Although the growing season in spring is a favorite amongst most vegetables, there are cold-tolerant veggies you can direct sow in February for well-developed seedlings in spring. Below are a few seeds to start in late winter for Mid-Atlantic residents.
Many onion varieties are cold-hardy, but some are known as “winter onions,” which have a higher tolerance for very cold or even freezing temperatures. Planting winter onion seeds between late winter and mid-spring will help jumpstart growth for harvests in midsummer through the fall. Onions can germinate at temperatures as low as 35 °F but typically achieve a faster and higher germination rate at temperatures over 50 °F. Additionally, because onions are shallow-rooted vegetables, they should be protected with a layer of mulch in colder areas of the Mid-Atlantic region that experience hard freeze (when temperatures drop below 28 °F for an extended period of time).
When root vegetables like carrots, beets, and turnips remain in the ground over winter, cold temperatures cause the produce to experience chill-sweetening. This process converts starches into sugar to prevent freezing from a light frost (28-32 °F ), but it will not occur if the ground is completely frozen. This unique frost defense mechanism causes the root vegetables to have a sweet taste when harvested. Plan to harvest carrots in early spring and before the crop flowers. After the vegetable has flowered, it will become inedible.
Because lettuce seeds can germinate in temperatures as low as 35 °F, their cold tolerance helps to outlast winter frost and initiate the growing process when temperatures rise again. In addition, lettuce is known for being an easy vegetable to grow because it matures quickly, is tolerant of poor weather conditions, and can thrive in plots as small as 6 inches wide and 6 inches deep. For the best chance at leafy spring growth, the key is to select frost-tolerant lettuce varieties and pair them with a cold weather protector, cold frame, polytunnel, or mini hoop tunnel.
It’s never too early to prepare for the growing season. Planting veggie seeds such as lettuce, carrots, and onions gives the vegetables the best chance to germinate and sprout as healthy seedlings in spring. For more year-round garden and landscaping tips, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram.