Growing Vegetables in Winter: Top 13 to Grow


Growing your own veggies is rewarding, especially growing vegetables in winter. It is cost-effective and delicious.  Come spring, garden stores will start featuring tomato and strawberry plants to get you in the veggie growing season.  But what about winter?

What are some vegetables to grow in winter?  These are the top 13 vegetables that you can grow over the winter, no matter where you live:

The keys to a successful winter crop include knowing which veggies to grow and how to pair them with the proper season-extenders (when needed). It’s also essential that you know when to plant the seeds for the best results.

Grow vegetables all winter long

The good news is that growing vegetables in winter, when the temperature is cold often makes them taste better. Most of the plants on our list are hardy in temperatures well below freezing.

Vegetable Growth Seasonal protection
Kale Thrives in cool climates some varieties grow in freezing temperatures and cold greenhouses Unheated greenhouse Row cover
Spinach Grows slowly over the winter for an excellent early-spring crop Low tunnel cold frame
Lettuce Eat homegrown salad all winter long Some varieties can survive temps down to 10° Cold frame heated greenhouse
Cabbage Can withstand frost down to 10 to 15° Row cover
Green onions Very hardy — frost will not kill them prefer cooler temps throughout the winter for a perfect early-spring crop N/A
Collards Plant in late summer to early fall for a winter crop flavor improves with frost                  Unheated greenhouse Cold frame
Asian greens Many varieties of Asian greens love cold weather Unheated greenhouse Cold frame
Corn mache AKA lamb’s lettuce can be sown directly outdoors in many climates           Row covers
Carrots Can survive in temps down to 15°Become sweeter after a frost Straw to keep the soil from freezing
Beets Seedlings love cool moist conditions will grow outdoors in milder regionsExtreme cold will cause the beets to go to seed       Cold frame
Radishes Winter radishes can grow to several pounds each cold weather causes the flavor to become sweet Can survive a deep freeze Straw to prevent freezing
Garlic Grows slowly all winter for a delicious early-Summer harvest Straw
Austrian Winter Peas Can survive in temps down to 10° Very fast growth cycle Cold box or tunnel in colder climates

As you can see, some of the winter-time vegetables have long growing seasons, and you won’t see results until spring. However, other varieties will produce greens and veggies all winter long provided you protect the plants correctly.

You’re going to hear the term “hardiness zone,” when it comes to your location and planting seasons. If you’re unsure which zone you’re located in, check out this map from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Related questions

  • Can I grow vegetables indoors for the winter?

 It’s possible to grow veggies right in your own home over the winter. If you are interested in growing vegetables in winter, you’re likely going to need a grow light like these as well as a location in your home for the plants. For a detailed article on indoor gardening, check out this how-to guide from the Spruce.

  • Can I grow vegetables in a greenhouse during the winter?
  • Many of the plants on our list are hardy at temps well below freezing and would grow wonderfully in a greenhouse. However, if you want to start growing vegetables in the winter, you’re going to need a heated greenhouse, especially if you live in a colder region.
  • Will a greenhouse keep the plants from freezing?

A greenhouse traps heat during the day and will usually keep plants from freezing. However, if temps dip below a certain point, you have to take some steps to keep the frost from the plants. Check out this how-to guide from SF Gate.

Season-extenders

One of the first things you will need to learn about growing vegetables in winter is this — even if the plants can stand sub-zero temps, if the soil becomes frozen, nothing is going to grow. So, if you live in the green, purple, and blue zones, you’re going to need a season-extender.

A season-extender is anything to keep the soil from freezing and your plants from succumbing to freezing temps. Above all else, the ultimate plant-killer tends to be ice so you need to keep them dry.

Try one of the following season-extender ideas:

The season-extender you choose depends on several factors:

  • How many vegetables you want to grow
  • How tall the vegetables are going to get before you harvest
  • The climate where you live
  • Average snowfall (some places get too much snow for a smaller plastic cover to hold up)

Don’t make the common mistake many people do and assume that you can simply let your winter plants go. If you’re using a season-extender, you’re going to need to make sure and open it up on sunny days so the plants can get some air.

If you don’t air them out, the plants won’t grow properly. Check out this detailed article about season-extenders from The Empress of Dirt.

Finally, remember, most of the plants on our list today like moist soil. While it won’t dry out as quickly as it does during the summer, your plants are going to need to be watered now and then.

The top 13 vegetables to grow over winter

For each of the delicious veggies we’re talking about today, you’re going to need some specialized instructions. Let’s find out how to keep growing your own food all winter long — even if you live as far north as Canada.

Kale

There are many varieties of kale and most of them thrive in shady, cooler conditions. Colder temps cause sugar to grow in place of starch in the kale, making winter-grown plants the most delicious you’re going to find.

  • Recommended varieties:  Red Russian, White Russian, and Vates
  • Sow seeds: late July
  • Plant spacing: thin seedlings to 10-inches apart
  • Instructions: you must plant all the kale you’re going to want for the season as it stops growing after the temps drop below freezing

For detailed instructions on growing kale over the winter, check out this guide from Green City Acres.

Spinach

Spinach is another great vegetable to grow over the long, dark winter months.

  • Recommended varieties: Red Kitten, Corvair,and Reflect,
  • Sow seeds: 35 to 50 days before the period of time when the sunlight lasts less than 10 hours a day (usually late September)
  • Plant spacing: air circulation is vital so keep plenty of space between plants
  • Instructions: a low tunnel or a cold frame is a great way to grow spinach in colder climates

For more information about how to grow spinach over the winter, check out this guide from Growveg.com.

Lettuce

If you love a salad, you’re going to adore all the varieties of lettuce that will grow all winter long in the right conditions. Most varieties of lettuce prefer to grow in colder temps. So, even if you live in a northern climate, with the right cold frame or polytunnel, you can sow and grow all season.

  • Recommended varieties: Arctic King, Rouge d’Hiver, Black Seeded Simpson, and Astro Arugula
  • Sow seeds: best to plant when the soil temps are around 70°
  • Plant spacing: depends on the variety you select
  • Instructions: experts recommend that you plant as many varieties of lettuce as you can fit in your plot

For more detailed instructions on how to grow the most delicious winter salads you have ever had, check out this how-to guide from Gardener’s Supply Company.

Cabbage

Winter cabbage is one of the most popular selections on our list. Winter cabbages tend to have smaller heads than what you might be used to.

  • Recommended varieties: Huron, OS Cross, and Danish Ball Head
  • Sow seeds: indoors anytime — if outdoors sow late summer or early fall
  • Plant spacing: as instructed per variety
  • Instructions: extended periods of deep frost will damage the pants as will too much direct sun, so you should use row protectors

For detailed instructions on how to grow the best cabbage this winter, check out this guide from Gardening Know-How.

Green onions

Green onions, aka scallions, are an excellent addition to a winter garden. Green onions grow incredibly fast (if you plant bulbs instead of seeds), so with the right conditions and the right kind of cold frame, you can enjoy them all season. Or, you can plant them directly outdoors for an amazing early-spring crop.

  • Recommended varieties: White Multiplier
  • Sow seeds: late fall for early-winter harvest or anytime throughout the winter for spring harvest
  • Plant spacing: 1-inch apart with 12 to 18 inches between rows
  • Instructions: green onions require cold to grow those long green stems and heat the grow the bulbs so if you harvest in the winter, the bulbs will be small

If you want to grow scallions this winter, check out this detailed how-to guide from SFgate.

Collards

Those of you who live in the south likely already know about collard greens. In zones eigh and higher, you plant collards in the fall for a delicious winter harvest. And with a little protection, you can grow them easily in the other regions as well.

  • Recommended varieties: Champion, Flash, Vates, Georgia, Green Glaze
  • Sow seeds: mid-summer for cooler climates and late fall in the south
  • Plant spacing: depends on the variety — usually around 12-inches
  • Instructions: harvest while the leaves are smooth and young for the best taste

If you want to grow collard greens this winter, check out this how-to guide from The Spruce.

Asian greens

Unlike our other categories, Asian greens cover a lot of ground and there are a ton of different varieties. Much like the lettuces on our list, these greens tend to grow very fast and will do well as long as you keep them from freezing.

  • Recommended varieties: Bok Choy, Mizuna, Tatsoi, and Chinese Broccoli
  • Sow seeds: last weeks of summer and early fall
  • Plant spacing: depends on the variety you choose
  • Special instructions: there are hundreds of different varieties of Asian greens and, like lettuce, experts recommend that you sow as many different types as possible

For more detailed instructions on how to grow Asian greens at home, check out this how-to guide from Grow Veg.

Corn mache

Also known as Lamb’s lettuce, you can grow corn mache directly outside in most areas. Using a cloche in the coldest climates guarantees you can enjoy corm mache all season long.

  • Recommended varieties: Big Seeded, and Gala
  • Sow seeds: early spring for a summer harvest and early fall for continued winter growth
  • Plant spacing: several inches between each plant for circulation
  • Special instructions: this is one of the most cold-tolerant plants on our list

If you want to give corn mache a try, check out this detailed how-to guide from Savvy Gardening.

Carrots

If you want some of the tastiest carrots you have ever eaten, you want to grow some of your own this winter. If you live in a very cold climate, you’re going to need to protect the plants with straw or other material — but carrots do very well even during the deep freeze.

  • Recommended varieties: Napoli and Mokum
  • Sow seeds: 12 weeks before the first frost
  • Plant spacing: depends on the variety
  • Special instructions: in the coldest climates, carrots won’t actually grow during the winter but they will stay nice and fresh for when you need one

For detailed instructions on how to grow the best winter carrots, check out this how-to article from Northern Homestead.

Beets

Like some of the others on our list, beets do best if you plant them in the early spring or the late fall. In milder climates, you could harvest beets all winter long. However, in colder regions, you may need some protection for the plants.

  • Recommended varieties: Early Wonder, Bull’s Blood, and Detroit Dark Red
  • Sow seeds: in spring three weeks before the thaw and late fall for an early-winter harvest
  • Plant spacing: thin seedlings to 3-inches apart
  • Special instructions: beets don’t like to be transplanted so you must sow them directly outdoors

For more information on growing the best beets since Dwight Schrute on The Office, check out this how-to guide from the Tenth Acre Farm.

Radishes

Unlike warm-weather varieties, winter radishes grow very slowly, but they also get very large. And the cold causes them to become much sweeter than they would be otherwise.

If you want to grow delicious radishes this winter, check out this how-to guide from the DIY Network.

Garlic

Unlike most of the items on our list today, garlic grows very slowly so it’s great for an early-summer or spring harvest.

  • Recommended varieties: garlic comes in two main varieties soft neck and hard neck — the hard neck varieties tend to do better in colder climates
  • Sow seeds: in cold climates, several weeks after the first frost but before the ground freezes
  • Plant spacing: 5-inches with 8 to 10-inches between rows
  • Special instructions: pay close attention to the planting instructions for your variety of garlic

Check out this guide from Farm & Dairy for a complete how-to on growing your own garlic this winter.

Austrian winter peas

Finally, we round out our list with a veggie that’s perfect for those of you who love the taste of peas — Austrian winter peas. And growing these is not only delicious, but the plants are great for your soil.

  • Recommended varieties: Austrian winter peas
  • Sow seeds: late summer early fall (these do not like the heat at all)
  • Plant spacing: none required
  • Special instructions: can survive temps as low as 10° but you will need a cover if it drops below that

For further information about how to grow the best Austrian winter peas, check out this how-to guide from Grow Journey.

Enjoy fresh homegrown salad all winter — even in the north

Now you are ready to get a jump start on growing vegetables in winter. Remember, research the specific temperatures where you live to learn about what will grow and what’s going to need some protection. And you don’t have to spend a ton of money on protecting plants if you live in the cold, hard north. Instead, check into inexpensive options like empty milk jugs and plastic tarps to keep things from getting too cold.  Money shouldn’t keep you from enjoying a crisp, homegrown salad in January.

Eyerly Family

The Eyerly Family is a family of 8 that loves gardening. Over the past several years we have been applying what we learn about gardening to our own 16x16 raised back yard garden. Our garden is very prolific and we grow a wide variety of vegetables which we love to eat! Click here to learn more about the Eyerly Family.

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