If you’ve found yourself standing in front of your veggie garden in the warm spring sunlight desperate to plant something edible, but not sure what, this post is for you. Here are my favourite vegetables to plant in spring – these are the ones I grow every year and enjoy eating.
If you start with seedlings, you could be harvesting fresh produce from some of them, such as the lettuce, in a matter of weeks! If you start with seeds, it may take a little longer.
Of course, some of the vegies - such as pumpkin - take many months to produce their crop, so you’ll be eating from your garden with these selections well into autumn. Many of these can also be planted several times through spring and into early summer, to stagger the harvest and keep that fresh produce coming.
General veggie care
All vegies need to be kept well-watered and will benefit from liquid feeding every seven to 10 days as they grow. For best results, plant vegies in full sun or at least in a spot that gets sun from early morning until early afternoon. On hot days many vegies need shade to reduce heat and water stress. This can be given with a screen, tall plantings on the western side of the bed, or a piece of shadecloth to toss over for temporary shade on a hot day. Water vegies at least once a day (more frequently during heatwaves) and spend time checking for pests that may be wanting to eat your vegies before you can. Keep the area free of weeds, too.
Tip: Nurture new plantings. They may need shelter from too much hot sunshine until they establish their root system. Snails and slugs can eat seedlings in a single night, so also use a pet- and wildlife-friendly, iron-based snail bait to protect new plants.
Jennifer's top 10 vegetables to plant in spring
I grow lots of different beans, choosing both climbing beans (grow climbers up a tepee or on a trellis) and bush beans (suitable for pots or the edge of a garden bed). I also grow beans to dry for eating during autumn and winter. Beans are easy to grow and crop heavily. Once the beans start to form, pick them daily as they taste best when they are young and tender. The exception is beans grown for drying (such as Borlotti or Scarlet Runner), which are left to mature and dry on the vine.
These vegetables are cheap to buy, but there’s a certain thrill when pulling up your own carrots. Carrots grow best from seed sown into the veggie patch and kept damp until the tiny seedlings germinate. Experienced gardeners place a board over freshly-sown carrots to help them to germinate without drying out. Carrots like free-draining, deep soil. Don’t add extra organic matter such as compost or manure as this can lead to forking. Thin out the row of seedlings to avoid over crowding. Baby carrots develop quickly and are a good choice for raised beds, troughs or impatient gardeners!
To me, nothing equals a freshly picked, home-grown cucumber for flavour and crunch. Our cucumbers find their way into sandwiches, salads and homemade tzatziki (yoghurt and cucumber dip). When there’s more than we can eat fresh, they are bottled as bread and butter cucumbers to eat later. Cucumbers are easiest to manage grown on a climbing frame or tepee. Where there’s not much space, grow cucumbers in a large pot (at least 40cm across) and train the vines up a climbing frame.
This delicious vegetable has pretty flowers and is very attractive to grow in the garden (or a container). It is usually trouble-free. There are varieties with small fruit which crop quickly. Grill eggplant on the barbecue or turn it into a delicious baba ganoush.
Some leafy green is a must in every veggie bed or container vegetable garden. Growing a range of loose-leaf lettuce with a selection of leaf shapes and colours makes for interesting salads. Traditional Iceberg lettuce can also be rewarding to grow. Plant some sort of lettuce as seed or seedling every few weeks so there’s always some to harvest and more growing.
They do take up a lot of room and need to grow for many months, but there’s something very satisfying about grabbing a garden fork and lifting your own spuds from the garden. There are many different varieties available, so you can grow something that perhaps you wouldn’t buy at the supermarket. Planted in early spring, there’s also a chance that you’ll be harvesting some early spuds to have as part of your Christmas or festive lunch.
Pumpkins often just appear in gardens as they grow so readily from seed. The combination of a rich, warm compost heap and a few seeds generally means rogue pumpkin vines that can take over the garden. These self-sown vines can also have some of the tastiest of fruit, but there are lots of pumpkin varieties available to grow from seed or seedling if the compost heap doesn’t produce its own vine. If space is at a premium, pumpkin vines can be trained to grow on a sunny fence or trellis (you may need to support the fruit as it ripens). This is a long-maturing crop that requires the appearance on the vine of both male and female flowers to enable fruiting. Keep plants well-watered and watch the small fruit develop through summer to harvest in autumn for roasts and soups. I also make pumpkin risotto and add pumpkin to scones and cakes. Pumpkins keep well.
This tall-growing vegetable also needs lots of space as it needs to be planted in blocks (at least a metre square) to give the best chance for the cobs to be fertilised as the wind blows pollen from the male parts of the plant. Sweet corn takes a while but when its cobs start to ripen, there’s nothing better to eat!
Tomatoes are often the first plant a new veggie gardener aspires to. It's little wonder - with so many different varieties available, the backyard can produce a smorgasbord of colour, size and flavour. I usually plant at least three varieties – sometimes many more – but my favourite is Black Russian. Give plants plenty of room to grow (follow the recommended plant spacings on the plant label or seed packet) and train them up a tall stake. Tomatoes need to be regularly watered and protected from late frosts in spring as well as hot spells. Begin feeding from when the yellow flowers appear. Protect from fruit fly with organic fruit fly baits, or for a fuss-free crop, grow cherry tomatoes. There are compact tomato varieties (look for Patio tomatoes) to grow in containers. Eat home grown tomatoes fresh or cook them up into sauces and chutneys.
I always plant too many zucchinis. These are generally the most bountiful of plants so you really need to love zucchini at every meal, have a big family, or lots of hungry friends if you plant more than three or four plants. If you do over plant, there are generally lots of zucchini recipes on social media so don’t despair! Zucchinis are spreading plants (observe the recommend spacings and give them plenty of space to grow). Keep plants well watered. The fruit tends to form in summer once the female flowers appear. Once they start, they mature rapidly so check and pick frequently. They are then harvested through summer and into autumn until the plant succumbs to powdery mildew and calls it a day.