Whether you are a beginner or an experienced gardener there are 5 things to consider when you plan a spring garden. In this article you’ll find some tips and links to resources to help you prepare your garden space and determine which vegetables to plant when.

  1. What?
    Consider which vegetables grow in your area during the Spring season.
  2. Where?
    Is your garden established or do you need to prepare a fresh planting space? Do you need to amend the soil, does your garden space receive enough sunlight? Is there a nearby water source?
  3. When?
    When do you plant spring crops? Will they have enough time to grow and produce a crop for you to harvest before temperatures get too hot? Will you have enough time and room to plant and establish summer crops if you want a summer garden as well.
  4. How?
    Will you grow from seed or do you need to purchase starter plants? How will you ensure that your garden receives enough water? Will you need to fertilize?
  5. Why?
    If you love tender greens and crisp root vegetables, a spring garden may be your motivation. If you start early in January, February at the latest, you can plant interesting and different Lettuce and Kale varieties from seed. These varieties aren’t usually available in stores. You can also avoid chemical fertilizers by growing your own vegetable starters.

Savoy Cabbage March 18, 2019 Photo Credit: Simon Wakefield ©Copyright 2019 GardenZeal

In North Georgia our cool weather growing seasons can be very short so it’s important to plan before you purchase spring vegetable seeds and  plants. Many cool weather crops require 60 to 70 days before harvest. Although stores may continue selling starter plants, you may be disappointed when time runs out before the summer heat moves in. Lettuce, Arugula, Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, and Radish will wilt or begin to flower and make seeds ( bolt ) as days get longer and the sun gets hotter. If you find some healthy lettuce starts and get them planted any time in March, you may need to cover them occasionally to prevent them from injury during frost (or snow).

Cabbage, Kale, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts are rugged and can tolerate frost and low temperatures. However, plants that produce heads must be planted very early to have enough time to mature before the heat makes them bolt and begin to produce seed.

Root vegetables like carrots and  beets also need time to develop. Radish develop more quickly and some varieties can be harvested in only 24 days.

The UGA extension provides a helpful Vegetable Planting Table here.

Beets planted Fall 2016, Harvested April 2017. Photo by Laurie Wakefield ©Copyright 2019 GardenZeal

Swiss Chard is readily available at nurseries and hardware stores. It’s a beautiful, delicious and nutritious spring vegetable that can tolerate heat into the early summer months. Photo by Laurie Wakefield ©Copyright 2019 GardenZeal

A Living Refrigerator

Lettuce starter plants are inexpensive but a little more fragile. If you have room to plant several lettuce plants, you can keep them growing until hot weather arrives. Harvest a few leaves from each plant frequently to enjoy fragrant and delicious salads all season.

Spring Salad Makings Photo by Laurie Wakefield ©Copyright 2019 GardenZeal

Tender Lettuce, Spring 2017 Photo by Laurie Wakefield ©Copyright 2019 GardenZeal

Frost Free Date for Summer Planting is April 15 for Georgia Zones 7a & 7b

During a mild spring, cool weather may last until early June. In this case, you may continue to enjoy your tender spring vegetables. However, if your garden space is limited, you may have to sacrifice some of your spring harvest to make room for summer plants.

For any growing season it is important to prepare your soil. Proper soil supports healthier plants that are more disease and pest resistant. Soil may be amended with compost and other organic materials that help it retain water and nutrients and additional fertilizers may not even be needed. Although composting is an excellent environmentally beneficial practice, Most homeowners cannot produce enough compost for their garden and landscape. OMRI certified, Soil 3 Humus Compost can be delivered in the metro Atlanta area. You can read more about Soil 3 here.

Ideal Soil for Growing Vegetables has a pH of 6.0 to 6.5

Soil Tests can be arranged through your local extension office. Photo by Laurie Wakefield ©Copyright 2019 GardenZeal

Soil Testing

It is best to test your soil before adding fertilizers (it’s a good idea to test your every 2-3 years). Soil test results from the UGA Extension will provide guidance for the crops that you specify. Most vegetables tolerate soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.5 but the ideal range is 6.0- 6.5. The UGA extension provides excellent information about testing and amending your soil here. Read more and see a video about responsible soil management and fertilization here. Remember to write your email address on your soil sample envelope and you’ll receive results in about 10 days to 2 weeks time.

Consider Planting Cool Crops in the Fall or Early Next Spring

By the end of March it is getting late to plant spring crops. You may be able to harvest a few spring vegetables like lettuce from starter plants and possibly Radish from seeds, which develops in less than a month. If you are eager to plant, short on time and longing for crops that produce all summer, your spring efforts may be better spent preparing beds and plants for summer crops. Next year you’ll know to start your spring garden sooner, when it’s still cold outside!

These spring cool crops are great for fall and winter gardens too. Long hot summers in Georgia can make it challenging to establish plants before a frost. I like to start cool crops indoors, protected from long hot days and pests. In Georgia, we can experience very hot days through the end of October but seeds can be started for root vegetables (Beets, Carrots, Turnips, Radish) in September. Leafy greens including Lettuce, Swiss Chard, Spinach, Kale, Collards and Cabbage can be started indoors and moved out to the garden at the end of September. Most lettuce doesn’t tolerate heat but does very well in cool temperatures around 40℉ (and high 30s). Head cabbage may not have time to form before freezing temperatures roll in but plants can be covered for extremely cold periods and they’ll be ready for harvest in the springtime. Brassicaceae (Cabbage Family) include many types of Cabbage, Kale, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, and Collard Greens do well with a long cool season. During mild Georgia winters, you may be able to harvest from your fall crops all year long. Many believe that frost makes plants in the cabbage family taste even sweeter.