7 Easy Cool Season Vegetables to Plant


A collage of cool-season vegetables to be planted in spring: peas in a pod, a bowl of strawberries, and leaf lettuce.

Discover seven easy-to-grow cool-season vegetables ideal for spring planting in your backyard garden. From vibrant greens to flavorful root vegetables plus a delicious berry, you'll learn about these easy-to-grow spring vegetables, and why I think it's important that you know how to grow your own food.


7 Easy-to-Grow Spring Vegetables


The older I get, the more important it is to me to have the skills and the knowledge to grow at least some of our own food. 


You might ask why, when we can go to the grocery store and buy whatever we want to eat, whether it’s in season in our area or not. 


So much of our food nowadays is grown with commercial fertilizers and pesticides - I prefer to eat naturally-raised, pesticide-free food, thank you very much, and the most reliable way to do that is to grow it myself.


Plus, with rising prices and supply chain issues, I feel more comfortable with a garden in my backyard and the knowledge to grow food that can help stretch our budget. 


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The state of our world is concerning these days. It wasn’t that long ago that our country dealt with food rationing, just 80-some years ago, during the 1940’s. 


That might seem like forever ago to you, but my parents and grandparents lived through the Great Depression, WWII and food rationing. I’ve never forgotten their stories. 


This is my purpose: to help you learn these skills too, so that you can sustain your family, and thrive no matter what happens. 


Just so you know, this post may contain affiliate links, which means I might receive commissions for purchases made through those links, at no cost to you. You can reamy disclosure policy for more info.

How I chose these 7 easy-to-grow vegetables


There are more than 7 easy vegetables to grow, of course, but I had to draw the line somewhere, right?


I’ve also not included some vegetables that I and my family don’t care to eat, such as kale. It’s supposed to be easy to grow, but I have no experience growing it because we won't eat it. 


The first rule of gardening is to grow what you'll eat. Don't waste space on things that no one will enjoy.


A woman's hand holding a pea pod full of fresh peas.
Peas germinate best in cold soil, so you can get started early in spring! (Parden the gardener's fingernails.)


Your mileage may vary


Gardening is really just a series of experiments. The only way to find out what will grow for you or not grow for you is to try. So don’t be afraid to try, to plant something new, even if it doesn’t grow well for you in the end.


In other words, your mileage may vary with these plants and I can’t guarantee success, but these are some of the easiest vegetables to grow and they are a great place to start.


Lettuce and other salad greens


The first vegetable I recommend is lettuce and other greens. If you love a fresh salad, lettuce is a great first garden plant for you. 


Looseleaf lettuce leaves growing in a garden.


How much fresher can you get than lettuce and other salad greens that were picked this afternoon?


But I’m not talking about the iceberg lettuce you buy in the grocery store. Iceberg lettuce takes a lot more time to mature and needs more space than the leaf lettuce I recommend that you grow.


Plus if you plant four iceberg lettuce plants, they’ll all ripen at about the same time, so you’ll have loads of lettuce and then you won’t have any lettuce after they are gone (or it will have spoiled because you got so tired of eating iceberg lettuce!)


Instead, I recommend growing leaf lettuce. Leaf lettuce is very easy to grow, and it has quite a few advantages over that iceberg head lettuce.


Leaf lettuce is ready to harvest in 30 to 70 days compared to head lettuce which takes 100 days or more to mature.


Leaf lettuce can be harvested even earlier than that estimation. As soon as the leaves are about 5 inches high, you can cut and use the outside leaves of the plant, and leave the rest of the plant to continue growing. 


This is called “cut and come again harvesting.” This way your lettuce harvest is spread out over a longer period of time. 


Plus if you grow a couple of different varieties of leaf lettuce, you can cut a few leaves from this lettuce variety over here, and some from that variety over there, and a few from that red lettuce plant. It makes for a very pretty salad and a variety of tastes and textures.


Leaf lettuce comes in so many varieties and colors and leaf shapes that you’ll never have to eat the same salad twice. You can either buy seed packets for a couple of varieties or you can buy a “lettuce mix” that contains several different varieties in one seed packet.


Lettuce is a great vegetable to grow in containers too. Lettuce is shallow-rooted so it doesn’t need deep containers. It’s quick to plant, easy to harvest, and much more delicious than store-bought varieties.


Other salad greens are just as easy to grow and will add even more flavor and variety to your salads with just a couple of plants. Arugula, mustard greens, and mesclun are just a couple of the greens that are available.


Lettuce prefers cool weather, and can be planted several weeks before your last spring frost. It will survive a light frost, and if your weather goes below freezing you can cover the plants with upside-down buckets to keep them warm.


You'll find more information on growing lettuce here.


Radishes


Second on my easy-to-grow list is radishes. Radishes might actually be the easiest vegetable, and they are certainly one of the fastest growing. They are ready to eat in as little as 21 days, depending on the variety you plant.


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Radishes are another cool weather crop that can be planted before your last frost date. 


They are so easy to grow and so quick to germinate that they are ideal to plant if you want to introduce children to gardening. Before the child loses interest, the radishes should be peeking above the ground.


If you plant lettuce and radishes at the same time, your radishes will be ready before the lettuce is, so you might want to plant radishes a couple of weeks after you plant your lettuce seeds so they’ll be ready to harvest at about the same time.


Another tip to growing radishes is that you don’t have to plant the whole packet of seeds. This is true for any kind of vegetable. 


Plant as many seeds as you need radishes, because each plant grows just one radish, and save the rest for a fall garden or for next year.


Or you can plant a row of radishes now, and plant another row in two weeks. When you harvest the first row, you can replace them with more seeds. This will give you a longer harvesting window, so you don’t have to eat them all at once.


If you leave radishes in the ground too long, they can be peppery and tough. It’s ok to harvest them when they are on the small side.


Onions


Onions are another crop that can be planted early. Onions are planted as seeds, as sets or as plants. 


A box of onion plants, a stack of black nursery pots, and a trowel


After many years of planting sets and not really having much of a harvest, I now use onion plants. I order mine from Dixondale Onion Farms


  • Onion sets can be planted outdoors in early spring, as soon as the ground can be worked, depending on where you live. 

  • Onion plants are shipped to you at the right time for your region - here in Oklahoma, I plant mine in early February.

  • Onion seeds should be started indoors about 6 weeks before you plan to transplant them outdoors. Wait until the soil is at least 50ºF before planting them outdoors. (Use a soil thermometer to check the soil temperature.)


Onions can withstand a light frost, down to about 28ºF. 


Learn more about planting onions and about harvesting and storing onions in my growing guides. 


Beets


Beets are another root vegetable that's easy to grow and is planted in the spring. 


A saucepan of homegrown sliced beets.


Not everyone likes beets, I know. Some say they taste like dirt or mud. Personally I love beets, especially in this delicious sweet and sour beet recipe. I’m told they are the only vegetable I liked to eat when I was young. 


I wonder if the dirt taste might just be that the beets weren’t cleaned well enough after harvesting. Or maybe beets are like cilantro, that some people think tastes like soap. And I’m one of those people who can't eat cilantro, so I can totally understand that some people might think beets taste like dirt.


Beets should also be peeled before eating. I have a simple tip that makes it super easy: after boiling, hold the root end of the beet and pull the peel off, it’s super easy. Boiling beets with the skin on will help prevent them from "bleeding," or losing their color in the water they're boiling in.


Beets are a dual-purpose plant: you can eat the root and you can also eat the leaves, rather like spinach. I’ve added them to smoothies and to salads.


Plant beets outside once the soil temperature is 45°.


The secret to growing beets and other root vegetables is to use light, well-drained, fertile soil so it’s easy for the edible root to form. They should be planted about half an inch deep and several inches apart, so there’s space for the roots to grow and swell.


Peas


Like most of these easy-to-grow spring vegetables, peas can be planted before the last spring frost. Pea seeds germinate best in cold soil, so they are a favorite with many gardeners simply because you can start gardening early in spring!


A pea pod full of fresh peas in a woman's hand


They grow well on a trellis of some sort. It doesn’t have to be a super sturdy trellis since they are not large or heavy plants, but growing on a trellis saves you space in the garden and makes it easy to harvest the ripe pea pods. 


You’ll need to keep an eye on the pea vines and gently wind them around the trellis every few days, but it’s not hard work and doesn’t take more than a few minutes. The plants hang on to a trellis pretty well, and you don’t usually have to tie them up.


Pick peas before the pods dry out. There are some varieties of peas that you can harvest when the peas in the pod are still tiny, and then you stir fry the pod and eat it whole, such as snow peas.


For fresh peas, just let the peas swell in the pods until they are ripe. Don’t let them get too mature, they are sweeter and more tender if you harvest them when they’re a bit young. 


My 6yo grandson and I like to eat them right there in the garden. It’s hard for us to fill a bowl with enough fresh sweet peas to bring inside and cook for dinner. I’m ok with that, because either way, whether cooked or raw, he’s eating his vegetables.


Garlic


Garlic can also be planted early in spring.


A woman's hand holding a large garlic clove, ready to plant in her spring garden.


It's best planted in the fall, but if you didn’t get yours in the ground then, you can still grow it. It may take a little longer to harvest than if you’d planted it in the fall, but it’s doable.


Plant garlic as early in the spring as you can, as soon as the ground can be worked, because it needs cool weather to begin growing. 


Just like in the fall, you’ll separate garlic bulbs into cloves, and plant the cloves about six inches apart, and just underneath the surface of the soil.


Garlic likes well-draining, loose soil. What it doesn’t like is weeds that compete for nutrients and water, so keep your garlic bed as weed-free as you can. 


Garlic shouldn’t be planted next to legumes like peas and beans, herbs such as parsley and sage, and other plants in the onion family like chives, leeks and onions.


Click here for more information on planting and growing garlic


Strawberries


Let’s throw in an easy-to-grow fruit! Strawberries are quite easy to grow if you start with purchased crowns or plants, and they are perennials so they’ll produce berries for several years. Don’t you love plants that just keep on growing, year after year? 


Strawberry plants growing in a raised garden bed.


Strawberry plants are usually planted after the last spring frost. The exact timing will vary depending on your gardening zone. 


If you have bare root plants, soak the roots for about 30 minutes before planting.


Be careful to not bury the crown of the plant, where the leaves leave the stem.


Some gardeners say that you should pinch the flowers on first-year plants, while others say that it’s not necessary. I’ve never done it; I get a larger harvest the second year, but we still enjoy the strawberries we harvest that first year.


After they fruit, strawberry plants will produce “runners” which are sometimes called “daughter plants.” These baby plants will form at the end of the runners and send roots into the ground, and you’ll have more strawberry plants. 


In order to make room for these new plants, you should space strawberry plants 18 inches apart. 


And just like with the blossoms, there are people who say you should cut off any runners the first year, and others who say it isn’t necessary. Personally I can’t even tell which plants are first year plants because mine grow so prolifically and my strawberry patch is a gone-wild place.. 


In the spring when they are easy to dig up, I thin my plants so the patch isn’t super crowded, and share any extra plants with other gardeners.


Strawberries grow easily in almost any climate and soil. You can grow them in beds, containers or strawberry jars. 


Can you grow strawberries from seeds? Yes, you can. I haven’t tried. I suppose I don't have enough patience for that. I started with a dozen or so bare-root plants five years ago, brought some with us when we moved, and now I have, well, a whole lot of strawberry plants, even after sharing them with others.


A good layer of mulch will help keep the weeds down in your strawberry patch. Strawberries like a lot of water, but their biggest enemies are slugs and snails, which like damp places, so be sure to keep an eye open for these pests. 


Other benefits of cool-weather plants


Another benefit of these cool-weather plants is that they like to be direct-seeded in the garden or in the containers you’ll be growing them in. 


Unless you have a really short growing season, you don’t need to start them indoors, and planting them right in the dirt makes them so much easier to grow! 


Onions, garlic and strawberries are usually grown from plants or sets or garlic cloves, not from seeds, so they're even easier to grow.


Choose from these and other easy-to-grow cool-weather vegetables and get your garden in the ground.


Related posts:
9 Warm Weather Vegetables to Grow in Raised Beds
Growing Guides
How to Build a Raised Bed Garden


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A collage of 4 cool-season vegetables to plant in spring.




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