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Best Foods to Grow in Your Spring Garden

19 May 2023

The transition from cool, winter months to the warm, spring days usually means one thing for people who love the outdoors – it’s time to prep the garden. 

Even if you’re not a seasoned veteran with the garden fork, hand trowel and pruning shears, the beauty of planting a vegetable garden is that anyone can do it. We rounded up some of the best vegetables, fruits and herbs to grow in the spring. 

What to plant in your spring garden

Before planting a vegetable garden, you should know some basic terminology on what plants can withstand certain temperatures. Cool-season plants do best when the temperatures hover between 70 and 75 F, and warm-season plants usually require temperatures above 75 F.

Plants fall under one of our categories: hardy, half-hardy, tender or very tender. 

Cool-season vegetables

Hardy vegetables can survive a freeze or a frost.

  • Require three to six hours of sunlight
  • Grow best in cool weather
  • Examples include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard, kale, leeks, onions, peas, spinach and turnips. 

Half-hardy vegetables can survive a limited or light frost (for an hour or two). 

  • Require six hours of sunlight 
  • Grow best in moderate to cool weather 
  • Examples include beets, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, potatoes and swiss chard. 

Warm-season vegetables

Tender vegetables will die if a frost occurs and need warm weather to thrive.  

  • Require eight hours of sun 
  • Grow best in warm weather 
  • Examples include celery, corn, cucumber, summer squash and zucchini.  

Very tender vegetables can have their growth stunted in cooler temperatures. 

  • Require eight to 12 hours of sunlight
  • Grow best in very warm weather 
  • Examples include cantaloupe, eggplant, melons, okra, peppers, tomatoes and winter squash. 


What you decide to plant ultimately depends on when you plan to harvest in relation to the weather in your area. 

Vegetables like beets, carrots, potatoes, swiss chard and parsnips do well in warm weather but not in the severe heat of summer. By comparison, cucumber, squash and tomatoes are best planted in warm soil that occurs in late May. Bush beans, snap beans and sweet corn are somewhere in the middle, as these vegetables can be planted outdoors at the end of April or the beginning of May. 

Here are some of our favorite fruits, vegetables and herbs to add to your spring garden. 

Broccoli: This popular vegetable falls somewhere in the middle, as it doesn’t like weather that is too cold or too hot, making it ideal for spring planting and growth. Broccoli needs at least six hours of sunlight and prefers fertile, well-drained soil. 

Cucumbers: Late spring is the best time to plant cucumbers, as they thrive in sunlight and moist, fertile soil. Cucumbers need regular watering to avoid growing into irregular shapes and losing their taste. Be sure to give them room to grow, too. 

Eggplant: Late spring is the best time to plant eggplant. That way, the dark, they’re ready to harvest in time to hit the grill and to be featured in summer salads. Eggplants prefer abundant sunlight and fertile, well-drained soil. 

Okra: Okra is an easy plant to grow as it only requires sun and average moisture. Plant okra when evening temperatures are consistently in the 60s, as this plant needs warmer temperatures to flourish. Okra is a staple of Oklahoma farming because it can withstand stressful changes in weather. 

Peppers: Sweet peppers, especially red, orange and yellow bell peppers, are the most commonly planted pepper. However, jalapenos, anaheim and banana peppers are popular, too. Peppers grow slower than other vegetables and require warmer temperatures – they’re best suited for late spring when the soil temperatures are consistently above 55 F. They also prefer well-drained soil. 

Potatoes: April and May are ideal months to plant potatoes, as they root aggressively and need full sun to grow. When planting, choose loose, well-drained soil and be sure to keep potatoes covered with dirt as they grow – direct sunlight can make them taste bitter. 

Salad greens: Ideally, salad greens such as arugula, spinach, romaine, iceberg and frisée thrive in cooler temperatures of early spring, but you can still plant them even as the warm weather rolls in. Salad greens only need four to six weeks to grow for harvest, so you have more flexibility than other plants. Most salad greens prefer partial shade and well-drained, fertile soil. 

Squash: Squash is a summer staple for the grill or in salads, making it a strong choice to be planted in your spring garden. Squash needs full sun and prefers well-drained soil. Like cucumbers, some squash also need room to grow in your garden (bush summer squash and bush zucchini require less room). Bush squash are also preferred for a quicker harvest.

Sweet corn: The seeds of sweet corn need warmer soil to germinate, so mid-April to mid-May tends to be the best time to plant. Sweet corn likes full sun, with at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight, along with moist, well-drained soil. 

Tomatoes: Tomatoes are a spring and summer staple to pick fresh off the vine and add to your favorite dish. Tomatoes like sun and warm soil, which is why they’re ideal for a late spring planting. While heirloom tomatoes are popular and trendy, first-time growers may want to start with hybrid tomatoes as they are more disease resistant and provide more consistent crops. 


Most fruits grow on trees or bushes, so they won’t fit into your immediate spring gardening plans. You can still plant grapes, watermelons and strawberries, as these fruits grow on vines. 

Plus, aside from melon and strawberries, the spring months aren’t the best time to plant fruit – that’s usually reserved for the fall. You can still use this time to plant young trees and bushes that produce fruit. Examples include apple, pear and plum trees. 

  • Strawberry: There are many ways to grow strawberries, including in a pot or a raised bed. Just be sure they have six to 10 hours of sunlight and well-drained soil. 
  • Melons: Watermelon and cantaloupe or two common spring plants that become summer staples at picnics and get togethers. Melons need full sun and loose, well-drained soil to flourish. 


  • Basil: Of all herbs, basil plants prefer the warmest temperatures (above 75 F) and full sun. Plant basil in damp and moist soil. 
  • Cilantro: Cilantro prefers full sun or partial shade along with well-drained soil. 
  • Chives: Chives enjoy full sun or partial shade along with well-drained soil. 
  • Mint: Unlike other herbs, mint prefers less sun during the early spring. Be sure to keep the soil moist. 
  • Oregano: Oregano thrives in partial sun and well-drained soil. 
  • Parsley: Parsley prefers partial shade and well-drained soil. 
  • Rosemary: Rosemary can handle full sun but does best in cooler locations with shade and dry soil. 
  • Sage: Sage grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. 
  • Thyme: Thyme enjoys partial sun and well-drained soil. 

Benefits of growing your own produce

Easier on your wallet: In an era of healthy and mindful eating, organic fruits and vegetables are more popular than ever. But it comes at a cost. Check your local grocery store, and you’re likely to find organic options for double the price. For example, a pint of strawberries may cost $2. Make it organic and that same pint could be $4 or $5. Herbs tend to weigh even heavier on the wallet. In many cases, recipes you need fresh herbs for call for only a tablespoon or two, which leads to waste. It’s much easier and cost effective to snip herbs from the backyard to add to your favorite dish.  

You’re in control: Pesticides are a part of commercial farming – even organic produce is sprayed with organic products. But when you’re the grower, you control what goes on the plants. Use organic seeds and natural fertilizers to avoid harmful chemicals making their way to your table. 

Taste the difference: Plants contain natural sugars that convert to starches once harvested. Between packaging and distribution, some produce you buy at the store has been away from the farm for weeks. For example, if you picked a tomato off the vine at a farm, it would likely taste much sweeter and have more flavor than a tomato you’d buy at the store. 

For more lifestyle and health tips, visit the INTEGRIS Health For You blog.

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