Vegetables to Plant in the Cold Fall and Winter

Updated on November 3, 2016
MarleneB profile image

Building a sustainable lifestyle through gardening is something Marlene finds rewarding. Sharing tips with other gardeners is a true joy.

Photo: Lettuce
Photo: Lettuce | Source

It’s Cold Outside

When the weather starts to turn cold, the harvest from the vegetables you planted in the spring are likely coming to an end. Warm weather crops are squeezing out the last few veggies you will enjoy for this season. But, just because the weather is turning cold doesn’t mean you can no longer enjoy fresh vegetables. Contrarily, if you get busy planning for your winter garden, you can enjoy fresh vegetables in as little as 30 days.

Prepare the Garden

Rake up dead leaves and dried stalks from the past harvest. Fertilize the soil in preparation of the seeds you will be planting. Now, let’s consider which vegetables you will be able to plant during the cold season of fall and winter.

Select Your Vegetables

In order to make the best selection of plants that do well in cold weather, there are three things that you need to know. You need to know the:

  • First Frost Date - A frost day is when the temperature reaches 36° Fahrenheit or below. Celsius is 2°or below.
  • First Freeze Date - A freeze day is when the temperature reaches 32° Fahrenheit or below. Celsius is 0° or below.
  • Days to Maturity - A maturity day is the day the plant is ready to be harvested.

First Frost Date

There are several places you can go to find out what the First Frost Date and the First Freeze Date are. The most reliable source is the National Centers for Environmental Information where you will be able to find historical information about the weather and traditional dates for frost and freeze dates.

The climate and environmental resources listed in this report retrieve data from the National Climatic Data Center.

Another reliable source for information is The Old Farmer’s Almanac where you will find an interactive map for Frost Dates. Just enter your zip code to get the information for your area.

First Freeze Date

Victory Seeds is a reliable source to find Freeze Dates. You can find a chart that lists the dates by state, then city.

Days to Maturity

The best place to find the Days to Maturity is to look on the back of your seed packet. If the information is not readily available, there are other sources for finding that information. Typically, the agricultural department of most major universities will have reliable information about anything you want to know about plants.

After visiting several websites, I found the most success with Cornell University.

When to Plant Your Vegetables

Plant vegetables so that they become mature on or before the First Freeze Date or the First Frost Date, depending on how hardy the plant is.

Hardy Vegetables

Some plants, like collard greens, kale, and spinach are very hardy and actually taste better after they have been hit with a few days of frost. A plant is hardy when it can withstand light frosts (usually 25° to 28° Fahrenheit or 3.9° to 2.2° Celsius). These hardy plants can withstand freezing temperatures and can be harvested throughout the winter months.

Semi-hardy Vegetables

Other plants, like lettuce, Swiss chard, and endive are more delicate and while they can tolerate extremely cold weather, they can only tolerate light frosts (usually 29° to 32° Fahrenheit or 1.7° to 0° Celsius). It is best to harvest less hardy vegetables before the first frost.

Once you know the maturity date, you simply count back from the frost or freeze date. For example, if the days to maturity is 60 days, then count 60 days from the frost or freeze date. Plant your vegetable so that it will mature on or before the frost or freeze date according to its hardiness factor.

Cold Weather Vegetables

See the table below for a list of vegetables that grow well in cooler climates.

This information was retrieved from the back of my seed packets and seed company websites. The list is arranged in order of days to maturity from the shortest days to maturity to the longest days to maturity.

Vegetable
Days to Maturity
Hardiness Factor
Asparagus
30
Hardy
Chives
30
Hardy
Leaf lettuce
30
Semi-hardy
Pak Choy
30
Semi-hardy
Radish
30
Hardy
Spinach
30
Hardy
Mizuna
45
Semi-hardy
Mustard greens
45
Hardy
Arugula
60
Semi-Hardy
Bok choy
60
Semi-hardy
Cabbage (Early)
60
Hardy
Carrot (Early)
60
Hardy
Cauliflower
60
Semi-hardy
Collard greens
60
Hardy
Kale
60
Hardy
Kohlrabi
60
Hardy
Leek
60
Hardy
Peas
60
Hardy
Swiss chard
60
Semi-hardy
Turnip
60
Hardy
Beet
90
Semi-hardy
Broccoli
90
Hardy
Brussels sprouts
90
Hardy
Garlic sets
90
Hardy
Carrot
90
Semi-hardy
Onion
90
Hardy
Parsnip
90
Hardy
Rutabaga
90
Semi-hardy
Shallot
110
Hardy
Hardy vegetables can tolerate temperatures of about 25° to 28° Fahrenheit (3.9° - 2.2° Celsius). Semi-hardy vegetables can tolerate temperatures of about 29° to 32° Fahrenheit (1.7° - 0° Celsius).

Healthy Soil Encourages Healthy Vegetables

Prepare the soil for healthier vegetables.
Prepare the soil for healthier vegetables. | Source

Prepare Healthy Soil for Growing Your Vegetable Garden

For information on how to prepare your soil for the most healthy vegetables, read my article titled, "How to Prepare Soil for Planting and Growing a Healthy Vegetable Garden."

Read about soil pH levels and when to add nutrients to increase nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Also, read how mulch protects plants from harsh weather and helps keep nutrients in the soil.

Enjoy Your Garden!

Start looking up the First Frost Date, the First Freeze Date, and the Days to Maturity for the plants you enjoy. Plant the vegetables that are suitable for the cold harsh weather of fall and winter and you can enjoy fresh vegetables all year long.

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Marlene Bertrand

    Comments

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      • MarleneB profile imageAUTHOR

        Marlene Bertrand 

        9 months ago from USA

        Hi Bronwen Scott-Branagan. I am constantly amazed at how much can be grown is such a small space. With a little bit of planning, even the small space on a balcony can be quite productive.

      • BlossomSB profile image

        Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

        9 months ago from Victoria, Australia

        Thank you for an interesting and helpful article, even if we are on opposite sides of the equator. I enjoy growing vegetables in a small space and it's surprising how much can be produced.

      • MarleneB profile imageAUTHOR

        Marlene Bertrand 

        9 months ago from USA

        Hi Chitrangada Sharan! It's so good to see you. Thank you for your kind feedback. I absolutely enjoy growing vegetables and the good news is that even though you may have limited space, you can still grow quite a few vegetables in the garden.

      • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

        Chitrangada Sharan 

        9 months ago from New Delhi, India

        Very useful information about growing vegetables in cold weather. I love to grow plants, but don’t have much space. Only my terrace and that too, I have to manage it in earthen pots.

        I liked the list you have provided here. I would definitely try to grow some of them from your list.

        Thanks for sharing this useful and informative article!

      • MarleneB profile imageAUTHOR

        Marlene Bertrand 

        22 months ago from USA

        Hello Nell! Thank you for your feedback. Well the beauty of gardening is that you can start very small. With a balcony, you might consider growing a vertical garden. It is a little bit challenging, but I'm going to try it this year to get the experience. I'll let you know if it works for me.

      • profile image

        Nell Rose 

        22 months ago

        I love gardening, sadly we only have a balcony, but I love your tips and ideas. hopefully my brother will let me loose with his this year! Have a wonderful Christmas !

      • MarleneB profile imageAUTHOR

        Marlene Bertrand 

        23 months ago from USA

        Hello MartieCoetser. Thank you for your feedback. I hope you do get that garden because, to me, gardening is one of the most relaxing and rewarding activities in my life right now.

      • MartieCoetser profile image

        Martie Coetser 

        23 months ago from South Africa

        Thanks for this list of vegetables that can be grown in the Fall and Winter. One of these days I will have my own vegetable and herb garden.

      • MarleneB profile imageAUTHOR

        Marlene Bertrand 

        23 months ago from USA

        Thank you, MsDora, for your feedback about the maturity dates. This list keeps me from wondering what I can plant and still enjoy for the season.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        23 months ago from The Caribbean

        Very insightful and helpful. Not planting right now, but your systematic maturity date calendar got my attention. I shall try planting seeds. Thank you.

      • MarleneB profile imageAUTHOR

        Marlene Bertrand 

        23 months ago from USA

        You are so welcome, BlossomSB. Thank you for your kind comment. Sometimes, I forget that this is a world-wide platform and people are experiencing various seasons right now.

      • BlossomSB profile image

        Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

        23 months ago from Victoria, Australia

        Although I live in the Southern Hemisphere and it's now spring, these instructions will be useful when autumn and winter come around, I'm sure. Thank you for all your helpful advice.

      • MarleneB profile imageAUTHOR

        Marlene Bertrand 

        23 months ago from USA

        Thank you for your time here, Manatita. Although my garden is not filled to the brim with vegetables, still, I am enjoying lots of fresh vegetables even in the winter time.

      • profile image

        manatita44 

        23 months ago

        Cold fall and winter vegetables. Interesting time. I guess that they will be nutritious too. Well done!

      • MarleneB profile imageAUTHOR

        Marlene Bertrand 

        23 months ago from USA

        Hi Bill! When are you NOT busy! Well, we have our usual cold weather plants like arugula, lettuce, cilantro, garlic, leeks, and onions. Normally, we have collard greens and kale, but we didn't get around to planting them. I'm really surprised that the tomato bush is still producing. Happy Friday to you, too!

      • MarleneB profile imageAUTHOR

        Marlene Bertrand 

        23 months ago from USA

        Thank you for your feedback RTalloni. Lettuce grows very well in a container. You'll be eating lettuce in a very short while. But, I am sure you are looking forward to next year when you will have a full garden bed. Cheers to your garden!

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        23 months ago from Olympia, WA

        All done! All we planted this year was garlic...that and a cover crop to give nutrients to the garden for spring. We had bigger plans but just got too busy. Such is life. :)

        Happy Friday my friend!

      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 

        23 months ago from the short journey

        Thanks for this info on cold hardy veggies that can be grown at home. I've started some potted lettuce that I'm hoping will do well under a new carport but am hoping that next fall I'll be ready to expand a real fall/winter garden.

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