Winter vegetables allow you to get the most out of your gardens year-round. As you begin to approach the time of year where your gardens change, you’ll need to find cool-season friendly crops.
Surprisingly, there are plenty of winter vegetables that you’ll love being able to grow and harvest. Even if you aren’t growing them yourself, knowing what winter vegetables are in season will help ensure you buy fresh produce.
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What Are Winter Vegetables?
As their name suggests, winter vegetables are a collection of crops that grow in cold weather. Not only are they able to handle lower temperatures, but they also thrive in them.
If you want to master your year-round gardening, they’re an excellent experiment for many homesteaders. By adding winter crops to your gardens, you’ll be on your way to achieving a self-sufficient garden. They allow your family to save money on store-bought fresh goods year-round.
Also, they can help to build the resilience of your gardens when the growing season comes around.
Which vegetables grow in winter
When shopping or considering planting, use this winter vegetables list. When considering what vegetables grow well in cold weather, it’s important to know your hardiness zone. This way, you can choose what will grow successfully in your climate. In general, cool season leafy crops do well.
Winter vegetables list
There is an assortment of winter vegetables that grow well. This list includes:
- Brussels sprouts
- Leafy greens, including kale, arugula, spinach, swiss chard
Cold Root Sweetening
Some vegetables actually get sweeter with frost. You’ll still need to protect them from the cold. Some of these are root vegetables and others are core vegetables. Examples of cold root sweeting vegetables include:
Root vegetables: Beets, Carrots, Rutabagas
Core vegetables: Most of the leafy greens, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts
List of Winter Vegetables to Plant
Here are the winter vegetables to plant. They will all thrive in a cold environment:
Kale packs a ton of nutrients, including iron and antioxidants, but it’s also a winter veggie. It does best in growing zones 7 – 9.
The plant’s hardiness is one of its most significant features, and it can be grown in many ways. You can opt to plant it in your soil garden or by using aeroponics or hydroponics. Kale and spinach are among the most cold-tolerant leafy greens.
When trying to find out what vegetables are in season during winter, you’ll find that kale is most often grown in areas with warmer climates during the cold season.
For example, the Pacific Northwest is a massive exporter of kale during the winter.
If you live in a colder climate, keeping it inside a greenhouse can produce sweet and tender leaves. In addition, you can cover it with frost cloth if frost is periodic.
When it comes time to harvest your vegetables, we recommend washing and drying the leaves. You can then freeze them for up to two weeks before they lose their freshness.
For winter gardening, consider winterbor and red Russian varieties of kale.
When grown in the winter, carrots can acquire a sweeter taste than usual. You’ll find that their flavor will increase ten-fold if they can thrive during late autumn. Carrots are suited for hardiness zones 3 – 10.
Most varieties are best harvested during late fall, though few can be harvested during the winter.
Similar to kale, carrots have plenty of fantastic health benefits, including beta-carotene. You’ll also have plenty of lutein and vitamin C to help boost your immune system.
On any list of winter vegetables, carrots always come up as among the most popular. Carrots are one of the best winter root vegetables to grow.
When learning how to grow carrots, you’ll want to pick the right varieties. Bolero, napoli, and mokum carrots are best for winter harvesting.
If you intend to keep your crop during the winter, it’s also a good idea to consider insulating the roots. By adding shredded leaves and straw to the deeper layers of your garden bed, you can protect them from frost. Also, you can try adding more mulch and fabric on top to hold the carrots in place while they grow.
You’ll love the versatility of growing a broccoli plant, especially when it comes to hearty homecooked meals. You can quickly steam it on its own to add to Asian dishes or make it the main feature of a soup or stew. Like carrots, broccoli grows in plant hardiness zones 3 – 10.
Broccoli is an exceptionally hardy winter crop that also has plenty of minerals and vitamins. Did you know that cold weather helps broccoli to thrive? Over time, you’ll notice colder temperatures help the florets to become firmer.
Farmers living in milder climates can plant broccoli during the fall for a winter harvest. It’s recommended you start the seeds indoors at least six weeks before the end of summer for your winter crops.
By planting two to four broccoli plants, you should have more than enough for each member in your household.
Your plants must be ready to harvest before temperatures reach above 75°F. Interestingly, there have been times when this ingredient has thrived in temperatures below 24°F.
Another choice for winter vegetables to plant is cabbage. If you’re looking for crops to keep your immune system healthy, cabbage is a great option. It’s filled with antioxidants and is easy to eat in several ways. Particularly cold tolerant, cabbage will grow in hardiness zones 1 – 9.
With plenty of flavors, you’ll love to have several heads of cabbage to use during the winter. Like many other leafy greens, this vegetable can live outside year-round, even with snow on the ground.
One of the most important growing tips for cabbage is to make sure each head has enough space. You’ll also want to make sure you opt for traditional cabbage compared to Asian varieties. Asian cabbage thrives at temperatures between 29°F and 32°F but will die in colder climates.
As some of the most winter-friendly vegetables, cabbages grow well even on frigid nights. However, if you’re reaching a deep freeze, you’ll want to consider protecting your garden.
5. Winter Squash
It’s easy to find winter squash in your local grocery store around the end of fall. They will continually be available until early March, proving that they’re a fantastic winter crop. If you live in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 – 10, you will be able to grow winter squash.
Winter squash are unique in the sense that they continue to ripen even after they have been picked.
There are many different winter squash options, including kabocha, butternut, acorn, and delicata. All of these varieties do best during fall and winter, providing you with plenty of benefits. You’ll be able to receive vitamin A, potassium, and carotenoids from a single serving.
Similar to many other veggies, you’ll want to start your winter squash seedlings indoors. It’s best if the soil has had time to warm to at least 60°F before you plant the seedlings.
One of the most important things to know about how to grow vegetables in winter is to be able to protect them from frost.
When planting squash in the winter, you must ensure your plants will have up to three months of frost-free temperatures. Also consider using fabric and mulch for insulation to protect the roots.
If winter squash roots are exposed to frigid temperatures, they could be negatively affected.
Another winter root vegetable is onions. They are incredibly cold tolerant. Depending on your hardiness zone and when you plant, you’ll need to decide whether to choose short-day, intermediate-day, or long-day varieties. You can plant onions in hardiness zones 1 – 11. In zones 1 – 4, choose long day varieties.
Likely one of the most popular ingredients, onions can be grown in the winter. You can also grow certain types of onions indoors with little effort.
If you have an outdoor garden, you’ll be glad to know that onions are very resistant to cold temperatures. You’ll find your onions will thrive the best in mild winters; however, they can also survive moderate frosts.
When planted, you might be able to keep your onions for up to two years before harvesting.
There are several unique things about onions, one of which being how useful they are for your garden. Did you know that onions are a natural pest repellent? They also assist with deterring herbivores from the rest of your plants in your winter garden.
Green onions are your best bet for a winter crop, as they easily withstand freezing temperatures.
Whether you have frosts, below-freezing temperatures, or snow, they’ll be able to thrive.
As a unique ingredient, this type of lettuce is a phenomenal addition to garden salads. It’s commonly referred to as lamb’s lettuce or corn salad and will create up to four-inch leaves. Mache will grow best in zones 5 – 8 though it can grow almost anywhere as a short-lived annual plant.
All you have to do is harvest them close to soil level, wash them, and toss them in your salad.
Harvesting mache is easier than you would think, and it’s a highly versatile salad green.
When growing over the winter, consider the vit variety, as it can be directly seeded in late summer. This vegetable self-sows quickly, which means you’ll have plenty to harvest throughout the year.
If you’ve begun looking into winter gardening, you’ve likely seen arugula frequently mentioned. It’s one of the best beginner-friendly options if you want to consider growing year-round. Arugula grows well in plant hardiness zones 3 – 11.
You’ll find that it’s incredibly easy to work with and is accommodating to colder temperatures. As another leafy green packed with antioxidants and iron, it’s full of healthy wintertime essentials.
Arugula is also known for its robust flavor profile, which makes it even more appealing.
Starting in early September, you’ll want to consider seeding, so you have plenty of plants.
Ideally, they grow best in a polytunnel or greenhouse, rather than directly outdoors. It’s recommended you consider astro as your top variety, as it multiplies.
Another fan-favorite winter crop is spinach because it proliferates in both cold and warm weather. Spinach can grow in the winter in climate zones 2 – 9.
You can easily plant this veggie in the early fall, as long as your garden is perfectly moist. When harvested, it pairs perfectly with pasta sauces, salads, and stews.
Be careful of the varieties you choose for winterizing spinach, as they’re not all the same. For example, the New Zealand spinach is very sensitive to cold temperatures.
When you’re working in late fall, you must protect your garden bed to promote germination.
You can easily tarp your garden for a few weeks and then remove the tarp. This process will allow the seedlings to feel cold so they can grow to their best ability.
10. Swiss Chard
If you’re searching for the most resilient winter vegetable, swiss chard is your best option. This plant is highly reliable, as it can grow at extraordinarily high and low temperatures. Swiss chard grows in growing zones 6 and above.
It also remains hardy regardless if your soil is poor or rich in nutrients.
As mentioned, chard can grow at extreme temperatures, usually between 20°F and 100°F.
Even when at near-zero degrees, it will stand against freezing weather while waiting for the sun. Due to its cold hardiness, it can quickly become one of your most-used crops.
For best results, plant swiss chard seeds in containers and transplant the starts into the ground or garden bed.
How to grow vegetables in winter
Now that you know what vegetables grow well in cold weather, the next thing to do is to plan everything. Some of the ingredients on the winter vegetables list require special techniques to thrive. Plan to plant in the fall. Fall and Winter Vegetable Gardens
Even though it can be easy to maintain your gardens over winter, there are some precautions to consider.
1. In-Ground Planting
When you’re working with veggies, it’s essential to consider how they will be planted.
If you don’t intend to use a greenhouse, it’s best if you avoid raised garden beds during freezing weather. By planting vegetables deeper in the ground, especially root vegetables, they will take longer to freeze.
Your garden beds are closer to freezing temperatures, which can cause your soil to freeze much faster.
2. Keeping Plants Warm
Some vegetables can grow over winter, as long as they receive special care and consideration. There are a few key elements to use to your advantage to keep your plants and their roots warm.
Mulch is a fantastic option, as it insulates the roots to prevent them from freezing.
It’s also a material that is very easy to source, can be organic, and is easy to replace during the year. You’ll also find that water can readily travel through the mulch.
Any fabric that you place over your vegetables can help them to stay warm during the winter. You can purchase frost cloth for this purpose.
When you insulate your veggies, they will be far less likely to be affected by the dry cold. Similar to mulch, a tarp is very easy to find and relatively inexpensive.
You might be thinking that if you water your plants in winter, they’ll freeze. In reality, dry cold is far more damaging to plants than wet cold.
By ensuring you water your plants’ roots before a deep freeze, it can insulate and protect them. With that said, you won’t want to water the foliage, as it is in direct contact with freezing temperatures.
Water sitting on your veggies’ foliage will cause the plant to freeze and die.
3. Preparing Your Soil
Regardless of when you intend on planting, it’s important you properly prepare your soil. For winter crops, the soil will need to be fertilized sufficiently before planting and after harvesting.
Our top recommendation for fertilizing soil is to consider liquid or compostable materials. Worm tea, for example, is a fantastic fertilizer that is easy to apply to your soil and plants.
Compostable materials are ideal, as they can be buried under the soil and absorbed over time.
What’s more, it is also an organic option that will provide continual nutrients to your surrounding plants.
4. Choosing a Shelter
There are very few winter crops that can grow outdoors without any protection. It’s highly likely you’ll have to consider some shelter, whether it be a greenhouse or polytunnels.
Polytunnels are an excellent option for winter crops, as the plastic is a perfect insulator for freezing temperatures.
You’ll also find that they help to protect your crops from rain, wind, and snow. However, if you have a ton of crops that need shelter, investing in a backyard greenhouse can be beneficial.
What Vegetables Are in Season During Winter?
While many winter vegetables are roots which grow in the ground, there are a wide variety of leafy greens and varieties of winter squash you can plant.
As a reliable source of nutrients for your whole family, these veggies are easy to work with and maintain. Also, they help to keep your gardens healthy year-round.
It also helps to grocery shop in season. Keeping a winter vegetables list in mind will direct you to fresher produce because it’s in season.