There’s no need to put your vegetable growing on hold over the colder months. In fact, there are many vegetables that do much better as a winter crop than being grown in the warmer weather.
Let’s look at the top 15 winter vegetables that are easy to grow.
Onions have a long growing season. If you plant them in the fall, they’ll be ready to harvest the following summer. Harvesting normally happens after the onions have finished flowering and the leaves start to die down.
Once you plant onions, they require very little maintenance. However, you might want to provide a little protection if you’re expecting a hard freeze. If the young onion plants receive too much frost, the bulbs will freeze and rot once the ground thaws out.
Optimum temperature range: Onions grow best when the temperature is around 55 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (12-23 degrees Celsius). However, they can tolerate temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 degrees Celsius).
How to protect onions from frost: The best way to protect onions during extreme cold snaps is to apply a layer of mulch around 2 inches (5cm) thick. Straw is ideal for this, but you could also use composted bark or even pine needles. Remember to remove the mulch once the weather warms up.
Spinach is an easy crop to grow and will continue to provide you with delicious leaves the more you cut it. In fact, in many areas, spinach can be grown all year round. It does prefer the cooler weather, though, because when it’s too hot, the plant will bolt, and the leaves will become bitter.
Optimum temperature range: Spinach is quite cold tolerant and can grow in temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 degrees Celsius). It doesn’t mind a little frost either.
How to protect spinach from a deep freeze: If you’re likely to experience a deep freeze, it’s best to give your spinach a little protection. You can either construct a cold frame with a fleece covering or add a thick layer of mulch.
Peas are another easy-to-grow crop during the colder weather. If you plant these in the fall, you should be able to harvest the pods in early spring. Make sure that you provide your peas with the support that they can climb up.
Optimum temperature range: Peas are quite comfortable with temperatures as low as 28 degrees Fahrenheit (-2 degrees Celsius). Even with a light snowfall, peas can handle temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-15 degrees Celsius). Interestingly, the snow actually provides some insulation.
How to protect peas when temperatures fall below the above: If you’re likely to experience a very heavy frost, it’s best to protect your peas with a cold frame and a covering of fleece.
Kale is one of the hardiest vegetables to grow in winter. In fact, the leaves will be sweeter if they receive a little light frost. Being a perennial, kale takes two years to complete its growth cycle. This means that you can harvest the leaves for many months, even throughout winter, if your climate is relatively mild.
Optimum temperature range: Being extremely cold tolerant, kale can handle temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-15 degrees Celsius). But, if your temperature falls below this, don’t worry. The kale will just go dormant and then spring back to life in spring.
How to protect kale from the extreme cold: The best thing to do with kale if you’re expecting extremely cold conditions is to cover it with a layer of mulch. Then, when the weather warms up, you can remove the mulch, and your kale will grow again.
Lettuce actually prefers cooler weather as it tends to bolt and go bitter when the weather gets too warm. Butterhead and romaine lettuces are the most cold-tolerant.
Optimum temperature range: Ideally, lettuce prefers temperatures around 45 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (7-18 degrees Celsius). Lettuce can tolerate a light frost but needs to be protected in areas that receive heavy frosts.
How to protect lettuce from frost: This is best done with a cold frame and covering of fleece. If you have space, you could also construct a polytunnel that has a plastic covering.
Carrots are extremely hardy vegetables to grow and need very little maintenance. In fact, carrots that receive some frost tend to be very sweet and tasty. You can sow seeds in summer, and they’ll be ready to harvest during the winter months.
Optimum temperature range: Carrots can withstand temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 degrees Celsius). If the weather gets extremely cold, you can cover your carrots with a thick layer of mulch. This will prevent the ground from freezing. Then, when you want to harvest a few, just pull back the mulch and dig them up.
Swiss chard is one of those vegetables that just keeps on growing. In fact, it might be the easiest vegetable to grow. And, it’s also one of the most versatile. If your summers don’t get too hot, you could be lucky enough to continue harvesting the leaves from a single plant all year long.
Like kale, the Swiss chard is a biennial plant and takes two years to complete its growth cycle.
Optimum temperature range: Swiss chard is very cold tolerant and can happily survive in temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 degrees Celsius). If your temperature never falls below this, your Swiss chard will continue to grow throughout the winter.
How to protect Swiss chard from the extreme cold: The only way to protect your Swiss chard from extremely cold temperatures is to use a cold frame or a polytunnel when heavy frosts are expected.
Who doesn’t love a nice hot bowl of potato and leek soup when the temperature is cold outside? Leeks are another vegetable that grows better in cold temperatures than in the heat of summer when it tends to bolt.
Optimum temperature range: Leeks prefer growing in temperatures between 55 degrees and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (13-24 degrees Celsius). However, leeks will still grow when they’re protected by an insulating layer of snow but do need some protection from continuous frosts.
How to protect leeks from frost: As with a lot of other winter vegetables, leeks can be protected from frosts with a thick layer of mulch to stop the ground from freezing. Straw is one of the best materials for this. This will also help to blanch the stems to make them white and do not need to be removed when the weather warms up.
Cabbage is another winter vegetable that’s easier to grow in cooler weather than through the summer. It can handle a light frost, and this is even thought to improve the sweetness. The cooler weather also means that you’re unlikely to have any cabbage moths coming to visit your crop either.
Optimum temperature range: Cabbages prefer temperatures around 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit (16-18 degrees Celsius) but can tolerate temperatures as low as 26 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 degrees Celsius).
How to protect cabbage from the extreme cold: You can protect your cabbage plants if you’re expecting a deep freeze by covering them with a cold frame or polytunnel.
Brussels sprouts are another vegetable that improves with flavor when they’re grown in the cooler months. In fact, sprouts can be harvested throughout the winter. It’s believed that frosts actually increase their sugar content, making them much sweeter than those grown in the warmer months.
Optimum temperature range: Brussels sprouts prefer a temperature range from 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit (16-18 degrees Celsius). However, these hardy winter plants can tolerate temperatures as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius).
How to protect Brussels sprouts during winter: Many cold climate gardeners have had luck with their Brussels sprouts even through very cold winters by completely covering their plants with a mulch of straw or hay in the late fall. They then harvest the sprouts throughout the winter.
Beets are one of those vegetables that will grow all year round. However, it’s best to start these in the cooler months, so they have a head start before the warmer weather hits. In fact, most root vegetables can be left in the ground over winter if you provide them with a little protection.
Optimum temperature range: Beets thrive in temperatures around 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 21 degrees Celsius). However, they are fairly frost tolerant and can be left in the ground over winter.
How to protect beets from frosts: If the ground freezes over winter, it might affect the roots of your beets. Therefore, you can protect them by covering them with a 1-inch layer of mulch such as straw or hay.
Turnips are cold-tolerant root vegetables that will survive in the ground over winter. It’s best to plant them no later than late summer if you want to overwinter them. This gives them around two months to mature so that they can withstand the colder temperatures.
Optimum temperature range: Turnips can tolerate temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 degrees Celsius). If the temperature drops below 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 degrees Celsius), the tops will die down. However, the roots will still be fine.
How to protect turnips over winter: If you want to ensure that your turnip plants will survive a very cold winter, you can cover them with a layer of mulch.
Like other brassicas, cauliflower can be grown over winter in areas that have mild winters. In fact, this plant prefers consistently cool temperatures to produce those lovely whiteheads. However, cauliflowers are extremely slow-growing, and it can take around 75 to 85 days until the heads are ready to harvest.
Optimum temperature range: Cauliflowers can tolerate temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 degrees Celsius). However, they do prefer a temperature that’s over 26 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 degrees Celsius). They also prefer plenty of sunlight.
How to protect cauliflowers from the extreme cold: If you experience very cold winters, you may want to protect your cauliflower plants with a cold frame or a polytunnel.
Broccoli is another winter crop that prefers cooler temperatures. In fact, it’s prone to bolt in the summer if the weather gets too warm.
Optimum temperature range: Broccoli likes to grow in a temperature range of 45 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (7 to 29 degrees Celsius). However, it can survive temperatures as low as 28 degrees Fahrenheit (-2 degrees Celsius).
How to protect broccoli from the extreme cold: Like cauliflower, broccoli needs protection from really cold weather. Ideally, you would do this with a cold frame or a polytunnel.
Celery does not like growing in the hot summer months and will often bolt if the daytime temperature gets too high and it’s exposed to too much sunlight. Therefore, this vegetable is ideal for growing over the cooler months. However, it only has a light tolerance to frost.
Optimum temperature range: Celery favors temperatures between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 21 degrees Celsius). However, it can tolerate temperatures as low as 28 degrees Fahrenheit (-2 degrees Celsius) but should be given some protection if you’re expecting a heavy frost.
How to protect celery from heavy frost: To provide some protection for your celery during extremely cold weather conditions, it’s best to use a cold frame or a polytunnel.
Which vegetables you can grow during the winter depends on your climatic zone and whether you experience a lot of frost or snow. Temperature isn’t the only consideration here. Even though the following vegetables prefer colder weather, some of them won’t tolerate frost or snow for too long.
Therefore, if your winters are quite harsh, you might need to set up some protection to ensure that your vegetables don’t get frosted or snowed on. This could be as easy as constructing a simple frame and throwing some fleece across the top.