetables winter sown, into containers, or even into the ground in warmer climates. In this article, gardening expert and former organic vegetable farmer Logan Hailey walks through 11 popular vegetables you can start planting this February in anticipation of spring!
In most parts of the country, February still feels like winter. Some areas are starting to thaw a bit, giving gardeners that anxious spring feeling. We’ve been locked inside all winter, and we are ready to start planting! February is a great time to get a head start on your spring garden by seeding indoors, winter sowing, or direct seeding in warmer climates.
In southern zones, February is prime time for direct sowing greens and preparing warm-weather crops to transplant. In northern zones, you can begin seeding cold-tolerant annuals indoors or under protective cover.
Let’s dig into everything you need to know about vegetable planting in late winter, plus some unique cold-hardy greens that will thrive in the spring.
What Vegetables Should I Start in February?
February is a limbo land between winter and spring, but you can still get a surprising diversity of seeds into nursery pots or in the ground. In zones 8 and colder, you start long-season crops like leeks, onions, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, and herbs with an indoor grow light setup. In zones 9 and warmer, you can start planting many vegetables outdoors.
What to Start Indoors in Zone 8 and Colder
It may seem weird to seed summer crops when there is still snow on the ground or frost in the forecast. Rest assured; you can still get your spring gardening fix with a cozy indoor growing area.
Set up grow lights and heated germination pads in your home window or a small greenhouse. These will ensure that early seedlings get plenty of protection from chilly nights. If late frosts extend into April or May, you may need to up-pot them to prevent stunting.
In late February, Zone 7 and 8 gardeners can often start planting cold-hardy greens outside. Row cover or low plastic tunnels can help protect fragile seedlings from cold nights, while also encouraging faster growth.
Hardy Greens to Direct Sow
- Hardy spinach
What to Seed in Zone 9 and Warmer
In zone 9, the estimated last frost date can occur any time in February. This means it is ideal for sowing cold-tolerant seeds directly in your garden beds. You can also start warm-weather crops in a protected area so that they are ready to transplant in March.
In zones 10 and 11, it rarely (if ever) frosts. This means you can start planting at any time! However, February is especially ideal for cool-weather crops that you can’t grow in subtropical summers.
Row cover can help encourage even germination and extra warmth for those final chilly nights of late winter. Seed or transplant these cool-weather veggies outdoors as early as February 1st. If you live in zones 9-11, it’s generally safe to start direct sowing perennials in February as well.
Crops to Seed Indoors
In late February, you can also get a head start on warm-weather crops. In zone 10, these veggies are typically started indoors in January so they can be transplanted in February.
Crops to Direct Seed or Transplant
11 Cold-Tolerant Spring Vegetables
Whether you are planting indoors in the north or seeding outdoors in the south, here are the details for our top 11 spring vegetables to jumpstart your garden in February.
Pro Tip: A soil temperature probe is the best tool for February gardening. When deciding what you can seed indoors or outdoors, the soil temperature is a more reliable gauge than ambient (air) temperatures. Soil is naturally insulated and may warm up more quickly than the air, especially if it is in a raised bed. The seeding guides below are based on soil temperature.
Stick the soil probe in about 2-6” (depending on seed size) and monitor the temperature for a few days and nights before planting. Once it reaches the minimum temperature for your seed type, you can safely get those seeds in the ground.
For indoor growers, stick the probe in potting trays of soil to determine if they need to be placed on a heating mat or in a warmer area of your home.
Spinach is a notoriously cold-hardy green that can be ready to harvest in less than a month. It loves cool soils and can be planted outdoors as soon as the ground can be worked. In ultra cold zones, you can also start February spinach in plug trays and transplant outside in March.
Remember that winter and early spring spinach will grow slower due to reduced day length. This means that the plants cannot be harvested as heavily. It’s best to sow twice as much spinach as you would during the fall. Use row cover to protect young plants from frost and speed up growth.
You should harvest your spinach regularly throughout the spring. As the days lengthen and warm, the plants become more susceptible to bolting. You can practice succession planting by sowing a new crop of spinach every 1-2 weeks for staggered harvests.
Spinach needs soil temperatures between 45° and 68°F. Most zones can plant as early as 4-8 weeks before the average last frost date. Once established, spinach doesn’t mind temperatures into the teens.
For baby leaf spinach, sow about 3-5 seeds per inch in rows 2” apart. For large-leaf bunching spinach, sow 10 seeds per foot in rows 12” apart. Seeds need to be buried about ½” deep.
Mache (Corn Salad)
Also known as “corn salad” or “lamb’s lettuce,” mache got its name as a winter weed in European corn fields. This frost-hardy green is surprisingly tender and has a slightly sweet, nutty flavor that is popular in gourmet salads and sautes.
Mache is a unique and underappreciated green that tolerates the cool winters and springs of zones 7, 8, and 9. Sow outdoors in these mild zones or under cover in colder regions.
Seeds can be sown in soils as cold as 40°F. In fact, the plant prefers cold temperatures and will not germinate at temperatures above 70°F. Mature mache can withstand temperatures as frigid as 5°F.
Direct sow about 1” apart in rows 4-12” apart. For baby greens, it can be even denser. Thin to 3” per plant and begin cutting once they reach about 2-3” tall.
Arugula is a peppery, cold-tolerant green related to kale and mustards. Known for its spicy flavor, this gourmet green dislikes heat but doesn’t mind mild frosts.
Like its cool-season cousins, arugula quickly bolts when the weather gets too warm. February is the perfect time to prepare for flavorful March and April salads.
In zones 6 through 10, arugula is perfect for outdoor seeding throughout the late winter and early spring. Zones 5 and colder may need to wait until the ground defrosts or plant in an unheated tunnel. Arugula also thrives under row cover to protect from outdoor temperature swings and flea beetles.
Arugula doesn’t mind soils as cold as 40-50°F. Early varieties like ‘Astro’’ and ‘Esmee’ can be planted up to 2-4 weeks before the expected last frost date in your area.
Direct sow arugula about ⅛” beneath the soil at a rate of 5 seeds per inch in rows 2-3” apart. For a continuous supply of greens, sow arugula every 2 weeks throughout the spring.
Claytonia is an intriguing vitamin-rich green with a succulent texture. It was originally known as “Miner’s Lettuce” because of its high vitamin C content which was said to prevent scurvy.
The delicate lily-pad-shaped leaves bloom fragrant white flowers through their centers as spring progresses. It grows wild in many forests of the United States and is super laid back in the garden.
Claytonia also serves as an excellent edible ground cover that will self-sow again and again. It tolerates partial shade and doesn’t mind growing under perennial plants.
While it is not invasive, it is vigorous. Keep Miner’s Lettuce in garden borders to prevent it from encroaching on less-competitive vegetables.
Claytonia germinates best in cool soils around 50 to 55°F. Plant as early as 6 weeks before your anticipated last frost. Plants mature in about 55 days and naturally die back when the weather warms.
For baby leaves, sow 3 to 5 seeds per inch in rows about 2” apart. For full-size rosettes, sow seeds ½” apart in rows 4-6” apart. Cover the seeds with ¼” of soil and don’t plant too deep. This wild-type plant dislikes root disturbance, so direct sowing is best. Seeds germinate as quickly as 4-14 days.
As the earthy, nutty cousins of carrots, parsnips are the snails of the vegetable world. They are not a crop for the impatient gardener or those short on space, but they are incredibly rewarding and low-maintenance for northern gardeners who are willing to wait.
Parsnips demand cool-weather and are only recommended for zones 2 through 9. Typically planted in spring and sweetened by fall frost, these roots stay in the ground for almost an entire year until they are harvested in late winter.
Parsnips prefer cool soils around 50°F, but still take up to 3 weeks to germinate. They must be kept continuously moist throughout the germination period. Unlike many other crops, parsnips don’t mind the saturated clay soils of late winter in rainy regions like the northwest and northeast.
Parsnips can be planted in February and March in a 2” band at a rate of 20 seeds per foot. Plant the seeds roughly ½” deep in rows 18-24” apart. Once they are almost an inch tall, use scissors to thin to 2-3” apart. If you don’t thin, you will end up with spindly, skinny parsnips.
Ah, the fast-growing, easygoing radish! Perfect for zones 2 through 10, these refreshing spring roots are among the easiest vegetables to grow and don’t mind the chill of February nights.
The best time to start seeding outdoors is about 4 to 6 weeks before the estimated last frost date. They are ready to harvest in less than a month and oh-so-sweet and crisp in cool weather.
Like all brassicas, we recommend row cover for the best germination rates and early growth! Choose cold-hardy varieties like ‘Rover’ (classic red), ‘Easter Egg’ (rainbow blend), or ‘KN-Bravo’ (a delicious purple daikon).
Sow in soils that are at least 40°F with row cover to protect the seedlings. Exposed seeds germinate best in soils between 55 to 75°F. Established radish plants can handle down to about 20°F ambient temperature.
Radishes should be sown about ½” deep about 1” apart in rows 3-6” apart.
Another popular spring root, beets are resilient and widely adaptable. This chard relative develops the brightest colors and sweetest flavor when the temperatures are chilly.
You can eat both the beet roots and beet greens throughout the spring. Beets mature in as little as 50 days, but it is important to eat them before the roots get too large and woody.
Like radishes, beets can germinate in soils as cold as 40° to 45°F. For a continuous supply, sow beets every 2 weeks in the months prior to your last frost date.
Sow beets ½” deep, about 1” apart in rows 12” apart. Starting about 5 to 6 weeks before the ground thaws, some farmers sow beets in cell trays in clusters of 2 or 3 seeds per cell. For earlier harvests, these seedlings can be transplanted out as soon as the soil can be worked. This results in smaller but more tender beets that can be harvested as a bundle.
Kale is a cold-weather classic that has become very popular in the health space. Instead of buying bland $3 bunches from the store, you can grow your own winter and spring kale cheaply and easily. These rugged plants concentrate their leaf sugars in frosty weather.
For warm-weather gardeners in zones 9 and hotter, February is one of the only times you can enjoy this popular green before it starts bolting. Baby kale greens can mature in less than a month and full-size plants can be established in spring for harvests throughout the year.
Kale prefers to germinate in soils around 50 to 70°F, which is why February kale is typically seeded indoors in zones 8 and colder. You can transplant outside once plants are about 6” tall, or about 5 weeks before the expected final frost.
The ideal ambient growing temperature is between 40° and 65°F. Established plants tolerate temperatures in the teens, but may grow more slowly in frigid weather.
If seeding indoors, plant 1-2 seeds per cell and thin to a single strong plant per container. Transplant outside about 12-18” apart in rows 18-26” apart. Baby kale such as the ‘Kalebration Mix’ can be densely sown about ¼” deep at a rate of 3-5 seeds per inch in rows 2” apart.
Celery takes 80-100 days to mature, which is why it needs an indoor head start during February or March. They can take as long as 10-12 weeks to mature indoors before they are ready to transplant after the last frost.
‘Tango’ is the most popular celery amongst beginner gardeners because it is vigorous, highly adaptable, and less finicky about heat or moisture issues.
Celery needs soils that are consistently between 70° to 75°F for even germination. A heating mat and grow lights or a greenhouse are usually necessary. Outdoor sowing is not recommended.
Sow celery seeds about ⅛” deep in open flats or plug trays. Thin to 1 plant per plug and transplant outdoors in May or June when the weather is warm and thoroughly settled. Plants should be spaced 6-8” apart in rows 24-36” apart.
Leeks are another long-season crop that require a whopping 80 to 120 days to mature. February is the best time to seed these buttery onion-family stalks in open trays indoors. They are often one of the very first crops that farmers seed in their greenhouses.
Leeks need a heat mat at about 75°F to germinate evenly. Once they come up, the trays can be removed from heating mats and placed under lights or in a bright window.
In early spring, sow leeks densely in open flats about ¼” apart and ¼” deep. You can also plant in clusters of 4-6 seeds per cell. When they are about as thick as a pencil, leeks can be planted outdoors 6” deep, about 6” apart in rows 12-24” apart. As they mature, leeks can handle light frosts and become even more cold-hardy when mulched with a deep layer of straw.
Most of us imagine tangy rhubarb in a midsummer strawberry-rhubarb tart. However, these long-lived succulent plants need to be planted in early spring to prepare for summer harvests.
Rhubarb is an easygoing perennial in zones 4 through 8. When it goes dormant in the winter, frosts will kill the rhubarb tops, but the crowns will survive very hard freezes and regenerate in the spring.
Rhubarb crowns are best planted when soils are 40°F. Once established, the plant will grow year round and requires at least 500 hours of winter weather colder than 35°F. This cold-loving crop doesn’t do well in southern zones.
For best results, purchase rhubarb crowns from a reputable source. Plant in a perennial bed with the crowns about 1” deep, bud side up. Spacing for these large perennial plants is 3 feet apart and 5 feet between rows.
The month of February is when many gardeners are ordering seeds from their favorite seed catalogs. But for those that planned ahead, it’s a great month to start indoor seeding to get an early jump on your vegetable garden. In certain climates, it’s also a great month to direct sow, or start transplanting your spring crop directly into your garden.