Home » Spring vegetables to plant in Virginia in 2021. A Fancy Boy Guide.
broccoli, kale and other greens in a raised bed of spring vegetables in Virginia

Spring vegetables to plant in Virginia in 2021. A Fancy Boy Guide.

It’s Spring in Virginia, or close enough that it makes no difference to me. And we all know what that means, It’s time to plant vegetables!

For the past few years, I’ve been cultivating a set of raised beds in my backyard. I compost and try to plant a few different harvests throughout the summer, but for some reason, I’ve never been on time with my spring plantings. I end up with middling batches of radishes and peas, that end up taking too long, interfering with my summer crops.

This year, I set calendar alarms to help remind me to get going and made sure to get my veggies in the ground early enough to enjoy the largest harvest possible. While there are a lot of vegetables to plant, I try to separate my plantings into spring and summer harvests, and as such I spend a lot of time thinking about what spring vegetables to plant in Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic.

lettuces in a raised bed of spring vegetables in virginia
lettuces in my raised bed!

Need planting info? Check out the Virginia Cooperative Extension!

Planting spring veggies is easy once you know what to look for. Whether your planting from seed or using starters from a local farm or home/garden center it’s important to have a good idea of what veggies do well early in the season and which ones you’ll want to save for later.

One of the best places to start your research is with The Virginia Cooperative Extension. The Agricultural Extension Office is an organization in each state dedicated to the success of farming and ag. At its heart, the Agricultural Extension program is concerned with the application of scientific research and new techniques to agricultural processes through farmer education.

Whether you’re looking for information on pest avoidance, soil management, animal husbandry or looking to participate in 4h, The Virginia Cooperative Extension is the place to be!

Spring Vegetables to plant in Virginia.

ground level photo of spring vegetables in Virginia growing in a raised bed
broccoli, kale and other greens growing in my raised bed

Now that we’ve identified a great resource for you to rely upon in your gardening adventures lets talk about what spring veggies you should be thinking about getting in the ground if you lif in Virginia or the Mid-Atlantic.

I like to think of the spring veggies as the green veggies. While that’s a pretty reductive way to look at all the awesome spring veggie options out there, it’s also pretty accurate. My spring plantings always revolve around lettuces, peas, brassicas, and radishes as well as some fresh herbs.

Personally, I overplant lettuces and greens in spring for a number of reasons, but the biggest one is to help fix excess nitrogen from my fertilizing process. I compost heavily, I have several different compost bins I use to collect all the leaves and sticks on my property as well as kitchen veg waste and garden detritus. Throughout the year I turn the compost to help break down the vegetable matter, and after a year or so I’m left with perfect, rich, black gardening soil that’s packed with nitrogen.

High nitrogen garden soil helps your vegetables grow lush, bright green leaves, but it prevents fruiting vegetables from growing large, generous veggies. To fight this you need to plant nitrogen-fixing vegetables, or crops that love high nitrogen soil and will soak up all that excess nitrogen as they produce incredibly greens, like lettuces, kale, spinach, broccoli, or peas!

Once my spring veggies have fixed all the nitrogen in my soil, I’ll be ready to plant my supper crops which include fruiting veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, and peppers!

Because spring often has colder temperatures through Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic I stay away from high heat veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and peppers. These veggies I’ll start later in the season in starter trays. This way once I harvest my lettuces, peas, and greens, I’ll have my summer planting already started and ready to go!

If you are planting a spring garden in Virginia this year consider trying these vegetables in your garden!

  • English Peas
  • Snow Peas
  • Snap Peas
  • Lettuces
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels Sprouts

Which is better, plant starters or a seed packet?

I have had a lot of success using plant starters and starting my garden directly from seed. If you plan on starting your garden from seed, it’s important to wait until after the last frost has occurred before planting. Obviously, this is hard to predict because weather, especially weather in the Mid-Atlantic/Tidewater is prone to change at the drop of a hat and a late-season freeze is always a possibility. There are a number of things you can do to help keep your garden safe during inclement weather during the spring, but we’ll talk about that in a second.

When looking at planting either seeds or starters it’s always important to consider which Planting Zone you are in. Virginia’s “Growing and Hardiness Zones” range from 5a to 8a, but the vast majority of the state between 6a-7a. Planting zones or Growing and Hardiness Zones are a way to describe which plants or agriculture are suited to a specific area and help to provide guidelines for planting and care of different species.

On the back of your seed packet, you will see recommendations for planting based upon geographic location and this corresponds directly to your planting zone. I’ve usually found that following the advice on your seed pack is never a bad idea. Most of the spring veggies I planted this year recommended direct sowing after March 18th and starting starter trays indoors as early as February 21st.

For my garden this year I chose a blended approach to my planting. I direct sowed pea seed on the perimeter of my raised beds, while planting lettuces, greens, and brassicas like broccoli and cauliflower on the inside areas. By using a blended method, I’m able to ensure I have lettuces and veggies available sooner but also get the joy of growing veggies from seed.

I purchased my starters from a local farm specializing in plant starters for farmers and gardeners, but you can always find great options at your local farmers’ market or home/garden center. Next year I intend to start my own veggie plants earlier in the season, by the middle of February so I can get even more value from my plantings and have more control over my vegetable selection.

Protecting your garden from inclement weather.

Planting in the spring is always a gamble. The earlier you plant the bigger the risk you run of having your crops ruined by a late-season storm or hard freeze, not to mention the results of too much rain early in planting.

This year I took the following steps to prevent disaster, and thanks to some quick thinking and preventative measure I’m on my way to the best spring garden harvest I’ve ever had!

1. Pay attention to the weather.

This sounds simple but it was definitely an adjustment for me this year. Usually, I plant a garden and promptly ignore the weather forecast, often resulting in easily prevented disasters. This year I checked the weather twice a day, keeping my eye on things like overnight lows and potential inclement weather like snow or sleet. By paying more attention to upcoming weather patterns I’ve been able to avoid issues and save my veggies from potential damage!

2. Build a hoop house.

I’ve considered building a make-shift hoop house in the past to help keep my vegetables safe from low overnight temperatures and sleet/snow, but I’ve never gotten out of the planning phase, or at least that was until this year.

Last week I saw in the forecast that it was calling for snow and sleet as well as overnight lows below freezing. To prevent any potential damage, I decided to throw together a quick hoop house. I purchased 1/2″ inch wide by 10′ foot long PVC pipes and placed them in my garden by planting their ends on each side of my raised bed creating a PVC semi-circle spanning the width of the bed. I then covered the hoop frame with 1 mil drop cloths and tied them at the end to secure them over the garden surface. This created a pocket of warmer air that helped keep the veggies safe from low temps and sleet/snow.

I liked the results of my hoop house so much that I am going to leave the hoops up and next year replace the 1 mil drop cloth with a thicker 6 mil barrier. I intend to use the warmer garden space to start plant starters earlier in the season!

raised bed garden with a hoop house constructed from pvc and drop cloth for spring vegetables in virginia

Final thoughts.

No matter how big your garden or how varied your plantings, gardening is all about enjoying nature and having fun. I have had a lot of successes throughout my gardening career, and I’ve had just as many if not more failures. The best thing about gardening, for the most part, you always get another chance, and experience compounds year on year. So, if your planning on planting spring vegetables in Virginia, go grab a pack of seeds and get your hands dirty!

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