Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

Spring Into Action: Plant Cool Season Veggies Now


Jack Wilbur, UDAF


Tomorrow, March 20th, spring officially arrives at about 11:00 a.m. If you like to grow cool season vegetables at home, or you think you'd like to give it a try, it's time to prepare that garden bed and get planting.

Late March is the perfect time to plant hardy cool season veggies outside. Cold hardy  vegetables can withstand a frost. Some of them even have better flavor after a light frost. These vegetables include:

·         Broccoli

·         Cabbage

·         Radishes

·         Onions

·         Turnips

·         Peas

·         Spinach

·         Kohlrabi

You can also plant semi hardy vegetables outside now, if you plant them in a covered row tunnel or have plastic or fabric row covers ready for the coldest nights. The semi hardy vegetables include:

·         Lettuce

·         Beets

·         Cauliflower

·         Parsnips

·         Carrots

·         Parsley

·         Potatoes

·         Swiss Chard

·         Kale

Garden Prep and Planting:

The seed packets or seed company websites will have specific planting information for each vegetable, such as planting depth and plant spacing, and whether you should plant the seeds directly in the garden or start them inside first.

Generally, however, all vegetable seeds and transplants benefit from loose, weed-free soil, and a light starter fertilizer.  Compost usually amends the soil by providing a light, loamy consistency and it offers nutrients. Sometimes compost alone is enough when you first plant. You may also want to fertilize immediately. A nitrogen rich or balanced fertilizer is usually best for seeds and young plants. If you choose to grow your garden as organically as possible, there are starter or transplant fertilizers. You could also use fish emulsion or blood meal, both of which have plenty of nitrogen to give your plants a good start. 

Most vegetable plants, even cool season varieties, benefit from full sun (at least 6-8 hours a day). Lettuces can handle shade better than a lot of vegetables. 

What about the Summer Veggies:?

If you are starting your own seeds inside, you still have time to start seeds for planting  summer veggies in May when the average last frost date has passed.  The USU Extension website offers average last frost dates for communities throughout Utah. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and basil need a 6-8 week head start or more. Start those seeds immediately, or just buy plants when you are ready to plant them outside. Other summer veggies grow faster and need less of a head start. You should start cucumber and melons about four weeks before planting outside. Summer squash, winter squash and pumpkins can be started 2-3 weeks before planting outside. You could also directly sow cucumbers, melons and all the squashes directly into the garden as seeds.

If you haven't already started, celebrate the arrival of the new season this week by springing into action in the garden.