Colder winter days are often reserved by horticulturists for late harvests of the plants that thrive through the summer and fall. Evading extreme temperatures for harvest is a bright idea, but your garden could remain quite empty afterward.
Still, you can grow vegetables that thrive even in the cold winter conditions to get your winter garden up and ready. To help you maintain a flourishing garden with veggies that advance rapidly even in freezing temperatures, we’ll lead you through some of the best plants to grow at this time of the year!
Why Do Some Veggies Thrive In Cold Weather?
Some vegetables like winter lettuce and delicata squash plant grow and develop perfectly in the cold weather. You might be wondering why that’s the case, and the answer is quite straightforward – these are mostly deep root vegetables that spread their roots before the biggest frost.
Also, sometimes cold can even help your veggies be tastier. With the colder weather, the winter veggies will release more sugars and therefore taste better. Especially when it comes to naturally bitter vegetables, growing them in wintertime can even help.
So, what’s needed for winter plants to grow and thrive rapidly just like in warm weather? Let’s find out together before we proceed with the best winter vegetables to grow!
Main Factors Needed For Proper Winter Growth
To properly prepare for winter gardening, you’ll need to be aware of the main factors of growing winter veggies. These are some of the essential things to consider:
- Winter vegetable seeds
- Access to sunlight
- Frost covers
- Hydration method
To prepare for winter growing the right way, you’ll need to acquire the seeds of hardy vegetables and plant them during late summer or early autumn. Some of the winter veggies we’ll discuss as the best to grow during frost weather will only need a few weeks to sprout.
Winter Vegetable Seeds
To get a head start in preparing your winter garden, it’s time to discuss the seeds first. Namely, as some veggies like leafy greens need 5 or 6 weeks to sprout, you’ll need to place the seeds into the soil right on time.
It’s best to plant the seeds in early August, so when the frost comes, you will be ready. However, it’s not just about the seeds since you need to have a place for them prepared before thinking about the best winter vegetables to grow.
It’s not just about choosing the right plants and seeding them early before the frost season – it’s also about providing the cover with access to sunlight. Although veggies that require the most sunlight aren’t the ones you can mainly grow in winter, winter veggies still also need a few sunny hours.
It’s best to consider growing lights in closed systems and to plant in areas without any shade outdoors. The winter crops that need the most sunlight are cauliflowers, broccoli, and cabbage. These plants mostly require around 6 sunny hours per day and you should consider UV lamps in case your area doesn’t get much light in wintertime.
Growing acorn squash and kabocha squash plant in the winter among other veggies requires a proper frost cover as well. In colder climates, winters can get especially freezing, so you might want to consider season extenders.
These are the covers with reinforced polyethylene layers that act as heat keepers, so your plant doesn’t get frozen in its roots. Along with these and the grow lights, you might get the best growing results even in hard frosts. Also, raised bed lids can make a real difference here, as they provide all-around protection.
You can use the sprinklers or a water hose for watering the plants in cold weather unless the ground is frozen. If you’ve placed raised beds and have a frost cover, chances are that you’ll have usable soil and you can keep the hydration process going at all times.
It doesn’t make any difference on how cold the weather is – your winter vegetables still need a daily supply of water.
The Best Plants For a Winter Vegetable Garden
Growing tasty veggies in winter temperatures might be challenging, but it’s a task you’ll be ready for with our guide. Finally, it’s time to deal with the absolute best choices among veggie species you can grow in your winter garden. Here are some of the best ones:
- Winter lettuce
- Delicata squash
- Acorn squash
- Butternut squash
- Swiss chard
Among the hardy varieties, winter lettuce is one of the veggies that survives hard freezes the best. There are even varieties that are suitable for winter conditions specifically, including the Winter Marvel lettuce and lamb’s lettuce.
It’s also convenient that even if some frost manages to damage your lettuce, you can cut off the damaged leaves and save the plant. You can harvest in early spring even when planting the lettuce during the winter days.
Growing Kale In Winter
Another leafy green that will enrich your winter vegetable garden is kale. It’s impossible to leave this one out since kale can withstand frost and you can start planting it as late as mid-October.
It’s great that kale can survive temperatures as low as 20 degrees F. Kale leaves can endure a light frost as well, and you don’t have to worry about the plant dying in case this happens. However, you should still protect your kale leaves with a frost cover or protective winter sets if you want the leaves to be tender and soft after the harvest.
Including cabbage in your winter garden makes perfect sense due to its temperature resistance. It can endure up to 20 degrees F, just enough to withstand the first frosts. You can plant it in late autumn and expect it to be an addition to your green winter garden.
It can be ready for harvest during late winter, but cabbage is also leafy and attractive to insects as well. So, it’s even better to plant it during the winter with some protection from the cold and insects if you want it to make it to your kitchen unharmed.
Growing Delicata Squash In Winter
One of the best veggies that withstand cooler weather is winter delicata squash. It still requires some sunlight, but they thrive during the winter with over 90 days needed to mature. So, you can plant them in early fall, or even during the winter growing season to have them ready by springtime.
Since they are cold-tolerant, your best choice is to leave them sprouting during the winter and harvest on the first bright and sunny days of the year.
Growing Acorn Squash In Winter
During the cold winter months, acorn squash can be both a thrill and a challenge. They fit into the group of winter squash plants, but that doesn’t mean that they are hardy enough to go through even light frosts unprotected.
It simply means that they can be stored in a cool area, but they require sunlight and warmth while grown. It’s a good idea to use row covers to protect them from the freeze.
Harvesting Butternut Squash In Winter
One of the main species of the delicata squash plant that can thrive in the wintertime is butternut squash. However, to provide them with the best growing conditions, you should plant the seeds around 10 to 12 weeks before the temperatures drop.
Along with using row covers on the colder days, you can have a nice winter harvest of butternut squash plants even when the weather cools.
Cauliflower Winter Planting
Your winter vegetable garden needs a mixture of leafy greens and mustard greens, and aside from cabbage and brussels sprouts, cauliflower makes a great choice. Cauliflower is cold-tolerant, up to temperatures of 10 degrees F.
Some of the main problems with growing cauliflower are insects, so it might be best to plant them in wintertime when there aren’t many pests.
Growing Broccoli In Winter
Broccoli can withstand freezing temperatures and is hardy to 28 degrees F. For the most success of growing broccoli in the winter, you can go with Purple Broccoli as the kind that can survive winter temperature drops down to 10 degrees F.
You won’t even need to wait for the spring harvest since you can use broccoli in your food all winter long. Leaving small broccolini to thrive while cutting the main broccoli flower on a branch will get you a tasty meal and a plant that keeps thriving at the same time.
Garlic can also withstand winter weather and is one of the best vegetables to grow in a colder climate. There are some especially winter-resistant garlic kinds, such as the Extra Early Wight.
You might just need row covers, but garlic thrives especially well in colder periods. So, you might want to consider having all winter-long garlic bulbs planted so they can achieve the highest growth.
Growing Tomatoes In Winter
One of the least cold-tolerant vegetables is tomatoes. Still, you can grow them in winter periods in a heated greenhouse, and ensure that you have your favorite salad ingredient all season long.
You might also want to use a row cover since tomatoes could die down at temperatures below 32 degrees F. The alternative option would be to grow tomatoes indoors, and this method works especially well for cherry tomatoes and smaller variations.
Swiss Chard In Wintertime
As one of the plants that react to frost by producing more sugars, swiss chard can even taste better when grown in the wintertime. It can last and survive even colder temperatures down to 15 degrees F.
You can also pair them with carrots and similar root plants among hardy vegetables.
Growing Spinach In Winter
Winter gardening simply wouldn’t be the same without spinach. It also uses higher sugar production as a natural way of protection from the cold. It’s among the most forgiving vegetables to grow in colder weather as it undergoes a sort of dormancy through the coldest of days.
If you plant spinach before the peak of the winter, you should be set for a small harvest before the coldest days and another one after the cold days have passed.
Growing Winter Carrots
Carrots are without any doubt the best choice for beginners in growing winter vegetables. Not only can they sustain temperatures down to 15 degrees F, but they can also withstand light snow.
It’s best to plant carrots in early fall, and you can expect the first harvest time throughout the winter, and all the way into early spring. It’s also great that you can keep planting carrots in a row, and depending on the exact climate, you might not even need a row cover.
Eventually, you can also be growing kabocha squash and other vegetables like shallots, leeks, brussels sprouts, and beans in cold weather. Even though all of the plants we’ve mentioned are frost-resistant up to a certain temperature level, with a slight exception of tomatoes, you should still be careful and ensure proper protection.
Winter growing can be demanding sometimes, but it’s also quite rewarding to see your garden flourish even on the coldest of days.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
What is the easiest veggie to grow in winter?
Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots are the best choices for easy growing in cold weather, and carrots can even be harvested in this period.
When should winter vegetables be planted?
Winter vegetables mostly thrive when planted somewhere between late August and September.
Can you grow vegetables in wintertime indoors?
Some vegetables like tomatoes prefer indoor conditions to protect from tough frosts. You can also make use of heated greenhouses to keep growing sensitive veggies even through coldest days.