Certain tough vegetable varieties should be planted early in the season and offer a quick reward.
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vegetables sprouting in garden bed
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Who doesn't love silver white winters that melt into spring? If you're an avid gardener, you know the thrill of this seasonal transition—watching the first round of your beloved buds poke through the warming earth is so special. But did you know that early spring is also a time to begin thinking about future harvests? That's right: Certain tough vegetable varieties should be planted early in the season. That doesn't mean that you can sow their seeds and walk away, though. There are a few ways to protect your young plants from dipping night temperatures. Covering plants with frost fabric and a heavy layer of cedar mulch can deter cold-induced damage. "This insulation should protect plants from a sudden dip in temperature," explains Ben Gordon, a landscape designer and the owner of Metropolitan Garden and Design, noting that raised beds and insulation barriers (such as rigid foam board) can also ward off frostbite; watering them regularly ("Heat is better retained in we soil," says Gordon) is also a good idea. As for which veggies are hardy enough to withstand your changing environment's ups and downs? Ahead, Gordon shares which vegetables should be placed in the earth during this time of year.

planting young lettuce garden bed
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Lettuce

To enjoy a series of salads in just a few months, you'll have to grow your lettuce—which is the very first vegetable that you can plant—ahead of time. According to Gordon, lettuce can be harvested once the plants are full-sized, which is why putting them into the ground early is a must if you'd like to serve a few leafy dishes towards the end of the season. Lettuce growing time, however, can vary depending on your planting zone, sun exposure, and type of plant. "Once the lettuce begins to mature, you can start harvesting the outer leaves so that leaves inside will continue to grow," notes Gordon. "This should lead to a harvest date of around April to May."

Bunch of fresh beetroot in garden
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Beets

Seven weeks after planting, beets can be harvested and used in a myriad of warm-weather recipes—so start early (this hardy variety can take it!). You'll know when it's time to pull beets when they reach two inches in diameter; they will sightly protruding from the soil, notes Gordon. Letting your beets grow any larger will lessen their flavor and texture, he adds.

Freshly picked radishes
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Radishes

Peter Rabbit isn't the only radish lover: Early garden growers love them, too. They have a quick growing turnaround, says Gordon, since gardeners can pick their bundles once they are an inch or so in diameter. Get them in the ground during the first week of spring to joy them by Easter.

planting spinach in garden
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Spinach

A fresh spinach salad makes for a wonderful light lunch or a healthy side to a tasty spring meal. Our expert advises picking your spinach—which can be planted early—once it has reached six inches, but before it bolts or its sprouts bloom. If your climate is mild, you can continue to grow spinach well into the fall and pluck its healthful leaves in the winter.

Woman with freshly picked green pea pods peeling and eating peas in vegetable garden
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Peas

As for the vegetable variety that has one of the quickest seed-to-food timetables? That would be peas, says Gordon. Perfect for the gardener who is anxious to eat from the earth, peas have a two- to three-week turnaround after their flowers appear. Get them growing early in spring to reap their sweet bounty in just a few weeks.

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