Winter Gardening Is Fun! To be successful though, you need the right timing and you need the right plants. A whole host of plants do better in the cooler weather after the summer heat is tamed. But only a select few plants are actually frost-hardy and cold tolerant! In this article, let’s look at my top 9 winter crops that’ll beat the frost and keep on growing. These plants get better as the mercury dips so let’s plant a few and keep our gardening hats on for just a bit longer!
9 Best cold weather winter crops to grow in your garden
Cabbage is a cultivar in that large extended family known as brassicas. Now brassicas are going to be featured extensively on this list but for the purpose of this article, we’re going to treat them all as separate plants.
Now back to our cabbage, this cultivar is bred for its tightly wound whirls of leaves that can be eaten raw or cooked. They come in a variety of sizes and colors but I like the purple ones the best.
You do need to plant these guys when the temperatures are still above 60 degrees Fahrenheit but as mature heads they’ll take the frost like a champ becoming sweeter and sweeter especially when eaten raw.
This can be a bit of a tricky one where not all varieties are suited for the cold. Lettuce is an annual plant in the daisy family almost always eaten raw. There are four types of lettuce romaine, leaf, butterhead, and iceberg.
For cold tolerance romaine and butterheads seem to be the best and within those two categories, certain specialized varieties are better in the cold than others.
I’ve got some Paris island co’ romaine-type starter plants they’re about a month old and I’m going to plant them later on if the ground doesn’t freeze.
3. Collard Greens
Just think of these guys as loose leaf cabbages. Another brassica variety, collards are fairly quick growing and tolerant of a wide range of soils. For the juiciest leaves try to keep the exposure down to a minimum.
I find that wind really affects these guys. But in terms of cold tolerance, those first couple of frosts really set the flavor for them. Get these guys in the ground about a month before your first fall frost for the most reliable results.
Collards really are underrated, give them a try.
4. Broccoli and cauliflower
Two of the more famous brassicas we have are broccoli and cauliflower. These modified cabbages are grown solely for their flowering structures and thus require a bit more time and care than say the collards.
Try to start your broccoli and cauliflower seeds eight weeks before your first fall frost and then you want to get them in the ground about four to five weeks later.
If your winters are harsh and come on quickly you may have to start these guys a little bit earlier. You want to time that harvest before the really bad weather hits.
You gotta remember flowering structures are a little bit more susceptible to cold and exposure than leaves are.
Beetroots are the bulbous taproots that are most sought after although the whole plant is edible. Almost always grown from seeds plant your beets and rows a foot apart when the soil is still above 55 degrees Fahrenheit or 12 degrees celsius.
Initial root radical formation is severely stunted at colder temperatures so these guys need to be established before the cold hits. Thin your beets when they’re two to four inches tall and harvest the plants at any time.
You can take a few leaves here there without harming the taproot or the plant, so beets really are one of those winter crops that are two for the price of one.
6. Chard (Swiss Chard)
This leafy green variety of the beet plant has actually been cultivated for centuries and in my opinion, it just doesn’t get the credit or recognition that it deserves, although it’s just as hardy as beets, chard is extremely perishable.
Going limp only hours after harvest, what this tells me is it’s useless to buy. But something we should be growing ourselves.
Harvest the young leaves raw for salads and steam the larger ones that are slightly tougher. If I were to make a category of super winter crops to grow in my garden chard would definitely be on that list.
7. Carrots (one of the best winter garden crops)
Carrots become super sweet when it gets cold out and pretty much all varieties are suitable for winter. The catch is however carrots need heat to germinate. The optimal germination temperature for carrots is 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Obviously for winter carrots, this is gonna be impossible, but we still need to get the seeds into the ground when the soil is above 45 degrees Fahrenheit or seven degrees celsius.
What this means is you need to look at your temperatures around three to four or even five weeks before your first fall frost. For a plant that can really handle the cold, the seeds cannot.
They’ll simply just lay there in the ground, dormant, waiting for warmer temperatures. So get them into the ground well before that first fall frost let them germinate and you’ll be golden.
8. Green onions
Of course, garlic is planted in the fall and overwintered in the ground but we don’t harvest it till next summer so it’s not a true winter crop but our green onions are also known as scallions can take not only the cold but also exposure.
Nothing seems to hold them back and they don’t need much space to grow. When you just need that onion kick and your ball bunions have long since packed it in look at growing some winter green onions, they never disappoint.
9. Kale (one of my favourite hardy winter crops)
Again part of the brassica family this esteemed member was built for winter. Any zone seven or above kale should survive year-round. Temperatures down to negative 10 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 23 degrees Celsius, we’ll find kale still hanging on. A true winter warrior.
Like most of the plants on this list, kale gets even sweeter as the temperatures dip with the tender inner leaves rivaling even that of the best lettuces.
Red Russian and dinosaur are my favorite varieties but there’s a zillion to choose from. You can grow them from direct seeding but I always choose starter plants or plugs. It’s so much easier and it gets them going that much faster.
If you have trouble growing kale in the heat of summer don’t give up simply switch the seasons. Plant your favorite varieties in the fall for a winter harvest and get that epic kale crop that you may have missed out on.
Conclusion on best crops to grow in winter
Winter gardening is about braving the elements and persevering through a time of year when many have packed it in. Frozen ground, bitter temperatures, and a shrinking list of viable crop options are hard to ignore.
But these 9 plants don’t seem to care about any of that. If timed right they have the ability to withstand that furious frost and will allow us to keep our gardening hats on for just a little bit longer.
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