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15 Best Vegetables to Grow in Minnesota

vegetable garden

Nearly 32 million people1 participate in gardening. Many find it a satisfying activity that allows them to grow their own food and spend time outdoors. The pandemic boosted participation by almost 25%2. Need and supply chain shortages undoubtedly help fuel this spike.

Gardening in Minnesota is a challenge because of its continental climate. That means hot summers and cold winters, often bordering on frigid. It’s a large state, at nearly 87,000 square miles. That explains the wide variation you’ll see in average annual temperatures. It is about 38℉3 in the north and 45℉ in the south. Its extreme cold winter temperatures are a driving factor in what you can plant.

This article will help you choose the best vegetables that can withstand the Minnesota climate.

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The 15 Best Vegetables to Grow in Minnesota

1. English Peas

Planting Method Direct sow
Sun Minimum of eight hours of sunlight
Planting Beginning of March
One of the best things about growing English peas is eating them in the garden as you harvest them. Nothing can beat their sweet, yummy taste. This vegetable seems made for Minnesota, too, since it does best in cool weather. If you live in rainier southern Minnesota, you might want to consider sowing the seeds in a raised bed. The peas will be ready to pick in about 70 days.

Pros
  • Easy to grow
  • Bountiful yields
  • Multiple harvests
Cons
  • Support needed
  • Cool weather only

2. Broccoli

broccoli
Image Credit: ImageParty, Pixabay
Planting Method Start indoors in February
Sun Minimum of eight hours of sunlight
Planting Beginning of April
While it is a cool-season plant, broccoli likes full sun. Unlike our previous entry, this vegetable takes its time to mature. We suggested starting them indoors in late winter. However, you can sow them directly into the soil if the threat of frost has passed. Water management is vital. The plant prefers moist soils, but you should avoid watering the crowns. Harvest is 70 or more days from planting.

Pros
  • Excellent nutritional value
  • Cool-season plant
Cons
  • Finicky about water
  • Shallow roots

3. Cabbage

Cabbage
Image Credit: ulleo, Pixabay
Planting Method Start indoors in February
Sun Minimum of four hours of sunlight
Planting Beginning of April
The best thing about cabbage is that you can grow it just about anywhere in Minnesota, from Plant Hardiness Zone 1 through 9. However, it prefers it cool, making it a suitable choice. Water management is vital, as with any plant of this type. Cabbage requires regular fertilizing to flourish. You can get more than one harvest. We recommend uprooting the remaining plant to prevent disease the following year.

Pros
  • Weather-tolerant
  • Multiple harvests possible
Cons
  • Fertilizing necessary
  • Challenging transition from indoor seedlings to outdoor transplants

4. Lettuce

farmer planting lettuce
Image Credit: Alexander Raths, Shutterstock
Planting Method Start indoors in February

Sun

Minimum of four hours of sunlight

Planting

Middle of March
Lettuce is probably one of the easiest plants you can put in your garden. It even does well in containers for harvesting microgreens. It prefers cool temperatures and will grow quickly. They can mature in as little as 30 days. You can get multiple harvests. These plants can bolt if temperatures get too warm, making them too bitter to enjoy. They are best picked when just before full size for optimal sweetness.

Pros
  • Easy to grow
  • Fast-growing
Cons
  • Cool weather only
  • Easily overwhelmed by weeds

5. Carrots

Carrots
Image Credit: maxmann, Pixabay
Planting Method Direct sow
Sun Minimum of six hours of sunlight
Planting Middle of March
The best thing about growing carrots is the many varieties you can plant. While tolerant, they thrive best in Plant Hardiness Zone 3 and higher. They prefer sandy soils so that the roots can get down into the ground easier. You can get a continual harvest by sowing seeds every few weeks. Interestingly, carrots don’t mind a hard frost and will even produce sweeter vegetables.

Pros
  • Multiple harvests
  • Many available varieties
  • Tolerant of hard frosts
Cons
  • Slow germination
  • Forked carrots with heavy nitrogen application

6. Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts
Image Credit: PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay
Planting Method Start indoors in April
Sun Full sun/partial shade
Planting Four months before the first fall frost
Brussels sprouts are appropriately named because that’s where they were first grown. Growing these vegetables differs from the ones we’ve discussed. Instead of spring cold snaps, you use the date of the fall event to time your planting. That means early summer for Minnesota. This plant takes its time to mature. They do best when protected from the heat in raised beds with mulch.

Pros
  • Summer planting
  • Cold-tolerant
Cons
  • Long growing time
  • Best with raised beds

7. Potatoes

Potatoes
Image Credit: Wounds_and_Cracks, Pixabay
Planting Method Direct sow
Sun Minimum of six hours of sunlight
Planting Beginning to mid-March
Potatoes are on the opposite end of the spectrum from the previous plant. You should get them in the ground when the soil temperature reaches 50℉. However, you must still protect the above-ground portion from spring frosts. You must also keep the tubers covered with soil, which will encourage a better yield. It’s time to harvest your taters when the foliage starts to wilt.

Pros
  • Different seasonal varieties
  • Easy to grow
Cons
  • Risk of solanine production in uncovered tubers
  • Increased chances of parasites and disease if plant year to year

8. Radishes

Radishes
Image Credit: Hans, Pixabay
Planting Method Direct sow
Sun Minimum of six hours of sunlight
Planting Beginning of April
Radishes are an excellent choice if you’re new to gardening in Minnesota. They are easy to grow and can handle the weather conditions well. They prefer cool springs and falls. You can sow seeds two weeks apart to ensure a continual harvest of vegetables. Water management is essential so that the roots can penetrate the soil and grow. You can expect your first harvest in about three weeks.

Pros
  • Quick harvest
  • Good beginner plant
  • Multiple harvests
Cons
  • Nutrient-rich soil vital

9. Kale

Kale
Image Credit: publimode, Pixabay
Planting Method Start indoors in February
Sun Minimum of four hours of sunlight
Planting Beginning of April
Kale stands out not only as a nutritious vegetable but as an attractive plant too. It fares best in slightly acidic and nutrient-rich soils. Good drainage is also essential. While kale is cold-tolerant, it doesn’t handle heat or dry conditions well. Mulching and regular watering will ensure a decent yield. If you keep the terminal bud intact, you’ll get fresh produce all season long.

Pros
  • Attractive plant
  • Cold-tolerant
  • Shade-tolerant
Cons
  • Finicky about the planting conditions

10. Onions

Onions
Image Credit: Couleur, Pixabay
Planting Method Start indoors in February or plant sets in the spring
Sun Minimum of six hours of sunlight
Planting Mid-March
We’d be remiss if we didn’t include onions on our list, seeing as it has the highest per capita consumption in the United States at over 21 pounds! You can plant sets in the spring and fall when there isn’t a danger of frost, and the ground is workable. Onions, like potatoes, need to dry for curing. Harvest your bulbs when the foliage wilts on a sunny day.

Pros
  • Multiple harvests
  • Can collect seeds for continual plantings
Cons

11. Asparagus

Asparagus
Image Credit: Couleur, Pixabay
Planting Method Transplant the seedlings or direct sow
Sun Full sun/partial shade
Planting Middle of March
Asparagus is one of the few Minnesota vegetables you can harvest in the wild. Its telltale foliage gives away its hiding spots. It is a perennial plant that takes a few years to get established if you want a permanent crop. However, it’s worth the wait. You can either sow the seeds directly or begin with crowns to get a head start.

Pros
  • Perennial
  • Early harvesting
Cons
  • Long time to get established
  • Fussy about weeds

12. Bell Peppers

Bell Peppers
Image Credit: KaiPilger, Pixabay
Planting Method Start indoors in February
Sun Minimum of eight hours of sunlight
Planting End of April
Bell peppers are a warm-season plant that loves the sun. They take a while to get to harvest, but they can provide a decent yield for several weeks. You should harden young plants to get them used to Minnesota weather. They’ll fare best with weekly watering and regular fertilizing. You’ll have to provide some type of support for the peppers with their relatively heavy produce.

Pros
  • Relatively pest-tolerant
  • Excellent yield in the right conditions
Cons
  • Supports or cages essential
  • Full sun for optimal ripening

13. Zucchini

Zucchini
Image Credit: auntmasako, Pixabay
Planting Method Direct sow or transplants
Sun Full sun/partial shade
Planting End of April
Growing zucchini in Minnesota means one plant only unless you really like this vegetable and have lots of friends who do too. That also means it needs plenty of room to grow.  Zucchini does best in well-draining soils. Mulch will protect them from drying out during warm summers. This vegetable is susceptible to several diseases and pests, requiring close attention for problems.

Pros
  • Excellent yield
Cons
  • Lots of space per plant
  • Drought-intolerant
  • Pest and disease issues

14. Cucumbers

Cucumbers
Image Credit: krzys16, Pixabay
Planting Method Direct sow
Sun Full sun/partial shade
Planting End of April
Cucumbers are not unlike squash if you want to get a lot of produce from a single plant. It’s another warm-season variety that isn’t cold-tolerant. It will take up a lot of space, making supports an excellent way to reduce its footprint. You can expect the first of many harvests in about three weeks. Like other vegetables with large yields, the cucumber needs nutrient-rich soils.

Pros
  • Easy to grow
  • Plentiful yield
Cons
  • Large space required
  • Supports recommended

15. Tomatoes

Tomatoes
Image Credit: kie-ker, Pixabay
Planting Method Start indoors in February
Sun Minimum of eight hours of sunlight
Planting End of April
Tomatoes are the quintessential summer vegetable. They fare best in warm, sunny conditions to ripen to full sweetness. They take their time, soaking up the rays, although you may find some early-harvest varieties. Stakes or cages are imperative to ensure air circulation and avoid rot. Mulching will help the plants retain moisture, whether in the garden or in a container.

Pros
  • Many varieties
  • Container-friendly
  • High yields
Cons
  • Susceptible to blight and other diseases

Related Read: When Is the Best Time to Water Your Garden? The 6 Factors

divider 1Vegetable Growing Tips

The biggest challenge with growing vegetables in Minnesota is timing. It’s not unusual to see a late frost or even a heavy snow in late April or early May. Patience is key. It’s best not to rush into planting until conditions are right. That’s why it’s essential to keep track of the weather. You may find that you’ll have to cover your plants if there’s a threat of freezing temperatures.

Weather also plays a role in early blight that can attack potatoes and tomatoes. Wet springs set the stage for this fungal condition. Watering your plants early in the day provides enough time for them to dry. We recommend that you avoid wetting the foliage, too. The best approach is to catch diseases or parasites early. You’ll have an easier time controlling these conditions if you nip them in the bud.

Many of the plants on our round-up do best if you practice crop rotation. That means not using the same vegetables year after year. It can increase the risk for parasites and disease with each subsequent planting. It can also leach out the soil nutrients, especially with hungry feeders like potatoes. Many farmers will alternate corn and soybeans for just that reason.

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Conclusion

It’s easy to see why so many people enjoy gardening. After all, it’s hard to beat that rewarding feeling of picking and preparing the fruits of your labor. We love using the produce that we either froze or canned in the middle of winter to remind us of the warm days of summer. While Minnesota will challenge your gardening skills, it will reward you with a tasty harvest of fresh vegetables.


Featured Image Credit: silviarita, Pixabay

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