As temperatures drop, it’s time to think about which garden vegetables to grow and how best to protect them. Fortunately, there are some simple solutions to protect winter crops. When choosing vegetables, look for seed packets and plant labels that mention “cool” or “cold season” in the description. Cool-season vegetables thrive when mercury is down, preferring colder temperatures to warmer weather.
- Wondering what winter vegetables to grow this cold season?
2. The best winter vegetables to grow
3. Will frost affect vegetables grown in winter?
4. What is the ideal soil temperature for growing winter vegetables?
5. How to Protect Winter Vegetables
The best winter vegetables to grow.
- Carrots – They are the perfect winter vegetable because they are easy to grow. Just make sure your soil temperature doesn’t drop below 45°F (you can put a layer of mulch on the bottom of the plants to keep them warm). Grow carrots in full sun, or part-afternoon shade in well-drained, organic-rich soil. Carrots can survive light frosts, but they should be harvested before the ground freezes. While the roots will be fine after freezing, the tops will not tolerate it.
- Kale – Kale is a special winter vegetable, and some varieties can even handle harsh weather conditions. Kale will sprout in cool soil at 45°F and can be grown in full sun or partial shade. Start harvesting in September and continue to do so until temperatures drop to around 20°F. In fact, kale actually tastes better after the first frost. It doesn’t last long after harvest, so only pull what you need soon. You’ll know when it’s time to harvest kale when its leaves are about the size of your palm.
- Broccoli – Broccoli thrives in cool weather and is frost tolerant, making it a great choice for winter gardens. It does need full sun and rich, fertile, moist soil. In general, broccoli can survive temperatures as low as 40°F, and some mature plants can go as low as 25°F. But anything below that, unless domesticated, could kill the plant. Seeds will germinate at soil temperatures around 40°F. Be sure to harvest before blooming.
- Cabbage – This cool-season plant actually even buys a true late-season variety called winter cabbage. Winter cabbage requires less water than summer growth. Row covers are best if extreme cold and icing are expected. If grown from seed, they will germinate in temperatures as low as 40°F. In some areas, you will need to harvest cabbage in early winter. If the temperature were to drop, your cabbage might crack. For the most part, cabbage can tolerate a moderate frost, but it can be damaged by any hard deep freeze. After harvest, store the heads in a cool cellar or basement for several months.
- Broad beans – Broad beans, also known as fava beans, are another cool-season crop that is easy to grow in areas with temperatures as low as 40°F. They do well in full sun and loose soil with good drainage. They are also frosted tolerant. Water the beans before the soil dries out, taking care not to overwater. You can harvest fava beans in about 85 days, making sure to do this before the pods harden. Once picked, the beans will keep in the refrigerator for about a week. You can also freeze, canned, or dry them.
- Mache – Mache can tolerate extreme cold if ingrained. Seeds will germinate if the soil temperature is at least 50°F. Although it’s relatively slow growing, these tender vegetables are easy to grow through the winter. Harvest small batches as needed.
- Arugula – Arugula is a great fall/winter crop and usually survives moderate freezes and light frosts during cold winter months. Make sure to plant in full sun or afternoon shade in fertile soil that retains moisture. Harvest tender leaves to use as needed. Be sure to use protective mulch if planting in extremely cold conditions.
- Lettuce – Lettuce does well in cooler temperatures and usually tolerates light frosts. It does best when grown anywhere above 45°F. However, most varieties require protection from any hard freezing. Grow lettuce in full sun or partial afternoon shade. Lettuce can be grown in several types of soils, but it does need moisture and will do better with some compost. Harvest individual leaves or use a knife to cut the plant at the base for a full head harvest.
- Kohlrabi – From the cabbage family, kohlrabi likes full sun and well-drained soil to which well-rotted compost has been added. Will be fine after a light frost and works well in temperatures as low as 40°F. Harvest your kohlrabi once the base of the stem grows to the size of a tennis ball. Don’t let the kohlrabi sit for too long as it will result in a less pleasing texture
- Turnips- turnips will sprout even in soil temperatures as low as 40°F, making them another cool-weather start to grow well in your winter vegetable garden. While hard freezing can damage the flavour of radishes, a light frost can actually improve it! Plant these beautifully colored roots in sun or partial shade, and make sure the soil is relatively fertile and well-drained. You can harvest the leaves and roots of radishes. Your harvested radishes can be stored for weeks in a cool cellar or in a dry, dark place
- Radishes – Radishes are great because they can grow in almost any type of soil as long as they are well-drained. However, these little red beauties are not hardy. They will start to germinate and produce well in soil temperatures around 50°F. They thrive in full sun to part afternoon shade and should be harvested when they are round and quarter-sized. Radishes taste best, so don’t leave them for too long.
- Mustard greens – Mustard greens are cool annuals known for their ability to germinate at lower temperatures. They will survive light frost but not severe cold. They need rich, well-drained soil to really do well. Plant mustard greens in full sun to partial late afternoon shade. Mustard generally does not require feeding as it will use up the nitrogen left over by summer crops. To harvest, you should chop the leaves at the bottom with a hoe – be sure to do this before any hard ice forms. Any unharvested greens should be returned to the soil. As an interesting side note, the residue left behind works well against nematodes, also known as roundworms. This makes mustard a great crop to grow before potatoes.
- Onions – A member of the Allium family, onions work best when mixed with compost in well-drained, fertile soil. They will work when planted in soil that is at least 50°F. You’ll get better results if the onions are planted in raised beds or rows. Onions have two specific harvest times. You can pull small onions into scallions or wait for larger bulbs to form. Once the top of the plant is limp and down, you can place the entire bulb to form. Once the top of the plant is limp and down, you can pull the entire bulb up. For best results, marinate the onions in a warm place for about a week before serving or cooking with them
- Garlic – Garlic bulbs are hardy and thrive in full sun. Plant them when the soil temperature is about 50°F at 4 inches deep. They need rich, well-drained soil and a decent amount of compost. They are frost tolerant, but it is best to cover the plant with at least 3 inches of mulch. Harvest the garlic as soon as one-third of the leaves start to dry out and start to lose their youthful green colour. Dig out the bulbs, shake off the soil, and place the entire plant in a cool, warm place.Be careful not to leave them in the ground for too long or you will have loose bulbs that will rot quickly after harvest.
- Spinach – Most people are surprised to learn that spinach is a member of the beet family. But it’s true! These beautiful leafy greens are tougher than they initially appear. In fact, with mulch, spinach can survive harsh winter climates in many regions. Young plants may begin to germinate in temperatures below 40°F, but more mature plants can survive temperatures as low as 25°F. Grow spinach in sun and partial shade in rich soil combined with high nitrogen compost. Keep spinach well watered and harvest individual leaves as needed. You can also let the plants continue to grow until they resemble leafy, dense rosettes. If you notice leaves turning yellow or your spinach seems to be growing slowly, it may be due to nutritional stress. If this is the case, use water-soluble plant food.
Will frost affect vegetables grown in winter?
Frosting has the benefit of sweetening winter vegetables and enhancing their flavour. However, even the seeds of winter vegetables need a certain temperature to germinate – check the seed package for details. Most vegetables require protection from extreme cold and winter
What is the ideal soil temperature for growing winter vegetables?
The vegetables listed above thrive in winter. However, many plants, such as spinach, lettuce, and arugula, slow down as temperatures drop. For best seed germination, plant when the temperature is still between 60/65°F and 40°F. This also gives the plants time to start to mature before the coldest days of winter.
When growing vegetables for winter or early spring harvest, it’s important to keep the soil as warm as possible. Some vegetables, like carrots, are sweetened when grown in sub-freezing soil. However, when the soil remains frozen, active growth ceases. There are a variety of strategies that can help ease freezing temperatures. The colder your area, the more protection you need to give your winter vegetables the best results.