Vegetable gardening doesn’t have to end with the first frost, in fact, there are many vegetables that love the cooler temperatures and will even taste better after having a few cold days and night. By planting frost tolerant plants you can extend your harvest well into the fall and winter. Here are my favorite 15 frost tolerant plants for the fall and winter vegetable garden.
Now, frost tolerant means that they can withstand temperatures down to about 26°F pretty well. And as long as your ground is still workable they should be fine.
If you live where you get 10 feet of snow for nine months of the year, you are going to need some kind of green house to grow food through the winter in. Anna from The Northern Homestead lives in a gardening zone 3A (which means it’s cold most of the year) and has some great tips on growing food year round.
If temperatures go below 26°F you can use frost cloth or covered row tunnels to protect the plants. Even if it snows you should be able to grow these plants with protection. If you want to. Obviously it’s more work to a winter garden when it snows all winter than when you only get a couple of freezes but it is possible.
Not only can you grow these frost tolerant plants in the fall and winter garden, they’re also great to grow in the early spring garden because they won’t be affected by any late frosts you might get.
The fall and winter garden is my favorite garden because it’s not as overwhelming to me as the spring/summer garden is. I can harvest what we need for the day and leave the rest for another day without worrying that it will rot on the vine. By succession planting I can make sure that the vegetables mature at different times so I don’t have 30 heads of cabbage to deal with in one week.
There is also less pest and disease pressure in the fall and winter garden. And, of course, it’s not as hot as the summer so it’s just more enjoyable to be in the garden in the fall and winter.
I like to use planting worksheets to determine how much of each plant to grow for our family’s needs. You can get a copy of the worksheets emailed to you by filling out the form below.
Frost tolerant plants
Carrots, beets, kholrabi and turnips actually improve in flavor after a frost. After the first hard frost, cover the root crops with an 18″ layer of straw or shredded leaves. Even if the greens die back, as long as the ground is workable you can continue to harvest the roots through the winter.
Leeks are similar to the root vegetables in that you can mulch them with about 18″ of straw or shredded leaves to be able to harvest all winter.
Swiss chard and kale are some of the most important vegetables to grow in your garden. They are both packed with nutrients and both are heat and cold hardy. Kale can tolerate cold to 10°F and Swiss chard can tolerate cold into the teens. They can also tolerate temps above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, so in many zones you can grow chard and kale all year long. They are the workhorses of my garden.
Spinach and corn salad are the hardiest of salad greens. Spinach can survive to 15°F and corn salad to 5°F! The edges of the spinach leaves might brown, but we just cut those off.
Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are brassicas (also called Cruciferae) and the plants in this species are wonderful for the fall/winter garden. In fact, you can continue to harvest Brussels sprouts even after a snow. Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are tolerant to about 26°F.
Parsley and cilantro are surprisingly very cold hardy. Cilantro will survive temps into the low 20’s and parsley to about 10°F. And lest you think parsley is just for garnishing in restaurants and not really worth your time to grow, you should know that it’s great for soups, you can make a pesto with it, and it is a nutritional powerhouse.
Because we love using cilantro all year I grow a lot of it and then freeze it. There are several ways to freeze herbs but for cilantro I just put it in a ziplock bag and toss it in the freezer. When we make salsa with our summer tomatoes I break off a chunk of cilantro and blend it with the tomatoes.
My favorite place to buy seeds is from MIGardener which sells only non-GMO seeds and most are just $1 a packet. If you use this link, you’ll get a 10% discount.
Are you getting your garden ready for the fall/winter? I’d love to hear about it!