by Erin Marissa Russell
When the weather turns colder as freezes and winter weather come rolling in, you may be wondering about your vegetable gardening options for winter. Good news: You don’t have to give up your vegetable garden just because temperatures are dipping lower. There are a variety of options for wintertime vegetable gardening, from selecting plants you can keep outdoors the whole season to planning ahead for a wintertime harvest. Read on to find out how to keep your vegetable garden growing strong so you can keep enjoying the homegrown veggies you’ve been harvesting even during the winter months.
What do you plant in a winter vegetable garden?
Even if you’re just getting started on a vegetable garden during the cold season, there are lots of things you can grow as temperatures dip lower in the winter. Choose from the plants below to enjoy an edible harvest in the wintertime.
- Beets (Beta vulgaris): In growing zones 9 and up, you can plant beets in October and do succession planting every 20 days for a continuous harvest. 45 to 65 days from planting to harvest.
- Bok Choy (Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis): Gardeners in zones 4 through 7 can plant bok choy in October and continue growing it under cover. For a winter garden, we recommend the Black Summer variety. 30 days from planting to harvest for baby bok choy; 120 to 180 days from planting to harvest for mature bok choy.
- Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica): In zones 3 through 10, plant broccoli transplants in October to harvest through the winter. The best varieties in the winter garden are Belstar, Calabrese, Marathon, and Purple Sprouting. 55 to 80 days from planting to harvest.
- Broad Bean/Fava Bean (Vicia faba): Fava beans will happily grow in temperatures down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Choose longpod varieties for winter planting, such as Aquadulce Claudia or Coles Early Dwarf. 240 days from planting to harvest. Read more about growing beans.
- Cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata): In growing zones 1 to 9, spring cabbages can be planted in October as long as you use row covers or cloches to protect plants during extreme cold periods. 80 to 180 days from planting to harvest.
- Carrots (Daucus carota subsp. sativus): A hard freeze will make the carrots in your garden even sweeter, so they’re an excellent choice for the wintertime garden. In growing zones 3 to 10, plant every three weeks for a continuous harvest. 60 to 120 days from planting to harvest. Read more growing carrots.
- Collard Greens (Brassica oleracea var. acephala): Plant collard greens in October in growing zones 8 and up. 60 to 75 days from planting to harvest. Read more.
- Garlic (Allium sativum): Gardeners in zones 3 to 8 can plant garlic through October, as it grows happily in the winter garden. Opt for softneck varieties if your area has milder winters. Otherwise, we recommend California Early, Elephant, Inchelium Red, Italian Red, Music, Picardy Wight, or Spanish Roja. 90 days from planting to harvest. Read more about growing garlic.
- Kale (Brassica oleracea var. sabellica): Kale flourishes in chilly weather, and a bit of frost actually improves its flavor. It’s hardy down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. 70 to 80 days from planting to harvest. Read more about growing kale.
- Leeks (Allium ampeloprasum Leek Group): As long as you mulch to prevent freezing, you can grow leeks throughout the wintertime. In zones 7 and up, you can even plant leeks in October. 120 days from planting to harvest for short-season leeks; 170 days from planting to harvest for long-season leeks.
- Lettuce (Lactuca sativa): Gardeners in zones 3 to 9 can enjoy lettuce all winter long. Certain varieties of lettuce flourish in the winter, especially if you harvest when they’re half grown. We recommend the following varieties, which are hardy to 5 degrees Fahrenheit: Green Forest, North Pole, Tango, and Winter Marvel. Read more growing lettuce year round.
- Mustard Greens (Brassica juncea): In zones 8 to 11, you can plant mustard greens in October. Begin harvesting at 120 days when leaves are at least six inches long; greens are completely mature 180 days after planting.
- Onions (Allium cepa): In zones 3 to 9, gardeners can plant onions in October as long as they choose long-day varieties, such as Hi Keeper, Troy, or Radar.
- Peas (Pisum sativum): In growing zones 2 to 9, plant peas six to eight weeks before the first frost, or start them indoors and transplant into the winter garden in October. You’ll need to protect the plants with fleece or row covers when there’s a hard frost. The best winter varieties include Avola, Feltham First, Meteor, and Oregon Sugar Pod II. Read more growing peas.
- Radishes (Raphanus raphanistrum subsp. sativus): Radishes are a favorite wintertime crop that thrives in colder temperatures. In zones 3 to 9, choose the following varieties for the best cold weather performance: Butter Globe, French Breakfast, or Sparkler. 30 days from planting to harvest. Read more growing radish.
- Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum): In growing zones 6 and cooler, rhubarb crowns can be planted into the garden in October. Read more about growing rhubarb.
- Spinach (Spinacia oleracea): Gardeners in zones 3 to 9 can plant spinach in October, with succession planting every few weeks for a continuous harvest. If a true cold snap hits, protect the plants with fleece. 37 to 45 days from planting to harvest. Read more about growing spinach.
- Swiss Chard (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris): Swiss chard loves winter weather. In zones 3 to 10, plant 40 days before the first frost. Alternatively, you can introduce transplants into the winter garden in October. Baby greens can be harvested at 30 days, and chard is mature from 45 to 60 days after planting. Read more growing Swiss chard.
- Turnip (Brassica rapa subsp. rapa): Gardeners in zones 9 and 10 can plant turnips in October and harvest after they’ve grown to two or three inches tall.
What vegetables harvest in winter?
With a little planning ahead, your options for winter vegetable gardening expand even more. There are lots more veggies you can plant earlier in the year that will be ready to harvest during the winter so you can keep cooking with homegrown produce even in the chilliest of weather. Stock your garden with the vegetables listed below so you can enjoy a diverse winter harvest. (And don’t forget the plants in the section above, as many of them can be harvested in the winter season.)
- Artichoke (Cynara scolymus): The Green Globe variety of artichoke can be grown throughout the winter in zones 6 or 7 and colder. To help them last through the winter season, cut stalks down to six inches, then gather and tie together to keep the crown insulated. Add a layer of compost four to six inches deep around the base of each artichoke plant, then top with eight inches of straw or leaves for more protection. Harvest artichokes from July until the first frost. 110 to 150 days or more from planting to harvest.
- Arugula (Eruca vesicaria): Plant arugula in the middle of September for a wintertime harvest. Expect it to grow until the first frost and then go dormant before coming back in February or March. 21-50 days from planting to harvest. Hardy to zone 5B for winter. Read more about growing arugula.
- Brussels Sprouts (Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera): In growing zone 8, Brussels sprouts don’t need winterization. You can grow them in zones 4-7 when a mild winter is expected, as they can last through short freezes. Winterize Brussels sprouts before temperatures get below 10 degrees Fahrenheit. 80 or more days from planting to harvest, depending on variety. Read more about growing Brussels sprouts.
- Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis): Plant cauliflower early in the year to enjoy harvest up until the first frost of winter. For best results, choose varieties such as Snowball or All The Year Round. 55 to 100 days from planting to harvest. Read more growing cauliflower.
- Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus): Grow in zones 3-8 to enjoy winter harvest. Jerusalem artichokes can be harvested from late summer on throughout the winter. Those that have experienced a few frosts will actually be sweeter than those that don’t. However, pull up artichokes before the ground freezes. 130 days from planting to harvest. Read more about growing Jerusalem artichokes.
- Parsnips (Pastinaca sativa): Parsnips love winter weather and thrive in it. They actually aren’t suited to warmer climates and are recommended for growing zones with an average temperature between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the growing season. For the best flavor, though, they need at least two weeks between 32 and 40 degrees. 105 to 130 days from planting to harvest.
- Winter Squash: There are almost endless varieties of squash to choose from, and many of them are suited to wintertime planting. Best bets are acorn, butternut, Hubbard, and blue hokkaido. Read more about growing winter squash.
Want to learn more about vegetables to grow in the winter?
University of California covers What to Plant and Harvest in the Winter Vegetable Garden
Regenerative covers Vegetables You Can Harvest in Winter
Gardening Channel covers What to Plant in October