Starting a vegetable garden? Here's what to plant now

Get a jump on your vegetable garden with these crops that do well in spring.

vegetable garden
(Image credit: Getty Images)

April is an ideal time to start planting your vegetable garden, whether you've got a patch prepped in the backyard, or you're going for a container vegetable garden on a porch or patio.

Of course, not all vegetables can be sowed already, so stick to the ones that prefer cooler soil and tend to wilt or bolt before the heat sets in. Here, we've listed the best vegetables to plant in April, plus a few that do well in May, too.

Know your zone

frost zones

(Image credit: USDA)

The exact time you decide to plant your vegetables will depend on the zone you live in. The USDA divides the country into hardiness zones based on the date of the first and last frost and the local climate, which influence the ideal planting times for different vegetables. 

Zone 3 is the northern most part of the country, where tempertures are the coolest and the last frost date happens the latest. Zones 9-10 on the other hand are the warmest and where the last frost happens the earliest. 

Here are a few last frost dates for zones in the northern part of the country (many in the south will have already seen the last frost).

Zone 3

Last frost: May 1-16

Zone 4

April 24 – May 12

Zone 5

April 7-30

Zone 6

April 1-21

What to plant in your vegetable garden in spring

The below plants can be planted right around (or before) the last frost.

Lettuce

Lettuce is one of our favorite things to grow at home, and April is the ideal time to plant because lettuce prefers cooler temperatures (though not outright cold, so shoot for after the last frost in your area). Lettuce is hardy, and looseleaf and butterhead lettuce grow quickly, too, so you could see your first crop in as little at 30 days.

Buttercrunch lettuce | $.75/packet or $5.99/oz. at Direct Gardening

This buttercrunch lettuce can be planted now, but tolerates hot weather, and is slower to flower than other types.View Deal

Spinach

Jazz up that salad with spinach, too. Spinach, like lettuce, will flower (or bolt) once the weather gets warmer, which causes the leave to turn bitter.  So plant now and enjoy in about 30 days.

Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach | $5.99/oz at Direct Gardening
This quick-growing spinach will be ready to eat in about 39 days. View Deal

Beets

Beets can be planted before your last frost if you're starting from seeds, which means now is the prime time for many areas in the northern half of the U.S. (or zones 3-6). 

Detroit Dark Red Beet | $4.29/oz at Direct Gardening

Plant now and enjoy in under two months. These beets take about 58 days to mature. View Deal

Carrots

Carrots are another hardy root vegetable that prefers cooler soil temperatures. Their planting schedule is similar to beets, which means now is ideal for northern planting zones.

Sweetness II Hybrid Carrot | $4.39 at Direct Gardening

Want to try something a little different? This hybrid carrot is sweeter than the standard variety.View Deal

Cabbage

Cabbage is one of the easier, lower-maintenance vegetables to grow at home, so give it a try if this is your first time starting a vegetable garden at home.

Flat Dutch Cabbage | $4.29 at Direct Gardening

The average Flat Dutch Cabbage weight around 12 lbs, and it's the largest of all cabbage varieties. View Deal

What to plant in May

While there are plenty of crops you can start in on now, it's still to early to plant a number of vegetables. However, if you're planning to order your vegetable seeds or starter plants online, you may want to order the plants now so you have them ready to go as soon as it's OK to plant them outside. Here are a few that do well in late April and early May depending on your zone. 

Tomatoes

Tomatoes should be planted a couple of weeks after the first frost, which puts timing at late April to mid-May depending on where you live. 

Roberta's 6-Piece Vegetalis Patio Tomatoes | $29.40 at QVC

This package contains beefsteak, a slicer, and yellow cherry tomato plants, and is ideal for container or hanging gardens. View Deal

Bush Beans

Bush beans prefer a warmer soil, so plant once temperatures are no longer dropping below 50 degrees at night. 

Cucumbers

Cucumbers also prefer slightly warmer soil, which means your cukes should be planted two weeks after the last frost at the very earliest. 

Roberta's 4-Piece Patio Petipikel Cucumber & Dill Collection | $17.64 at QVC

Love pickles?  This cucumber and dill grow kit is for you! IT comes with both, and is perfect for planting in your container garden or outside in your vegetable patch.View Deal

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