Vegetable gardening at home has become incredibly popular both as a supplementary food source and an enjoyable pastime. The process of preparing the soil, planting, watching vegetables grow, and then harvesting them is very satisfying. But can you grow vegetables all year round?
The most challenging season for growing vegetables is in winter, particularly in cooler climates where it snows. But the good news is that many cool-season annuals will grow in most parts of the U.S. These include popular salad greens, root crops, and veggies like asparagus, broccoli, and brussels sprouts.
15 Vegetables You Can Grow In Winter
Before you decide what winter vegetables to grow at home, you will need to ascertain what grows best in your geographic area. After all, the United States is a huge region, and what thrives in a southern state like Florida may not do well in northern Montana.
Nevertheless, we have identified 15 of the best vegetables that will grow in a winter garden. We have arranged them in alphabetical order, so take your pick and feel free to add to it.
Beetroot is considered to be a cool-weather crop in mild-winter regions. But it thrives in dappled sunlight.
You can plant beets up until about 6 weeks before you expect your last frost. If you want them for winter, that’s the way to do it.
Remember, they are usually ready to harvest just less than two months after you’ve planted them.
The brassicas are stalwarts of winter, and broccoli is one of the best. Of course, therefore, it comes as no surprise to learn that it grows best in cool weather.
Just be aware that some broccoli varieties have been bred to grow in warm weather conditions.
Brussels sprouts are one of the best winter vegetables because they will stand up to freezing weather conditions. Another brassica needs a long, cool winter to develop.
If you try to grow them in the spring, you’re unlikely to have a decent harvest.
Unsurprisingly, cabbage is also a brassica. Perhaps more surprisingly, unlike Brussels sprouts cabbage is tolerant of warm conditions.
Nevertheless, there are varieties that you can plant to ensure a continuous harvest pretty well throughout the year.
If you’re growing from seed, be warned that carrots need well-prepared soil. You will also need to keep the soil moist to ensure the seeds germinate.
You can grow them directly in the ground, although raised beds are great for good root development.
Yet another brassica, this can be a fussy one. Generally, cauliflower needs to be well-established before winter begins.
But it’s one of those hardy vegetables that need cool weather and wintery conditions for its flower-bud heads to develop.
Like the other brassicas, kale is also very cold-hardy. And, like Brussels sprouts, it will grow in freezing conditions.
It is also incredibly easy to grow.
Salad lovers consider lettuce to be a summer crop. After all, lettuce is the soul of most summer salads.
But even if you experience mild frost, lettuce makes a great winter salad crop. If your region is too cold, try growing it in mini-tunnels for a rewarding fall-winter crop.
You can grow onions that you can harvest at various times of the year. When you plant early or so-called winter-growing onions at the beginning of the fall, you will have white spring onions in .. yes, spring!
When you plant mid and late-season onions later in the fall, you will be able to harvest them in the summer. So they grow throughout winter.
You can choose between slow-maturing red, white, and brown varieties. They will dry in the sun and will be good for storage.
In cold temperate climates, you’ll find that peas grow all year long. The plants will tolerate frost, but once you’ve got young pods and flowers, you don’t want it to be too cold.
So, peas work best as a winter crop in slightly warmer garden environments.
If you live in the right area, potatoes can make a fantastic winter-early spring food crop. They aren’t difficult to grow, but it’s a good idea to look for certified seed potatoes that are disease free.
Radishes are an easy-to-grow root-salad crop that thrives in colder spring and fall weather. You can harvest most varieties 30-45 days after you sow the seeds.
They grow and mature really quickly and are super-easy to grow. Start them in late winter because the best radishes grow best in very early spring.
Spinach withstands fairly extreme winter temperatures. It grows best when winter days are cool and short.
However, spinach is another veg that sometimes presents germination problems. But experience will show that cooler soils encourage germination.
Some gardeners say they sow spinach seeds directly when there is still snow on the ground. As the snow melts, the ground warms and the seeds start to germinate.
Even though Swiss chard could double for spinach, it’s actually part of the beet family. And it doesn’t tolerate extreme temperatures the same way that spinach does.
But Swiss chard is a good winter vegetable and, if you need to, you can cover it to ensure it continues to thrive through the winter months.
Turnips are a cool-weather root vegetable that you can grow in spring and fall. This means that you can grow turnips from seed for early winter or late fall harvest.
When should I plant winter vegetables?
Many people in cooler climates start the vegetables they plan to grow in a winter garden indoors. This is a good strategy if you are planting seeds.
Christopher Enroth from the University of Illinois Extension’s Urbana-Champaign has prepared a table that recommends when to start seeds indoors and when to transplant them into a winter garden. Most are on our list.
Also, most take 4-6 weeks from the time you plant the seeds to the seedlings being ready to transplant outdoors. The only one on his list that might be ready in 5 weeks is lettuce.
But it’s not just establishing the seedlings that are important. You also need to take the last frost into account.
For example, you can transplant cauliflower 2 weeks before the last frost. You can transplant broccoli 2-4 weeks before the last frost, and cabbage, kale, and kohlrabi 4 weeks before the last frost.
The timeframe for lettuce is 3-4 weeks, and for spinach, 3-6 weeks.
Peas, radishes, and turnips can be seeded directly in the ground outside. Plant peas as soon as the soil thaws and radishes and turnips 2-4 weeks before the last frost.
As mentioned above, some gardeners sow their spinach seeds directly, when there is snow on the ground.
How to know when it’s too late to plant for winter?
Are you planting the best veggies for winter gardening? In other words, do you want Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and other vegetables for your winter table?
Well, you probably do. But you can also grow many of the best winter vegetables right through to the following fall and winter.
Generally, the best way to do this is with sequential planting. Seed packets and sowing guides indicate when you can plant.
You can also be guided by seedlings sold in local garden centers. You will, though, need to assess how long they will take to be ready for harvest.
Lots of vegetables grow during winter or in time for you to harvest for the winter months. But there is no doubt that some will do better in certain climatic environments.
Are you serious about growing the best winter vegetables in your home garden? If so, do a little bit of homework to see what grows best in your area.
You won’t be sorry. After all, gardening is fun but it can also be hard work!