Plants That Grow In Cold Weather: Spring Planting Cold Season Crops

Cold Season Leafy Vegetable Crops
(Image credit: Albert Bugaev)

You don’t need to wait until high summer to get your garden going. In fact, many vegetables grow and taste better in the cooler temperatures of spring. Certain ones, like lettuce and spinach, will bolt when the weather gets too hot and can only be grown in cool temperatures. Keep reading to learn more about when to plant cold season vegetables.

Plants That Grow In Cold Weather

What are cool season crops? Cool season crops germinate in cold soil and mature with cool weather and short periods of daylight, meaning they are perfect for planting in early spring. 

Pea, onion, and lettuce seeds will germinate as low as 35 degrees F. (1 C.), meaning they can go in the ground as soon as it is unfrozen and workable. Most other cold weather food crops will germinate in soil as cold as 40 degrees F. (4 C.). These include many root vegetables and leafy greens like:

Spring Planting Cold Season Crops

Sometimes the period between the ground becoming workable and high summer is awfully short. A great way to get a head start, no matter where you live, is to start your seeds indoors even earlier in the spring, then transplant them as seedlings when the weather is just right. 

Many cold weather food crops can be started indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost date. Just make sure that when you put your cool weather plants out in your garden you save enough room for your hot weather plants. Plants that grow in cold weather are often ready for harvest around the time hot weather plants can be transplanted out, but an especially mild summer can mean your lettuce and spinach will last much longer than you’d planned.

Liz Baessler
Senior Editor

The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.