February can seem like limbo land for gardeners in most of the U.S. Winter is ending, but spring hasn’t quite begun. Even if the weather outside is still frosty or the ground is frozen, there are lots of veggies you can seed indoors in February to prepare for early transplanting.
If your soil is workable, there are also many early spring greens and roots that don’t mind mildly frosty nights.
After the cabin fever of winter, you’re probably ready to get your hands back in the soil! Let’s dig into 15 vegetables you can start from seed, based on your zone and last frost date.
California Wonder Sweet Pepper Seeds
Green Zebra Pole Tomato Seeds
Copenhagen Market Cabbage Seeds
15 Veggies to Start in February
Whether you have a mini greenhouse, low tunnel, south-facing windowsill, or indoor grow-light setup, these February vegetable seeds will help you get a head start on the garden season.
Cold-hardy mache is a versatile and early-harvested green perfect for cool climates.
Also known as corn salad, mâche is one of the most underrated cold-weather greens. This hardy yet delicious leafy vegetable can germinate in soils as cold as 40°F (4°C). Established plants don’t mind temperatures as freezing as 5°F (-15°C)!
Mâche is nicknamed “corn salad” or “lamb’s lettuce” because it was the primary winter weed in European corn fields. The surprisingly tender veggie gained popularity over the past decade for its juicy leaves and nutty, slightly sweet flavor that tastes incredible in early spring salads.
Mâche is often one of the very first greens you can harvest from the garden in early spring. In zones 5 and colder, you can sow these vegetable seeds this February in cell trays indoors and transplant them outside as soon as the soil is workable. If you have low tunnels or a nursery, mâche can easily be sown straight into the soil as long as the ground isn’t frozen. In zones 6-8, mâche is best direct seeded. The seeds won’t germinate in temperatures higher than 70°F (21°C).
This plant has lily-pad leaves, white flowers, and high mineral and vitamin C content.
With lily-pad succulent-textured leaves and adorable tiny white flowers, claytonia is a late winter and early spring treat. This intriguing green is highly rich in minerals and vitamin C. In fact, claytonia was nicknamed “miner’s lettuce” because it was said to prevent scurvy.
While many northern foragers harvest claytonia straight from the forest, this wild green veggie can also be cultivated from seed this February for an easygoing, quick crop of salad greens.
Direct seed miner’s lettuce in soils around 50°F (10°C) about six weeks before your anticipated last frost. The plants don’t mind the cold, but they will die back once the weather warms. If you let claytonia self-sow, it creates a nice succulent ground cover under the dappled shade of perennial plants. As a woodland herb, claytonia doesn’t do well in full direct sunlight.
A peppery green related to mustards, arugula loves cool weather.
This famous peppery green is closely related to mustards, cabbage, and kale. Arugula is naturally a cool-weather crop that dislikes heat. The seeds germinate in soils as cold as 40°F (4°C), and young plants tolerate mild frosts.
Direct seed arugula up to four weeks before your last frost date. I always cover the plants with row fabric to protect them from early emerging flea beetle infestations. If you want to start indoors, sow in cell trays up to eight weeks before the last frost date. Hardened-off transplants can withstand colder frosts into the twenties as long as they have some protection, such as row cover.
Sow onions eight to ten weeks prior to February’s final frost for a successful fall yield.
Most onion varieties take 90-100 days to mature, which means an early start is essential in northern climates to ensure that you have beautiful onions by autumn. Start seeding onions any time in February, around eight to ten weeks before your last frost date.
Be sure to choose the right onion variety for your climate. Onions form bulbs based on the sunlight length of particular regions. Notice whether the seed packet labels the onion type:
- Short-day onions: Start bulbing when the day-length is 10-12 hours, best for southern climates (zones 7 and warmer)
- Long-day onions: Bulb when day-length is 14-16 hours, best for northern climates (zones 6 and colder)
- Day-neutral onions: Form bulbs regardless of day-length and perform in any region
Remember that onions have shallow root systems and require consistent moisture in order to form hefty bulbs. Generously amend your beds with vermicompost or regular compost to ensure adequate nutrients.
These are best transplanted about 6 inches deep and 6 inches apart in the garden.
Beyond potato-leek soup, leeks are an often overlooked relative of onions that you can use in everything from egg scrambles to casseroles. The long white-blanched stalks and attractive displays of flattened green leaves take a long time to mature, but the fall reward is always worthwhile. Leeks have a buttery-smooth mild onion flavor when sauteed, adding a savory touch to autumn and winter dishes.
Since they require up to 120 days to mature, leeks are best seeded in open trays indoors around February. They are typically the first crop that farmers sow in their greenhouses in late winter.
Mature leeks can handle early fall frosts, but I’ve found that the young plants perform best when they get a head start indoors. Sow seeds densely in flats or in clusters of four to six per cell in trays. Once they are pencil-thick, transplant them in the garden about six inches deep and six inches apart up to two weeks before your estimated last frost.
Optimal conditions for growing celery involve starting seeds indoors in warm temperatures of 70-75°F (21-24°C).
Celery is not difficult to grow, but it can be finicky about temperature and moisture. The young plants benefit from an indoor start in February or March so they can reach 10-12 weeks of age before transplanting. To germinate quickly and evenly, the seeds need warm soils around 70-75°F (21-24°C), so I always place the trays on heating mats.
Celery should not be transplanted outdoors until temperatures are reliably above 55°F (13°C). Otherwise, the plants may bolt. Keep the seedlings consistently moist but never soggy. You don’t want the soil to dry out, as the stress can also be a major cause of premature bolting, which results in woody, poorly-textured celery stalks.
Growing celeriac requires warm soils for germination and consistent moisture to prevent premature seeding.
This asteroid-looking vegetable is a relative of celery that has been bred to produce a bulbous root. Celeriac roots have a mild celery earthy flavor and the texture of a potato. Like their celery cousins, they take a long time to mature (up to 150 days!), making them the ideal candidates for February seeding.
While mature celeriac benefits from a light frost at the beginning of fall, the young plants demand warm soils. The seeds won’t germinate in soils colder than 70°F (21°C). Start indoors on heating mats or under grow lights about 10-12 weeks before your expected last frost.
Maintain consistent moisture and don’t expose plants to temperatures colder than 55°F (13°C). Otherwise, they will prematurely go to seed. When hardening off the seedlings, only reduce moisture, but do not expose them to cold temperatures.
Starting peppers indoors before the last frost helps avoid cold stress.
Whether you prefer spicy or sweet peppers, these slow-growing garden icons are best seeded indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date and transplanted out when the weather is warm. Peppers are native to South America and absolutely despise the cold. The seeds may germinate slowly, but cold soils will really delay the process. In northern climates where gardeners have trouble ripening peppers, it’s highly recommended to start in early spring.
Pepper seedlings enjoy ambient temperatures around 70°F (21°C) and soil temperatures above 80°F (27°C). If you have heating mats, it’s best to reserve them for your favorite pepper plants.
Be sure to sow just one seed per cell, and do not bury it too deep. If growing hot peppers, always wear gloves when seeding (and never touch your eyes!) If you live in zones 5 or colder, wait until March to start your peppers.
Give your tomatoes get enough sunlight to avoid leggy growth.
Tomatoes are the most popular summer crop, but most large-fruited varieties benefit from an indoor start in early spring. For zones seven and warmer, February is a great time to sow your favorite heirlooms and cherries in three to four-inch pots indoors. Most tomato seeds germinate best at soil temperatures around 80-90°F (27-32°C). A heating mat is helpful!
Avoid starting tomatoes too early, or you may end up with rootbound, leggy, wimpy seedlings that don’t take off very quickly once in the ground. Rootbinding is especially problematic in tomatoes that are seeded in late winter and stay in their containers for too long through a cold spring. In zones 6 and colder, it’s best to wait until March to start tomatoes. Alternatively, count back four to six weeks before your last frost date.
It’s also important to provide young tomato plants with ample sunlight. These seedlings always get prime real estate in my greenhouse or south-facing windowsill. Leggy tomatoes have long, weak stems that stretch toward the light. To avoid this, keep tomato seedlings in full sun. If starting under grow lights, lower the lights close to the seed tray surface and raise them as the plants grow.
Start broccoli and broccolini seeds indoors in cell trays 6-8 weeks before transplanting.
Early broccoli and broccolini (sprouting broccoli) are a spring delight. These nutritious dark-green florets thrive in cool weather and moist soils. Choose early-season varieties and sow in cell trays six to eight weeks before your plan to transplant.
Cold-hardy varieties can often be transplanted one to two weeks before the last frost date as long as the seedlings have been hardened off (acclimated) to chilly outdoor nights.
While broccoli is a cold-weather crop, the seeds still prefer warmth to germinate. Soil temperatures around 75-80°F (24-27°C) are ideal, with an ambient temperature around 60°F (16°F). Always thin plants to one seedling per cell and transplant at a wide spacing 10-18” apart. If you space broccoli too close together or fail to thin the baby plants, they will have trouble forming a proper head.
Growing healthy cabbage requires starting seeds indoors around 6-8 weeks before the last frost.
Cabbage is another cool-weather brassica that thrives in spring weather. Starting in February ensures you have robust cabbage seedlings to transplant by late March and Early April. Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before your expected last frost. Provide compost-rich soil and consistent moisture.
There are many unique varieties of cabbage, including classic green, vibrant red, tender savoy, and elongated Chinese (“napa”) cabbage. Most cultivars are grown very similarly, with a few variations in spacing.
When in doubt, I always recommend going for wider spacing of up to 18” between plants. Cabbage likes to spread out, and its central leaves won’t form a proper “head” if the plants are overcrowded.
This vegetable’s seedlings resemble other brassicas and should be labeled to avoid confusion during growth.
Whether you like classic white cauliflower or vibrant psychedelic romanesco, cauliflower seedlings are grown almost exactly like broccoli. You will notice that the cotyledons (first baby leaves) look strikingly similar to the rest of the brassica family. Be sure to label your seed trays so you don’t get them confused!
Start your first succession of spring cauliflower four to six weeks before the last frost. Plant the tiny rounded seeds just ¼” deep, and don’t cover them with too much soil. Always thin to one plant per cell, and avoid keeping in containers for too long.
Rootbound cauliflower plants have trouble adjusting to growing in the ground. If spring turns out chillier than anticipated, you can up-pot cauliflower or plant in the ground under a row cover or low tunnel.
A hardy cold-weather crop, kale thrives in cool, moist conditions.
One of the most famous cold-weather crops, kale thrives in early spring when the weather is cool and moist. A single kale plant can provide nutrient-dense greens for an entire season! Light frosts help sweeten the leaves, but it’s important to protect young plants from hard frosts below 28°F (-2°C).
Sow kale indoors in February, around six to eight weeks before the spring frost date. Warmer climates can direct sow in the garden as long as soil temperatures are above 60°F (16°C). Baby kale (lots of kale seeds sown close together) provides a quick spring reward if you’re craving fresh greens!
This plant grows best when directly sown in cool soil, ideally between 55-60°F (13-16°C).
Spinach seedlings germinate well in soils as cold as 55-60°F (13-16°C). You can direct sow spinach as soon as the soil is workable. Zones 6 and colder may need to wait until March. Direct seeding is the most common way of growing spinach, but you can also start indoors and transplant if desired.
Spinach does best in early spring and fall plantings. The heat causes bolting and bitter-flavored leaves. Generally, savoyed (crinkly) spinach is more cold-hardy than flat-leaf spinach.
Plant 2-3 beets together, leaving 6” between each cluster, for better growth and easy picking.
In areas with mild springs, beets don’t mind germinating in soils as cold as 45°F (7°C). Sow the seeds outdoors about ½” deep and three inches apart, in rows twelve inches apart. You can grow beets for their nutritious baby greens or for vibrant roots of any size.
Whether you choose golden beets, ‘Chioggia’ (candy cane striped), or classic red beets, take note that cooler temperatures produce the best color and flavor. February is a great time to start your first succession.
While it’s usually recommended to only direct seed root crops, beets are an exception to the rule. They do very well when sown in clusters of two to three plants per cell, transplanted six inches apart. The beets will grow upwards and outwards in a nice cluster. Hold the surrounding bulbs in place while you selectively harvest the largest roots first.
When you’re just on the brink of spring and eager to get growing, get a head start indoors on your favorite transplanted crops while establishing cold-hardy greens in workable soils. Leeks, onions, tomatoes, peppers, celery, and brassica-family crops benefit from early spring seeding in trays indoors.
If your soil is workable and thawed, you can direct seed mâche, arugula, spinach, kale, or beets. Don’t forget to use a soil probe to check your soil temperatures both indoors in trays and outside in the garden.