In this post, we will go over 5 cold-weather crops that are super easy to grow. They are easy to plant, easy to care for, and are useful in the kitchen if it’s for cooking or fresh eating. If you are a beginning gardener, these are great crops to start with. If you are an experienced gardener, these are a go-to for starting your garden early.
Pssst… Come closer. I have a secret to tell you… I don’t like gardening in the Summer.
Here, I said it. Here in the South, Summers are wet as the ocean, humid as a sauna, hot as a furnace and don’t even start me on the bugs… Especially the mosquitos!
I still garden in the Summer, of course, but I much prefer the fall garden or the early spring garden. There are much fewer bugs, I don’t need to water almost at all, it’s nice and cool so working outside is easier, and it’s not as wet and humid as in the summer. Thankfully, there is a ton of cold-weather crops to grow in the spring and fall garden.
So, every year, in the fall or early spring, I plant a bunch of cold-weather crops in my raised garden beds. Some of them are not easy to grow, for example, cabbage or broccoli. Others are as simple as can be.
5 Easiest Cold Weather Crops to Grow in Your Spring or Fall Garden…
When I say “easy crops to grow”, I mean…
1. Easy to plant (can be direct seeded).
2. Can be started early (as soon as the soil can be worked).
3. No special soil requirements.
4. No pests (or almost no pests problems).
5. Useful in the kitchen and easy to handle.
6. Fast growing (less than 60 days).
Before I start down the list, let me remind you that I am gardening in the south, zone 7b. I believe those five crops will grow well and easy everywhere, but you might need to adjust planting times and care according to your climate.
Lettuce – who doesn’t like lettuce? The crisp, sweet leaves are the perfect base for every good salad and a must ingredient in most sandwiches.
lettuce seeds can be direct seeded as early as the soil can be worked (soil temperature around 40F) in the Spring, or when temperatures cool down a bit at the end of Summer.
Plant 8-10 inches apart. Yes, lettuce seeds are tiny, and it might be hard to space them correctly, but if to be honest, I don’t try too hard. I spread the seeds and pick young lettuces as they grow, making sure to leave a few spaced correctly so they can reach full size. I eat the young lettuces that I thin and they are delicious!
So in other words, I thin as the lettuce grow and enjoy the young harvest leaving a few lettuces to reach full size. It’s a great way to get more from a small garden.
Lettuce grows best at 60-65F and will be ready for harvest around 56 days. I plant lettuce in the middle of March and harvest the full-size lettuces in May, right when summer crops need to be planted.
I never had problems with pests when it comes to lettuce, and as long as you have decent soil you’ll get a great harvest. Of course, compost makes everything better so don’t hesitate to mix it into your soil before planting or add it around the plants later (I use worm castings).
Green Onion – sweet oniony flavor, thick shafts, no bulbs. Like lettuce, green onion is great in salads and sandwiches. It’s also used a lot in the Asian kitchen.
Green onion can be direct seeded in the garden as soon as the soil can be worked in early Spring or in late Summer when the air cools down slightly.
Those seeds are very small, but even though it says on the back of the seed packet to plant 1/4-1/2 inch apart, I never space green onion. I dig a trench about half an inch deep, sprinkle the seeds and cover them. They always grow great even if they touch each other.
Green onion takes 60 days to reach maturity. If you don’t have much space consider growing green onions in pots. You can even grow them inside the house during the winter (if you have good light). If you still have green onions in your garden at the end of Fall, make sure to cover them before the frost comes. They can last in the garden all Winter if covered.
I’ve never tried it but I’ve heard that you can place the bottom end (roots) of the green onions back in your garden and you’ll have a fresh batch of onions a few weeks later. Anyone has tried this?
Swiss Chard – this is one of my favorite crops to grow. You can’t find it in the grocery stores around here, once in a while I’ll see it at the farmer’s market. I am not sure why not many people eat chard, it may be the easiest of all crops to grow, and there are so many things you can do with those thick, mild, delicious leaves.
You can add them to salads, soups, pasta sauce, or make chard patties.
Chard can be planted as soon as you can work the soil in the spring, or at the end of Summer for Fall and Winter.
The seeds are pretty big, therefore, easy to handle. If you want very big leaves, plant the seeds 4-6 inches apart.
To plant, dig a trench 3/4 inch deep, space the seeds and cover them. They grow great even if they are close to each other.
You can harvest baby leaves at 28 days or let them grow bigger and harvest at 55 days. At harvest, don’t pull the plant out, just cut the big leaves, and others will keep growing (like with kale). It’s the plant that keeps giving. Chard will easily grow in pots as well.
Radish – there are so many kinds of radishes; small, round, long, white, red, both or in between. Some of them are mild and some sharp. I prefer the mild kind. I mainly add radish to salads, I think that you can also cook the radish leaves, and of course make pickles and such.
Seeds are small and round. Planting one inch apart for the small round verity in the picture is enough, but every verity is different so look at the back of your seed packet. Spacing is important with radishes!
Radishes sprout very fast and reach maturity within 30 days. It’s important not to leave them in the ground for too long, or the round root will split and they will become woody and bitter.
Radish will last forever in the refrigerator. If you grow enough in early Spring, you can store them in the fridge and enjoy them all Summer long. Then, plant some more at the end of Summer, harvest and store in the refrigerator or keep them covered in the garden and you can have radish all Winter long.
You might want to let some of your radish flower. The flowers are not only beautiful but also edible. You can add them to salads, soups, pasta or fish dishes.
Spinach – last but not least. There are so many ways to use those small, dark green leaves; add them to salads, soups, dough, pastries, sauces, pasta, and many other dishes. Or make those to-die-for spinach patties in cilantro and lemon sauce.
Spinach can be direct seeded in early spring or late summer. Plant half an inch deep. No special spacing or soil requirements.
Seeds are relatively large and easy to handle. You can harvest baby leaves between 3 to 5 weeks or let the leaves grow bigger for a couple more weeks. When harvesting, cut 1/2 inch above the soil line, the plant will keep growing and within a couple of weeks you’ll have fresh, new spinach.
These are regular plants in my garden. I plant them every year, in the spring and fall, and they never disappoint me. It’s very nice to start the growing season with easy crops, just to get things going. The benefit of growing them in the Fall is that they grow fast and reach maturity before the frost. If covered (here in the south) they last forever in the ground so you can eat from the garden all winter long.
Do you grow any of these? Do you find them easy?