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 cold-hardy vegetables. They are also known as cool season crops.
There are plenty to grow and harvest. Knowing which vegetables grow in cold weather will also help you know what’s in season to help ensure you buy fresh produce.
Table of Contents
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 growing them in your gardens, you’ll be on your way to self-sufficiency.
Also, they can help to build the resilience of your gardens when the growing season comes around.
Which vegetables grow in winter
When considering what grows well in the cold, it’s important to know your hardiness zone. This way, you can choose what will grow successfully in your climate.
Winter vegetables list
When shopping or planting, choose these winter veggies:
- Brussels sprouts
- Kohlrabi also called cabbage turnip
- Leafy greens, including kale, arugula, spinach, swiss chard
- Leeks, a member of the onion family
- Rutabaga also known as yellow turnips and Swedes
- Sweet potatoes
- Artichoke plant – artichokes are non-blooming flower buds of thistles
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
There are many types of kale. A hardy cool weather crop, it packs a ton of nutrients, including iron and antioxidants. Kale grows 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 it’s most often grown in areas with warmer climates during the cold season.
For example, the Pacific Northwest is a massive exporter 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. For winter gardening outdoors, consider winterbor and red Russian varieties of kale.
You can freeze leaves for up to two weeks before they lose their freshness.
When grown in cooler weather, 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 grow in hardiness zones 3 – 10.
Most varieties are best harvested during late fall, though few can be picked 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.
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. There are many types of carrots in colors other than orange.
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, 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 a trusted source of fiber. This is a cruciferous vegetable you can eat raw or steamed. 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 hardiness zones 3 – 10.
Broccoli is an exceptionally hardy winter crop that also has plenty of minerals and vitamins. Cold weather helps broccoli thrive and helps 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 between 29°F and 32°F but not survive colder temperatures.
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.
It’s easy to find this 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. Grow winter squash if you live in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 – 10.
They 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 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, 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, they grow well in 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 they thrive the best in mild winters; however, they can also survive moderate frosts.
When planted, you might be able to keep onions for up to two years before harvesting.
There are several unique things about them, one of which being how useful they are for your garden. Did you know 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 easy, 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. It is also known for its robust flavor profile, which makes it even more appealing.
It’s also one of the best plants for hydroponics.
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, it proliferates in both cold and warm weather. Spinach can grow in the winter in planting 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.
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.
Swiss Chard Growing Tips
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. A good companion plant for swiss chard is lettuce. Learn how to grow lettuce.
Another resilient veggie in colder temps is celery. If you live in USDA hardiness zones 4 – 10, you should be able to have a successful crop.
To get a head start on growing, start by rooting celery you buy from the grocery store. Typically, people cut the stalks and throw away or compost the bottom.
Instead, put it in water. Root it and then transplant it outdoors. This is a great way to start it and eliminates waste. You can learn how to grow celery from seeds and seedlings as well.
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 be more protected from the cold and less likely to freeze.
A garden bed is closer to freezing temperatures, which can cause your soil to freeze much faster. Consider greenhouses if you live in a cold climate zone.
2. Keep 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. Prepare 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.
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.
Benefits of Vegetables
Whether you eat roasted winter vegetables or enjoy them raw, they are a tremendous source of vitamins A, B, and C. They also include dietary fiber.
Use them to make delicious dishes on their own or to add flavor to dishes. Enjoy them as a snack or a side for lunch or dinner. Season with herbs, salt, or butter to enhance according to taste.
What Vegetables Are in Season During Winter?
While many winter vegetables are roots or bulbs 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.
Depending on your hardiness zone, you can grow fresh turnips, curly kale, or artichokes, in a portable greenhouse and enjoy fresh foods year round.