Spring might seem very far away as we head into the middle of the bleakest month, but now is the perfect time to plan your early-spring survival garden. Seed selection and availability are at their peak in winter, and most of us have a bit more free time than usual now thanks to a lack of outdoor chores. Whether you’re planning a balcony survival garden or a miniature subsistence farm at your undisclosed bug-out-location, now is the time to decide which plants you’ll grow this spring and order your seeds.

One of the first things to consider is the caloric value of the food you’ll grow. Leafy veggies and herbs are some of the hardiest and earliest-to-grow plants on our list, and it’s certainly worth your time and effort to grow some greens, but your main focus should be higher calorie root vegetables and peas. Turnips, carrots, and beets average 80-100 calories per one-cup serving, while lettuce and its mates provide as little as 10 calories per cup.

Many companies sell dedicated “survival garden” seed assortments, but do your homework before you purchase that prepackaged bucket of seeds. Are there enough high-calorie plants in there? Are any of them suited for early-spring cold snaps? You might be better off selecting your own seed for each plant type, and taking into account the soil, weather, pests, rainfall, and especially the frost dates for your area. Your agricultural zone will have a “date of last frost,” which is rarely right on the money, but it’s close enough when working with these frost-tolerant plants. Here are two lists to help you figure out the best plants for your containers, beds, or rows.

Seeds to plant in late winter/early spring
-Swiss chard, spinach, and arugula
-Early peas and snow peas
-Turnips, radishes, carrots, and beets
-Kale and collards

Live plants to plant in late winter/early spring
-Onion sets
-Hardy herbs, like rosemary and thyme
-Cabbage seedlings
-Broccoli and kohlrabi seedlings

You can plant any of the seeds mentioned 4 to 6 weeks before your last-frost date, or even earlier if using cold frames or coverings. Set out live cabbage, broccoli, and kohlrabi plants 2 to 4 weeks before the last-frost date, and plant the herbs and onions at any time.

If you’re not sure when your last frost date will be, you can use the calculator on the Old Farmer’s Almanac website.

Do you have plans for a spring survival garden? Please tell us about them in the comments.