February can feel like limbo land for many gardeners: the coldest parts of winter are gone, but it’s not quite spring. Even if you have a couple months until your last frost date, you can still start many different seeds indoors to prepare for transplanting.
In zones 8 and colder, crops with a long maturity benefit from a head start indoors in late winter. In zones 9 and warmer, February is prime time for direct sowing cool-weather crops like greens, brassicas, and roots.
What Can I Plant in February?
The best crops to plant in February are cold-hardy greens, roots, alliums, and brassicas. You can also begin warm-weather crops in pots inside. In zones 9 and warmer, it is safe to direct sow many spring plants like carrots, cilantro, and peas outdoors.
In zones 5-8, start long-season crops like tomatoes and peppers indoors in a greenhouse or under grow lights. In zones 2-4, February is usually too early to start anything except leeks, onions, or slow-germinating perennial seeds.
Gourmet Baby Greens Mesclun Lettuce Seeds
Cabernet Bulb Onion
Cabernet Bulb Onion Seeds
Easter Egg Blend Radish Seeds
14 Seeds to Plant in February
In most parts of the country, February still feels like winter. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait to establish your garden. Even if your garden is still cold and mucky, you can start many seeds indoors in February to prepare for an abundant spring. Here are 14 seeds to plant in February based on your growing zone.
Pro Tip: Keep your estimated last frost date and soil thermometer handy to determine the best times for planting. You can count backward on your calendar from your estimated last frost date to determine the best indoor seeding date for long-season crops. If you want to directly sow seeds in the garden, put your soil temperature probe 2-6” in the soil to check if your beds are sufficiently warm for planting.
The quickest and easiest way to enjoy fresh vegetables in the early spring is to seed baby greens. From gourmet mesclun mix to baby lettuce to baby kale, these greens can be harvested in as little as 20-30 days for a quick, nutritious crop while the rest of your garden beds are still waking up. Zones 9 and warmer can seed baby greens mixes directly in the garden. Zones 8 and cooler may want to start these blends under cover in greenhouses or in tray flats under grow lights. If you have a bright south-facing window, you can grow baby greens there as well.
Baby greens can include any leafy vegetable species that you harvest at an immature point. Sprouts are technically harvested at the cotyledon stage just after the seeds emerge. Microgreens are harvested a few days after when they develop 1-2 sets of true leaves.
For slightly larger baby greens, wait until the leaves are 4-6” tall. Grab a handful of greens and use sharp, sanitized shears to cut about an inch above the soil line. This harvest method is called “cut and come again” because it leaves the growing tips intact so you can get multiple harvests from the same planting. Keep watering the bed, and you can enjoy another flush of greens a few weeks after the first harvest.
Temperature: Most baby greens require soil temperatures of at least 40°F (4°C).
Seeding Rate: Broadcast seed or scatter-sow baby greens seeds right on the surface of the soil or just ⅛” deep. If you cover with soil, only use a light dusting of vermiculite or a fine soil blend.
Allow the seeds to germinate, then thin to at least ½-1” between plants. It’s okay to plant baby greens very close together, but you don’t want them so overcrowded that the plants are unable to develop nice-sized baby leaves.
From snow peas to sugar snap peas, these delicious legumes are surprisingly cold hardy. In early spring, pea seeds are eager to pop up in chilly gardens. These plants enjoy the cool weather and can be directly seeded as soon as 4-6 weeks before your average last frost date. They emerge in just 5-10 days and can be ready to harvest as soon as April. Try ‘Sugar Magnolia’ snap peas or ‘Oregon Sugar Pod’ snow peas.
Temperature: Sugar peas can tolerate soil temperatures as cold as 40°F (4°C), but 60°F (16°C) is ideal. If your soil is frost-free and workable, these hardy plants can grow in a bit of chill. But if the soil is still frozen outside, it’s best to delay your pea planting. I sometimes start peas indoors, but only when I can transplant them out within a few weeks.
Seeding Rate: Sow pea seeds at twice the depth of their dimensions. For most peas, 1” deep is sufficient. Leave about 2” of space between plants. If trellising, install the trellis first and sow a row of peas on each side. The most successful pea crops I’ve had were grown on a simple trellis of T-posts and Hortonova flower netting. The cute little curly-q tendrils will reach up and grab onto the trellis, allowing the plants to grow upward for an easy harvest in the spring.
An earlier start means bigger bulbs! Many onions take up to 100 days to mature, so a headstart in indoor pots is extremely useful for ensuring a robust yield. If you garden in the colder regions of the north, starting early is especially important to ensure you have plenty of time for onions to mature by autumn.
Most onion varieties should be sown indoors around February or 8-10 weeks before your average last frost. For extra large onions, you can sow 10-12 weeks before your last frost date. I prefer to start onions indoors because you can trim back the tops to encourage stronger root formation. Moisture is essential for a successful onion crop, so don’t let the young plants dry out.
Remember that onions are predominantly daylight-sensitive plants. This means they only form bulbs based on the amount of sunshine they receive during their growing season. Seed packets will usually include a label of the onion type. Choose the best type of onion for your climate:
- Short-day onions: Best for warmer regions (zones 7 and warmer) because the onions start bulbing when they receive 10-12 hours of sun per day.
- Long-day onions: Best for cooler regions (zones 6 and colder) because bulbing is triggered when day length reaches 14-16 hours.
- Day-neutral onions: Many modern hybrids will form bulbs regardless of day length and work in any region.
‘Cabernet’ is an incredible red onion with intermediate day length that performs best in latitudes 32-42.
Temperature: A minimum soil temperature of 45°F (7°C) is necessary for germination, but onions do best when the soil temperature in the cell trays is at least 60°F (16°C).
Seeding Rate: Plant onions in 144 cell trays or in rows in open-cell flats. Aim for a group of 2-3 seeds every 4”. You can also sow in clusters and transplant apart once the onions reach pencil-thickness.
Onions take 7-15 days to emerge and are best thinned to 1 plant every 2-4”. When the plants reach 6-8” tall, you can give them a haircut with scissors to promote stronger root formation.
This less-popular onion family member offers far more than potato-leek soup. Leeks have a buttery, rich, oniony flavor that lends well to everything from sautes to roasts to tarts to crispy leek taco toppings. I especially like growing leeks because they are slow to mature.
You plant them in early spring, provide some water, and basically forget about them until they form fat, blanched stalks ready to harvest in the fall. It helps to “hill up” leeks by mounding soil near the base of the plants to help them form a more tender white-blanched bottom. You can use the entire plant for cooking, but the buried white part is the most prized in cooking. If you want to hold leeks in the ground for late fall and early winter harvests, they can tolerate down to 20°F (-7°C)!
Sow mid-season leeks like ‘King Richard’ indoors about 8-10 weeks before your estimated last frost. Long-season leeks that take more than 100 days to mature can be planted 10-12 weeks before your last frost date. For zones 6-8, February is the perfect time to plant leeks in cell trays in your greenhouse or windowsill.
Temperature: Seeds require at least 40°F (4°C) to germinate, with more rapid germination around 60-85°F (16-29°C). While the plants are very cold hardy once mature, young leeks benefit from warm soils during establishment.
Seeding Rate: Sow leeks in the same way as onions. You can use cell trays or open flats. Plant a group of 2-3 seeds every 6”, planting each seed about ¼” deep. Once the plants reach 4-6” tall, trim them back by half to encourage stronger root growth. Transplant or up-pot when they are about the thickness of a pencil.
Mache (Corn Salad)
Sometimes nicknamed “lamb’s lettuce” “corn salad,” mâche (Valerianella locusta) is among the most underrated tender spring greens. The delicate, sweet, and nutty flavor of this winter green is a pleasant surprise in the earliest days of spring when very little is growing in cold climates.
Mâche is surprisingly cold hardy and can germinate in cold soils. Mature plants can handle frigid temperatures down to the single digits. In zones 7 and warmer, you can plant it outside in February as long as your soil is workable. In colder zones, I prefer to start indoors or direct seed in a covered low tunnel or cold frame.
This plant is nicknamed corn salad because it was a common winter weed in European corn fields. The green is well-known in British, German, and French cuisine, often considered superior to spring lettuce.
It also earned the nickname “Rapunzel lettuce” based on a German fairy tale about a pregnant mother who was craving a vegetable (mâche) that was growing in the neighbor’s garden. The woman’s husband broke into the neighbors garden to steal the Rapunzel lettuce, but the neighbor was a witch. When the child was born, the mother named her Rapunzel after the lettuce. But the witch kidnapped and imprisoned her in a tower. We all know how the rest of that fairy tale goes… (Spoiler alert: She lets down her hair.) Perhaps a diet rich in the nutrients of mâche lettuce helped her grow such a strong mane!
Temperature: In zones 7 and warmer, direct sow ‘Big Seeded Mache’ in your garden in February. In zones 6 and colder, wait until 4-6 weeks before your expected last frost date. The ideal germination temperature for this cool-climate crop is 40-60°F (4-16°C). Use a soil probe to check your garden beds before planting. Typically, if the soil is workable, it is safe to plant mâche.
Seeding Rate: Plant seeds ¼” to ½” deep under a light dusting of soil. Group 2-3 seeds every 4” in rows 12” apart. When the plants are a few inches tall, thin to 1 plant every 4”. You can selectively harvest leaves or pull whole plants as needed. The “cut and come again” method works if you leave the growing tip in place while carefully cutting.
This cold-weather classic is a vital addition to any February garden. Whether you prefer the crinkly ‘Lacinato’ dinosaur kale, the classic green ‘Curly’ or the uniquely textured ‘Red Russian,’ all kale is cold-hardy and ready to take off in the early spring. If you can’t choose a kale, you could always sow a delightful ‘Premier Kale Blend’ as baby greens.
Warm-climate gardeners in zones 9 and warmer should take advantage of February as the prime time for growing this cool-climate crop. If you plant it too late, the leaves may become bitter from the heat.
For zones 8 and colder, you can seed kale indoors about 5-6 weeks before your expected last frost date. This will provide you with robust transplants to move outside as soon as the soil is workable.
Temperature: Kale prefers to germinate in soils around 65-86°F (18-30°C), but it can handle colder weather if it is provided with some protection, such as row cover or mulch.
Seeding Rate: Start kale indoors in 4-cell or 6-cell trays with a well-drained potting mix. Sow 1-2 seeds per cell about ¼” deep and thin to a single strong plant after germination. In the garden, you can direct sow or transplant with at least 12-18” of space between each plant in every direction.
Properly spaced kale is the gift that keeps on giving; you plant it once and harvest the side leaves all summer long. Just be sure you don’t overcrowd or overwater this popular brassica.
This notorious winter green is perfect for early spring plantings because it prefers cold soils and reliably germinates in chilly February weather in most zones. As long as the soil is workable, you can probably plant spinach. If your garden is still frozen, spinach is still a good crop to start indoors in plug trays to prepare for March transplanting. Row cover is a great way to protect young plants from harsh nighttime temperatures.
Temperature: Spinach will germinate in soils as cold as 45°F (7°C), but they come up more reliably when the soil is 60-70°F (16-21°C). Once established, these plants can handle temperatures as low as 12°F (-11°C). However, they will grow much more slowly in cold weather, particularly if your region doesn’t get as much sun in the late winter.
Seeding Rate: For the quickest harvest, grow spinach for baby leaves. Sow 3-5 seeds every inch in rows 2” apart, or broadcast sprinkle the seeds over a raised bed, cold frame, or open flat tray indoors. If you prefer larger leaves for salads or sautés, sow one seed per cell in cell trays or one plant every 2” in rows 12” apart. Spinach seeds should be planted about ½” deep, or twice the largest dimension of the seed.
Sometimes called “miner’s lettuce,” claytonia is a unique spring green with a high content of vitamin C. It is said that miners would eat the leaves to prevent scurvy. Also known as “spring beauty” or Claytonia cordifolia, this delicate plant is native to Western North American forests. It is a member of the purslane family, so it has succulent, juicy leaves that taste incredible in early spring salads.
The heart-shaped claytonia leaves and delicate white flowers are edible and have a slightly tangy, refreshing flavor. The plants naturally grow in moist soils near streams. They thrive in cold mountain environments and can be planted as early as February in most zones.
Temperature: Claytonia germinates best in cold soils. You can direct seed it as soon as the soil is workable or up to 6 weeks before your average last frost date. If you fall in love with the lemony flavor of these succulent leaves, be sure to sow early because the plants will die back in warmer weather.
Seeding Rate: Sow claytonia seeds in partial shade about ¼” deep with only a light dusting of soil. Space them about ½” apart in rows 4-6” apart so they can grow into moderately sized rosettes. Transplanting is not recommended because this wild plant dislikes root disturbance. Fortunately, the seeds germinate quickly (sometimes in less than a week!) as long as they have ample moisture.
A close relative of kale and mustards, arugula has a distinctive peppery taste that is less intense in cold weather. If you don’t like the harsh mustard flavor, grow arugula in the spring because it becomes spicier in the heat. It is also prone to bolting (going to flower) when the weather warms. This cold-tolerant green does best in the cool season and germinates well in chilly February soils outdoors or under cover.
If you live in zones 6 through 10, you can easily direct sow arugula in your garden throughout late winter and early spring. In zones 5 and cooler, wait until the soil is workable or try winter sowing in a milk jug. Whatever you choose, row cover is helpful for keeping early-season flea beetles off of your tender arugula leaves.
Temperature: This hardy brassica will germinate in soils as cold as 40°F (4°C). Count backward 2-4 weeks before your expected last frost date, and you can enjoy peppery, refreshing greens as early as March.
Seeding Rate: Sometimes called “rocket”, arugula seeds are best when broadcasted or scattered over a bed to harvest like baby greens. Plant the seeds about ¼” deep and thin to 1 plant every 2”. For larger leaves, spread your arugula seeds out to 6” spacing.
Whether you like big green heads of broccoli or the tender sprouting type, broccoli is a plant that should always have a space in your spring seed starting setup. It’s best to give brassica-family plants a head start indoors in 4-cell or 6-cell seed starting trays. You can use a bright south-facing window, grow lights, or a mini greenhouse to germinate and grow these seeds until they are robust 6-8” tall transplants.
The best time to plant broccoli indoors is 4-6 weeks before your last frost date. For zones 6-8, February is ideal. In zones 9 and warmer, this month may be the last time you can get in a good broccoli crop. These cool-weather crops tend to bolt or produce measly yields in hot weather.
Temperature: Although they like chilly temperatures while maturing, broccoli seeds germinate best in warm soils around 60-70°F (16-21°C). Try the Italian heirloom ‘Di Cicco’ or the unique purple-hued ‘Burgundy Broccoli.’
Seeding Rate: Plant broccoli seeds ⅛” deep in a well-drained seed starter mix. Lightly dust with vermiculite or a fine soil blend so you don’t bury the seeds too deep. Try bottom watering to avoid displacing the soil. Plant 1-2 seeds per cell and thin to 1 plant per cell. Transplant out around your last frost date or a couple weeks before, providing 12-18” of space in every direction of the plant. If you space broccoli too close, it won’t produce a head. Don’t forget to thin!
Like broccoli, cabbage is a brassica-family crop that benefits from sowing indoors in the late winter or early spring. Star the seeds in 4-cell or 6-cell packs about 6-8 weeks before your last frost date. Cabbage seedlings can grow robust leaves and roots in cell trays so they will be ready to transplant 2-4 weeks before your average last spring frost. If planting is delayed, be sure to up-pot your cabbage seedlings so they don’t become rootbound.
Cabbage is a cool-weather crop that does best in spring or fall. In southern zones 9 and warmer, early February is ideal for establishing these plants so they can produce healthy heads of coleslaw-worthy cabbage by April. In colder northern zones, it’s helpful to give cabbage a month or more of indoor growth in order to provide a hefty harvest in the spring.
Temperature: Although the plants prefer cool weather, the seeds germinate best in warmer soils around 70°F (21°C). Start indoors in a warm, sunny window or greenhouse.
Seeding Rate: Sow seeds ¼” deep in cell trays. Be sure to thin to one plant per cell. Like broccoli, cabbage will not form a head if the plants don’t have sufficient spacing. Transplant out 2-4 weeks before your average last spring frost date, providing 18-24” of space in all directions. Closer spacing will not yield more cabbage! These plants need plenty of space to spread out.
From rainbow-colored ‘Easter Egg’ radishes to elegant ‘French Breakfast’ radishes to vibrant ‘Mantanghong Watermelon’ radish, these roots come in an impressive diversity of varieties! Fortunately, they are all grown in a similar way but with different spacing. You can plant most varieties of radishes in very early spring as long as the soil is workable.
Radishes are another brassica cousin that doesn’t mind the cold. At just 20-30 days to mature, these roots are perfect for impatient gardeners who want to enjoy a quick spring harvest.
Temperature: Most radish seeds will germinate in soils around 40°F (4°C) and can be planted 4-6 weeks before your average last frost.
Seeding Rate: Direct sowing is best, but some radishes tolerate transplanting when sown in bunches of 2-3. Seed radishes ½” deep and provide at least 1-2” between plants. The space between plants will determine the size of the rounded roots.
Finally, warm-season plants! In zones 7 and warmer, you can typically start tomatoes in February. Most varieties do best with a head start indoors around 4-6 weeks before the last frost date. Plant in larger 4-cell trays or 4” pots to provide ample room for robust root growth. Tomatoes especially benefit from grow lights that hover a few inches above the leaves. This ensures that the plants don’t become spindly as they reach up toward the light.
Avoid starting tomatoes too early! This is a very important crop for most gardeners, and you don’t want to cause extra stress by growing tomatoes for too long indoors. If you live in zones 6 or colder, wait to start your tomatoes until March or April. This will prevent leggy, rootbound plants with premature flowers.
Temperature: If you have a germination heating mat, save it for your tomatoes! These South American plants absolutely crave the heat. Soil temperatures around 80-90°F (27-32°C) are best for germination and early growth.
Seeding Rate: Sow tomatoes indoors about ¼” deep. You can plant 2 seeds per cell and thin to one plant after germination. Never crowd your tomatoes, as this can inhibit their production. When the weather has thoroughly settled about 1-2 weeks after your last frost, transplant tomatoes 24-26” apart, depending on your trellis system. Indeterminate (vining) tomatoes can sometimes be planted closer if you plan to trellis them upward and prune heavily. Determinate (bush) tomatoes benefit from wider spacing and a tomato cage or another type of support.
It may seem strange to start a warm-weather crop like peppers as early as February. But in zones 7 and warmer, peppers will eagerly take off on a heated seed germination mat. These slow-growing tomato cousins can take a long time to mature, which means it’s very important to establish them indoors early in the season.
Start peppers inside about 8-10 weeks before you plan to transplant. I usually wait 2-3 weeks after my average last frost date to put my peppers outdoors. You want the ambient temperature to be reliably above 50°F (10°C).
Temperature: The ideal soil temperature for pepper seed germination is 70-90°F (21-32°C). A heating mat is awesome, or at least a warm room in your home. Provide plenty of light and supplement with a grow light if needed.
Seeding Rate: Sow pepper seeds ¼” deep and be sure to thin to one plant per cell. Depending on the variety, most peppers grow best with 24-36” of space between plants.
No matter what zone you live in, you can start your gardening in February as long as you are smart about your timing.
- Cold-hardy greens can be direct sown outdoors in zones 7 and warmer as long as the soil is workable and above 40°F (4°C).
- Long-season crops like onions and leeks can get a head start indoors up to 10-12 weeks before your last frost date.
- For zones 8 and warmer, peppers and tomatoes benefit from a February start, but colder zones should wait until March or April.
Use a soil thermometer probe to track the soil temperatures in your garden and in your seed starting trays. This is a more reliable indicator of germination success than the air temperature. You can always use a heating mat to give seeds the extra boost they need.