Salad Greens: Among the earliest crops are lettuce, arugula, and mesclun mixes. You’ll have success growing lettuce and greens when the soil is 55 degrees and many can be harvested within 30 days. And though they won’t flourish during long cold snaps, they won’t die unless temperatures dip below 28 degrees.
Spinach: Plant in the spring ground, harvest within 60 days, and get the most of this crop before it bolts. Most spinach cannot tolerate a hot summer. Some varieties are bred to thrive longer, but spinach is best enjoyed when it’s still springtime.
Asian Greens: Extremely hardy varieties such as bok choy and napa cabbage still look stunning when glazed with a thin layer of ice. And once the ice melts, they shine in the sun and continue to grow. Protect these from a hard frost but don’t worry if the nights still fall between 28 and 32.
Radishes: And if temperatures do still fall below 28? Your radishes will be fine. Growing radishes of a smaller variety such as Easter Egg mature within 30 days while larger, sweeter radishes like daikon can take 60 to 90. Root crops like radishes prefer to be direct-sown, planted right in the ground rather than started as seedlings.
Kale: This tough and nutritious leafy green sits beside radishes as one of the toughest brassicas you can grow. It can even thrive during mild winters with no snow pack. Sow early and protect seedlings from a hard frost to give them a little boost. Harvest the lowermost leaves and let the plant continue to grow through the summer heat.
Onions: Choose long day onions if you live in the north; short day varieties if you live in Zone 7 or warmer. To harvest sooner, purchase onion “sets,” tiny bulbs that have been started, pulled, and dried so you can replant and continue growing. Onion seeds are useful for growing rare varieties, though this adds several months to the maturity date. Start seeds inside to encourage germination and then plant the tiny spikes in the ground after hardening them off for a few days. Onions can survive a hard frost and poke right through the late snow.
Peas: Snow peas are aptly named. They’re among the first crops you can plant, and seedlings actually fare better in a hard frost than maturing plants. Both snow and snap peas can grace your table within 60 days. Direct-sow peas for the best results.
Beets and Swiss Chard: Silverbeet is the name for chard in Australia and New Zealand because they are in the same family. And they’re extremely nutritious plants which offer edible greens and roots that live in cold conditions. Direct-sow inside or out then carefully thin and replant after seedlings emerge.
Carrots: Though they can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked, carrots do prefer temperatures a little warmer. Often gardeners plant carrots during the second month of spring, after temperatures are higher but still freezing at night. Scatter in rows then thin after seedlings emerge. Remember that carrots only grow as large as the space you give them.