Early Spring Vegetables in Zone 5 to Plant in March


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Wondering what spring garden vegetables to plant in March in zone 5b? You might not think there are any vegetables to plant in March, but depending on the weather – it might be possible.

While you’re waiting for the mud to dry up outside this spring, there are many chores you can be doing inside in March. Here’s a list of garden chores for zone 5 so you can do more than dream of gardening!

small spring vegetables in garden bed

Early Spring Vegetables in Zone 5

March is really still winter in Iowa. Basically in March, we’re waiting for the ground to thaw out, warm up, and dry up. Once the ground thaws there are a few vegetables to plant in March.

While you’re waiting for everything to warm up, get started with other spring chores. Starting now will give your garden a boost later in the season.

Vegetables to Plant in March

Which vegetables to plant in March depends substantially on your hardiness zone. My cold growing zone, 5b, will be a lot different from someone else’s more temperate zone. 

March is unpredictable and winter-ish in zone 5b, but some cool weather crops actually love this weather.

Prepare the seeds for cold weather crops. In zone 5, you can sow fast growing crops directly in the ground in March. As long as the ground is workable and the temperature has warmed to about 40F, you’ll be good to go.

  • Peas
  • Carrot 
  • Radish
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes

Cool season annuals such as pansies can be planted in March as well. Just make sure the soil has warmed up and is dry enough to work. Pansies can tolerate a light frost but will not survive significant freezing temperatures.

covered garden bed in a country garden

1. Use a Cold Frame for Spring Garden Vegetables

If the sun isn’t shining soon enough, use a cold frame to extend the growing season of your vegetable garden. Start cool season vegetables like lettuce, spinach, and other spring greens in the cold frame. Soon you’ll be harvesting yummy greens for your dinner table.

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early spring vegetables in garden bed in zone 5

2. Make New Garden Beds

If you garden in beds, or would like to start, now is the perfect time to make new garden beds while you still have time. This is something you could have been working on all winter, too. You might also want to cover a couple of your garden beds to keep pests out and extend the growing season. This tutorial will help you easily cover your garden beds.

The nice thing about gardening in beds is they are usually ready to go before the ground. You don’t have till garden beds and you can put down plastic to help warm up the soil. If you don’t garden in beds, I recommend trying one out this year!

3. Prep the Garden Beds for Peas

Hopefully, the ground will have thawed and begin to warm very soon. Once it’s dry, usually by the middle to end of the month, go ahead and remove winter mulch and add a layer of leaf compost to your beds. Mix everything up nicely and as soon as the outside temps are warm enough, go ahead and plant those peas! 

Peas are easy to grow and do best when the temperature is in the 55 – 70 degree range, as early as 12 weeks before the last frost date. Germinating peas can tolerate temperatures as low as high 20s, but temperatures in the teens are to much for them and will kill them. Watch your forecast closely when planting those first early crops! Learn more about peas at The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

woman kneeling holding soil in her hands for testing

4. Test the soil

Now’s also the time to test your garden soil so you know what nutrients need to be added before the growing season starts. You can send a soil sample to a university extension office for a fee – or you can buy a kit and test your own.

5. Organize your garden seeds

If you haven’t already done this, now is the perfect time to inventory and organize your garden seeds. Make sure you have everything you need to get going and order whatever else you might need. You can read all about my favorite garden seed organizer here. I love it so much!

6. Start your seedlings

March is the time to start most of your garden seed indoors. Most seedlings need 6-8 weeks before the last frost date to grow big enough for planting. With an average last frost date of May 15, that’s right around the corner. Get my best tips and seed starting supply list here. I also have tips for starting indoors broccoli and other pesky brassicas – which can be a tricky type of seedling to start.

March is time to start the following seedlings:

  • broccoli
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • tomatoes
  • eggplant
  • peppers
  • flowers
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7. Plan your garden!

If you haven’t planned out your garden, this is also the time to finalize your garden plan and draw it out. It’s important to draw it out so you can remember from year to year what you plant where.

Remember that you need to rotate crops so keeping track is pretty important. Here are my best garden planning tips to help you out. Grab my free garden planting guide here so you know exactly when to plant what!

simplifylivelove garden planner free printable

Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog for my free downloadable garden planner and all the the other goodies in my subscriber library!

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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  1. Hi Michelle,

    Over here in SW PA we’re in a similar boat. Still getting snow and cold temps but a few nice days in the 50s and 60s throughout the month. Still, I can’t wait to get out and clean up and start the season. Looking forward to sharing garden ideas with the group this season.

    1. Did you get the big snow that hit the midwest last week, Patti! I’m looking forward to the group too. 🙂

  2. I’m so behind on my planting this year it’s been so wet. But our garden is covered and I’m hoping it will dry out soon. I’m hoping to get my seedlings started soon.

  3. Dave just planted broccoli and kale last weekend out under his cold frames. We hope it warms up and dries out so they make it. We are so far behind this year. Even the grass and weeds are behind and that never happens!

    1. OH! How fun for the grass and weeds to be behind. LOL! I haven’t checked on my garden since getting back from Germany. I scared over what I’ll find out there.

  4. Yep, and interesting start to the gardening year everywhere I think – early warmth in some areas, blizzard in the east and more rain than we know what to do with (and that’s saying something!) in the west. 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration – here’s to a great season!

    1. I’m looking forward to Tuesdays in the Garden again, Jami!! It’s so much fun collaborating with you. 🙂

  5. Hey Michelle! This is such a great list you have compiled. We are still dealing with snow in NE as well. It’s making me antsy to get outside! I always say I’m going to test my soil, but I never do. This will change, thank you for the small push! You & I have similar seed organization methods. This is the perfect time to get everything in order! I’m planning out everything as we speak with the storm raging outside. Nothing like a few seed catalogs to keep me dreaming!

    1. I’ve never done it either. Definitely doing so this year, Angie!! 🙂 I’m looking forward to another year of gardening with you.

  6. Great tips to get us ready for another gardening season. Like Angie said in her comment, I always say I’m going to get my soil tested and have yet to do it. I really need to do that pronto!

    1. I need to have my soil tested too. I’ve honestly never done it. Sounds like a great blog post. 🙂

  7. Hello Michelle, I love gardening very much because it’s gives fresh fruits to eat, air to breath. I always spend my spare time in the garden. Thanks for sharing suc a great tips for my lovely garden.