Ten Cool-Weather Veggies to Grow Through Winter
Your vegetable garden doesn’t have to end when summer does. It is possible to grow vegetables into the winter months and all year round regardless of where you live as long as you choose suitable crops.
There are a few crops that can withstand lower temperatures, frost, and even snow. Some vegetables will actually improve in taste after going through a frost. Cool-season vegetables can react to the low temperatures when exposed to frost, producing extra sugars that make them taste sweeter.
It must be said that winter gardening doesn’t come without its risks; it may work during a mild winter but not another when weather conditions are more severe. However, suppose you plant some frost-resistant vegetables from around mid-August to early October. In that case, there’s a good likelihood you will see results the following spring.
Generally, all vegetables that are part of the Brassica family are pretty tolerant to frost; this includes broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, and cabbage. Vegetables such as purple-sprouting broccoli and purple kale contain the pigment anthocyanin, which gives them a vibrant red or purple color. This pigment seems to benefit crops in some way so they are more resistant to freezing conditions and rots caused by winter rains.
Heavy rains can damage your plants more than frost in the colder months. If you are planning to grow through the winter months, you should invest in clear plastic tunnels, row covers, or cloches. Snow can be a good thing in small amounts as it acts as an insulating mulch, keeping the worst of the frost away from plant roots. To warm the soil more, you can try making mulch from cardboard and newspaper.
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So, with all this in mind, here are 10 frost-resistant veggies that will give you the garden and veggies you have always wanted all year round.
Radishes are one of the fastest-growing vegetables. You can have homegrown radish from seed in as few as 21 days. A cool-weather crop, your seeds will germinate in soil with a temperature as low as 45°F and can withstand a hard frost.
Collard Greens are the most cold-resilient veg in the Brassica family, tolerating temperatures as low as 5°F. The harsh conditions can also make them tastier. Hailed as the new kale by some chefs, this on-trend veggie is packed full of flavor and is highly versatile.
Kale itself is another excellent choice as it is very hardy, withstanding temperatures as low as 10°F. Kale is an example of a veggie that benefits from frost, with low temperatures leaving the plant with a sweeter taste.
Peas can survive light frosts with temperatures as low as 31°F. They are one of the earliest veggies you can harvest in springtime. Try planting them four to six weeks before the last expected frosts, water well and make sure that the vines will have something to climb once they begin growing.
Spinach is another hardy veg that can sustain temperatures as low as 20°F. Spinach can be a great early spring crop but remember to grow it undercover to protect it from rain and extreme weather conditions. If you are planting late into the season, then mulch seedlings heavily to get them through the winter freeze.
Turnips improve in flavor when exposed to frost. If you are lucky enough to be in a southern climate, plant them in early spring or late fall. You may notice that turnip leaves die off if temperatures drop below 10°F, but the root will stay good for harvest and eating.
Carrots love the cold temperatures of winter. It stimulates sugar accumulation, acting as a natural antifreeze to protect the roots from frost damage. Sow your carrots in late summer so that they mature into late fall. They can then be left in the ground for harvest throughout the winter. The green carrot tops can withstand temps of 18°F, with the roots able to tolerate even colder temperatures. For easy harvests, heavily mulch your carrots or cover with a cold frame or low tunnel.
Leeks are an excellent choice for your winter garden. Unlike many plants, they are not sensitive to day length and will continue to grow well throughout the short winter days. Although most leeks are cold tolerant, the darker, bluish-green varieties are likely to survive temperature plunges to 0°F.
Parsnips are a much-loved British and Irish staple. They can tolerate temperatures of 0°F. Parsnips take their time maturing, sometimes up to 130 days. If growing for winter harvest, make sure you plant them early enough.
Swiss Chard is popular for fall harvest but is also very tolerant to low temperatures of 15°F, especially the green and white varieties. In the depths of winter, you can protect your chard with a cold frame or low tunnel. Alternatively, harvest the leaves and then cover the remaining crown with a thick heavy layer of mulch. This will see the plant survive through the winter, producing new growth for spring.
So, there you have 10 examples of frost-resistant veggies; there are, of course, many more varieties that you can try. The most important thing to remember is that regardless of what you are growing, you should look carefully at the directions on the seed packets to get the best results.
Just because a veggie is classed as “frost tolerant” does not automatically translate that all varieties of that vegetable will be able to tolerate the same extremes of temperature. It would be best to keep in mind planting times and days to maturity concerning frost dates too.
Written by Rich Hamilton | Writer, Consultant, Author of The Growers Guide
Rich Hamilton has been in the hydroponics industry for more than 20 years, working originally as a general manager in a hydroponics retail outlet before becoming an account manager at Century Growsystems. He enjoys working on a daily basis with shop owners, manufacturers, distributors, and end users to develop premium products.