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Late spring might mean warm weather in Florida for an afternoon at the beach or watching the last of the snowmelt in the mountains. Because there are numerous climates in the United States, the selection of the best collection of late spring vegetables often depends on the last frost date for the area. Like Wisconsin is challenging, we have frost in May!
In general, the best late spring vegetables are those that can be planted when the weather is cool and harvested before the hot summer days arrive.
Best Late Spring Vegetables to Grow
For a large portion of the continental United States, the date of the last frost, with temperatures dipping below 32 degrees, occurs between March and May. Cool-season vegetables can often tolerate mild to moderate frost between 25 and 32 degrees F. Therefore, once the last date of severe frost (24 degrees and colder) has passed, quick-growing cool-season vegetables can be planted outside.
Spinach and Swiss Chard
Spinach is a favorite cool-season crop. It bolts (goes to seed) when the temperature turns hot. Spinach requires approximately 40 days to reach maturity, depending on the variety. If spinach is planted on April 1, it should be ready to harvest in mid-May. Swiss Chard, another cool-season plant, will take 55 days or more to mature but will continue to produce in hot weather.
Spinach is great both raw or cooked and Swiss chard in an incredible addition to most baked meals like quiches or cooked greens.
These are probably my favorite of all the Late Spring Vegetables. There are many varieties of lettuce, ranging from the Red Sails, loose-leaf lettuce with bronze leaves to the Black-Seeded Simpson, a loose-leaf variety with curly green leaves. Most loose-leaf lettuce varieties grow well in cool weather and take 40 or more days to reach maturity.
I could talk for days about salads, homemade salad dressings, and spring mixes of lettuce - but will spare you the lecture!
Root Crops like Radishes, Beets, and Carrots
There are several root crops that grow well during the late spring. Radishes, beets, and carrots tolerate cool spring weather, and some varieties are mature by summer. Most radishes can be harvested in about a month, while beets take 50 or more days to mature.
Beets are one of my favorite things to plant and pickle to be able to enjoy year round! It is super easy to do: How To Make Pickled Beets
Carrots are slow to germinate and, depending on the variety, may take 60 to 75 days to reach maturity. Often radish seeds are planted along with carrot seeds. The radishes sprout quickly and mark the rows while the carrots take two weeks or longer to germinate.
Late Spring Vegetables: Peas
Peas are a cool-season crop, and there are several types to choose from. Pod peas require shelling and mature in about 65 days. Snap and snow peas have edible pods, and some varieties mature slightly faster than the pod or shell peas.
I am not a fan of having to shell peas and prefer the edible pods fr everything from salads to a quick stir fry.
Broccoli and Cabbage
Broccoli and cabbage grow well in cool weather. To get a head start, broccoli and cabbage plants can be started in a greenhouse or cold frame and transplanted to the garden when the danger of severe frost has passed.
There are some varieties that can be harvested in as little as 50 or 60 days. Some varieties of broccoli are heat tolerant, and side shoots can be harvested throughout the summer.
OK, these are two that are possibly the hardest to digest and are often avoided by seniors. Sadly, they have a ton of nutrition and are a GOOD thing to eat.
Cabbage keeps for MONTHS in your fridge - you just have to peel an outer layer off occasionally. We started adding it to our garden when we hosted a Ukrainian child of Chernobyl a few years back and got their family recipe to Traditional Stuffed Cabbage Leaves.
There are a variety of vegetables that can be successfully grown during the late spring in many parts of the United States.