Top 15 Vegetables to Grow Over Winter
If you think you have to hang up your garden trowel just because the temperature dips, think again! In much of the country, you can still grow vegetables in the winter and expect a nice harvest. You simply need to know which vegetables to grow.
Learn more about the best vegetables to grow in winter and the tips and tricks you need to know about starting a winter garden so you can enjoy fresh food throughout the year.
Plus, don’t forget, if it gets way too cold in the winter to garden where you live, you can also move your gardening indoors by planting some of these best vegetables plants that grow inside! Not sure how to start gardening inside? Then be sure to check out our guide on indoor gardening for beginners.
How Do I Grow Vegetables in Winter?
The biggest trick to winter gardening is knowing which winter vegetables to grow and when to plant them.
Semi-hardy plants can handle light frosts (29 to 32º F) without experiencing too much damage. In milder climates, these types of vegetable plants will likely produce all winter. If temperatures are expected to dip below freezing for a few hours, you can cover them with frost blankets to protect them.
Hardy vegetables are ones that can withstand hard frosts (25 to 28º F) without damage. Some hardy vegetables are so tough, they can withstand temperatures that dip into the low 20s to upper teens.
Depending on where you live, you might need some type of small greenhouse, hoop tunnel, or cold frame to keep your cold-tolerant vegetables going. If you live in a milder climate, you might be able to grow them outside all winter long.
When Should I Plant Winter Crops?
One of the trickiest parts of growing vegetables in cold weather is knowing when to plant winter crops. Most of the vegetables you want to grow in winter should be planted from mid-summer to early fall.
If you have absolutely no idea what to plant and when to plant it, consider checking out some of these top subscription boxes for gardeners. Many of these boxes will take a look at your location and send you the exact seeds you need depending on the time of year.
Vegetables to Grow in Winter
Once you have a good idea of when to plant your winter crops, it’s time to start picking out what you want to grow. If you’re just starting winter gardening for the first time, consider picking out a few vegetables that you know your family loves to eat.
As you get more experience, you can expand your cold-weather garden to include a variety of these best vegetables to grow in winter.
Kale is the absolute champion of winter gardens. This cold-hardy vegetable can withstand temperatures that dip into the 20s. In fact, many gardeners find that temperature drops actually improve the flavor of kale.
Kale is also a versatile vegetable you can use in different ways. You can pick the baby greens for salads or let the leaves mature and use them for sautes, soups, and chips.
Broccoli is actually a central head with a cluster of unopened flowers. It’s a good vegetable to grow in the winter because if it gets too warm, these flowers go to seed too early. The cooler weather keeps the flower buds tightly closed so we can enjoy eating the broccoli.
In addition to the main head, you might notice several small side shoots or mini-broccolis on the plant. These are also edible and allow you to get a few more harvests from your plants.
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Cabbage is what I like to call a Goldilocks plant — it doesn’t like things too hot or too cold. Since cabbage does best when temperatures are between 75° and 50°F, this might be a vegetable that’s better suited for those of you with mild winters.
In colder climates, you’ll likely want to harvest your cabbage in mid-October. In milder climates, you can sow in the fall for a cool-season harvest.
Also, keep in mind that cabbage gets a little sweeter after a very light frost.
4. Brussels Sprouts
There’s a good reason why Brussels sprouts look like miniature cabbages. It’s because they are actually a member of the cabbage family!
What’s more, Brussels sprouts do even better in winter gardens than cabbage does. In fact, you can leave these plants in the garden into the winter since they can handle temperatures all the way down to 10°F and a frost actually improves their flavor.
I’ve actually had a lot of success growing lettuce throughout the year even though I live in Florida because I use this variety that can withstand hot, dry conditions. However, the plant is actually better suited as a cool-season crop.
Best of all, with options that range from romaine to mesclun, you’ll have no problems finding and growing the type of lettuce you enjoy eating.
If you have a garden that gets a lot of shade, spinach is a good vegetable to consider because it doesn’t need a ton of sunlight to grow. It also thrives in cold weather. In fact, this super nutritious cold-hardy vegetable can sometimes even overwinter in areas with sub-zero temperatures.
Arugula is another leafy green that’s one of the best vegetables to grow in winter. There are two main types of arugula: wild and garden.
A lot of people think garden arugula has a somewhat milder taste compared to wild arugula. However, both are frost-tolerant and have a complex flavor that adds a unique zing to salads, pizzas, pestos, and more.
If you plant arugula tightly together, you can grow baby greens. Or you can space the plants farther apart for full-sized leaves.
Endive has frilly leafs that make it the perfect addition to any salad. Since it has a mild flavor and nice texture, it mixes well with other types of greens.
Plus, since it’s frost-tolerant, you can continue to grow it even after the warmth of summer starts to subside.
9. Bok Choy
Bok choy is an ancient Chinese cabbage that has a more milder flavor than your typical head of cabbage. As a result, you can use it in a variety of different ways, including in soups, stir-fried dishes, and even fermented. The center stalks, which are called “hearts,” are also edible.
The other great thing about this frost-tolerant green is that the baby leaves are ready to harvest in only about 35 days.
10. Swiss Chard
Swiss chard is a powerhouse in the garden. Not only is it a good source of fiber, minerals, and vitamins, but it’s also low in calories.
The leafy green vegetable offers a nice splash of color in your garden, and both the leaves and the crunchy stalk are edible. You can also sow the seeds closer together to grow baby greens.
This frost-tolerant vegetable isn’t really picky about weather either. It can withstand light to moderate frosts, and can even overwinter in many climates.
If you enjoy cooking with garlic, you’ll love growing it in your garden! The aroma and flavor that comes from a freshly pulled bulb just can’t be beat.
There are two different types of garlic: softneck and hardneck. It’s important to know the difference so you can choose the one that’s right for your climate.
Softneck garlic can produce a bulb in a variety of climates and doesn’t require a cold winter period to grow. Although it can grow in areas that have a cold winter, it’s perfect for regions that have a mild winter. Softneck garlic usually produces a smaller clove, and you can store it for up to a year.
Hardneck garlic does require a winter chilling period to produce a bulb. While this means it’s not really suited for areas with mild winters, you can replicate this chilling period by placing the bulbs in a dark location with a temperature below 40°F for about 45 days before planting.
Many gardeners do this by placing the bulbs in a paper bag in their refrigerator. You can typically store hardneck garlic for 4 to 6 months.
Like a lot of other root vegetables, carrots are an outstanding option for container gardens. Since you know the soil you’re using in your containers is free of rocks, roots, and other impediments, your carrots will have plenty of clear space to grow nice and plump.
Not only are most carrots frost-tolerant, but a little dip in the temperature actually makes them taste even sweeter. We like growing these little finger carrots because they’re small, crisp, and sweet!
Beets are a frost-tolerant root vegetable that offer a variety of nutritional benefits. They can help improve endurance, aid in detoxification, and help lower blood pressure.
While you’re waiting to harvest the roots, you can enjoy eating the leaves. Plus, when it is time to harvest your beets, you can have them pickled, juiced, roasted, or raw.
Radishes are another frost-tolerant root vegetable that you should consider for your winter garden. You can divide radishes into two main groups: the spring/summer type and the winter type.
The spring/summer type of radishes grow best in spring, early summer, and early fall when temperatures are cooler. The winter type requires the shorter days of late summer or early fall to trigger root growth.
If you live in a mild climate, you can take advantage of the cooler temperature in fall and winter to grow radishes.
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If you want to grow onions in the winter, you need to pay careful attention to which variety you choose because an onion’s growth is triggered by day length.
While I have had success growing this Gabriella onion and this Yellow Granex onion in Florida, if you live in a cooler climate, you’ll have better success choosing something like this Yellow Sweet Spanish onion or this Cabernet onion.
Scallions are another cold-tolerant vegetable that do well in winter gardens.
Best Vegetables to Grow in Winter
Shorter days and cooler temperatures doesn’t mean the end of the growing season in your garden. Instead, make the switch to these best vegetables to grow in winter and keep enjoying fresh food throughout the year!
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