Last Updated on January 11, 2022
Many novice gardeners think there’s a narrow window of opportunity for them to produce their food, and that a winter vegetable garden is but a dream. They believe that planting in the spring and harvesting throughout the summer is all they’ve got to harvest anything.
The fact is, based on location, you may grow a variety of fall and winter crops. There are a number of cold hardy vegetables!
Using this simple guide, you can learn to select the best vegetables for winter harvest. Most vegetables thrive in cold weather, so long as there is sufficient sunlight and water. Some vegetables can handle freezing temperatures better than others.
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Can you harvest vegetables from your garden in cold temperatures?
It’s rare for a vegetable plant to die from becoming too cold in the cold weather, assuming it gets enough sunlight and water.
Here are some tips for winter gardening
- Seed plantings should be staggered so you have a steady supply of vegetables throughout the winter. This can be accomplished through winter sowing.
- You can continue harvesting root vegetables such as carrots, beets, and parsnips even when the ground is covered in snow!
- Leafy vegetables such as kale, chard, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower can be harvested throughout winter months.
- Keep an eye out for winter garden pests that might eat your crops.
- If you have a greenhouse or cold frame, you can harvest year-round.
Can you grow vegetables throughout the winter?
Yes, with some planning ahead it is possible to have a constant supply of fresh vegetables throughout the winter months!
Above all, be aware of the frost schedule in your area of the country, as most vegetables will need to be planted before the first hard frost.
Here is a helpful schedule from our friends at Gilmour
Is there a climate that is too cold for winter gardening?
While not every vegetable can survive winter’s temperatures (sometimes I wonder if I will survive!), there are some hardy varieties that will tolerate hard frosts (25F to 28F), and others that will survive with temperatures into the teens.
Best and Easiest Vegetables for Winter Harvest
Cold temperatures won’t keep these winter vegetables from growing, given proper planning and care.
Carrots are a root vegetable that can be harvested in the winter months. In fact, carrots taste sweeter when they reach maturity during the cooler months of the year. That’s why they are known as ‘candy carrots’.
The tops of the carrots are safe to 15F, and the roots can handle even colder temps. Be sure to plan 6 to 10 weeks ahead of the first frost when planting this winter vegetable.
Here’s a tip: Plant your carrots by the middle of summer. Cover with a layer of straw or shredded leaves in November, then when it’s really cold, top that with a bed sheet or row cover.
Spinach is a delicious green that can be harvested in the winter months because it thrives in cold weather! In fact, it is the hardiest of the salad greens and can survive in temperatures that fall to 0F.
Interestingly, spinach will get sweeter as the temperatures fall.
You’ll want to plan ahead and make sure they’re in the ground 6 to 8 weeks prior to the first frost.
Kale is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet and it can be grown and harvested in colder climates, as it can tolerate temperatures that fall to 0F. In fact, kale tasted better as the temperatures start to drop in the fall.
Here’s a tip: Kale grows best when planted in late summer, and it likes soil that is slightly alkaline.
Swiss chard is a leafy vegetable that can be harvested in the winter months. You should start this plant indoors before the last frost of the year, planting it directly outside after all danger of frost has passed.
What are some other vegetables to grow for a winter harvest?
Depending on your climate, these cold tolerant vegetables can also be harvested during the colder months.
Cauliflower is a highly nutritious vegetable that can be harvested in winter months, although it’s not the easiest vegetable to handle.
Because cauliflower doesn’t grow in the dark, it thrives when planted during late summer/early fall months.
These cabbage-like veggies can be harvested in winter months because they thrive in cooler temperatures. To have a constant supply, stagger your plantings every two weeks throughout the autumn months.
Beets are root vegetables that can be harvested in winter months. They grow best when planted in late summer, or at least 6 to 8 weeks before an expected first frost.
Here’s a tip: You can leave beets in the ground during winter. Just remember to mulch the soil to protect the roots when it’s really cold.
Vegetables that can be grown and harvested in the fall
These vegetables are best grown during the spring and summer months, but they can be grown in the fall season in cooler temperatures. A few of these root veggies include turnips, radishes, onions, carrots, and potatoes. This is a great way to get fresh wild edibles on your table, even if you don’t have any sort of garden or yard.
Root vegetables should be planted after the first frost, and their growth rate will slow as winter approaches. If you live in a colder region like northern Alaska or other cold climates, you should plan to harvest your root veggies before the ground freezes solid.
Along with all the other brassica family members, cabbage can be successfully grown during the fall months. Plant your cabbage directly in mid-summer for a late fall harvest.
You can grow beans in the fall, but they may become rigid and stringy if you try to harvest them before frost hits. However, if you live in a warm climate, your beans should be ready for picking by the first hard frost. In milder areas with shorter growing seasons, plant dry shell peas or bush beans.
This vegetable grows well during the spring and summer months, but excellent broccoli yields can be produced in the fall season. Expect your plants to make great-sized, green heads.
Before you grow any winter vegetables, make sure you check the seed pack to see how much natural light the plant needs, as well as what temperature range it can survive in.
If your area is outside of those parameters, you’ll either have to select something different to plant or create circumstances that provide extra heat and protection so that your plants will grow.
Certain veggies will taste better when harvested in the winter, so you may be surprised to find that something you cultivated in warmer temperatures tastes far superior with winter crops. Growing vegetables for winter harvest is possible with planning, especially in milder climates.