When people generally think about gardening and growing things, they think about planting in spring and harvesting in fall.
This is the way it’s been done for ages, and it makes sense since most of the food we eat is grown that way. However, did you know, there are many vegetables that can be planted in the fall and harvested just before winter?
There are quite a few of them in fact, including Beans! What’s more, some of these can not only withstand low temperatures (including snow with proper protection) — they turn out to be more flavorful and sweeter!
When Exactly Should You Plant?
Planting times all depend on what you’re planting and where you’re planting it.
The United States, used in this article, is split up into Zones. These zones are a guide to where the best areas to grow something, from vegetables to flowers and trees, are located.
It should be mentioned that these Zones can be applied to any country in the world according to their own seasons.
Zones are based on average temperatures and split up in increments of 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Zones range from 1 with Alaska falling into it, to 11. Hawaii has its own special zone, 12, as does Puerto Rico with Zone 13.
Most of the United States is in Zones 4 to 8. To find out exactly which one you live in, you can check several websites. Better yet, take a trip to your local nursery or tree farm. Those folks will be able to tell you.
A quick note here: There are areas of overlap in the Zones where cooler weather plants can survive in some warm areas and vice versa so, research won’t be a waste of time.
Cool Weather Vegetables
Here is a short list of vegetables that can be harvested in winter or early spring.
- Arugula – harvesting just before the first frost is advisable but with proper protection, they can handle even a hard frost.
- Beans – should be harvested before the first frost, even a light one.
- Beets – these establish better under cool, moist conditions like but require heavy mulching to withstand even a light frost.
- Bok Choy – this is a very hardy plant that can survive low temperatures but protection is needed against snow.
- Broccoli – broccoli loves the cold even down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, though the mature ones have a better chance of living in those temperatures than do the younger ones.
- Brussel Sprouts – best planted in fall with sunny days and cool nights, and it can handle even snow with proper protection.
- Bunching Onions (Green Onions) – growth slows in the cold and requires proper protection from the snow. In spring, they wake up and become prolific.
- Cabbage – a hardy plant that can handle temperatures down to between 15 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Carrot – a root veggie that can handle temperatures down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit but not for long amounts of time else they get pale and long.
- Cauliflower – another one that can handle temperatures down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Collard Green – these lovelies can handle temperatures down to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and they get more flavorful with the cold.
- Garlic – surprised to see this one here? It actually needs a full year to grow properly and is best suited to being planted in late September to December and harvested the following year. Covering them before the snow is recommended.
- Kale – not only does it love snow, but it also becomes sweeter!
- Kohlrabi – this one gets sweeter with exposure to frost but will not survive all winter.
- Leeks – these can be harvested in freezing temperatures with careful maintenance of the main plant.
- Lettuce – it prefers the cold to heat, but it can be damaged by frost. The damage doesn’t make the plant inedible, however.
- Mustard Green – a hard frost can kill this plant if it’s not properly protected with mulch and row covers to keep the snow off.
- Parsley – like other herbs, this little lovely enjoys the cold season, but it needs proper protection to keep a hard frost from killing it.
- Parsnip – this is another one that gets sweeter with freezing temperatures as the starches in it are converted to sugars. It can handle temperatures down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Radish – can handle frost but not hard freezes.
Fall and Winter Fruits
There are some varieties of fruits that love the cold and will produce an abundance of sweet, delicious edibles. Some of these are:
- Apples – these should be planted in late winter/early spring when the ground isn’t frozen anymore. Harvests will come in the fall. There are quite a few varieties, and some will even grow in warmer Zones like 7 and 8.
- Pears – these should be planted in early spring after the ground has thawed.
- Raspberries – these bushes should be planted in the early spring.
- Strawberries – the ever-bearing variety will survive winter better than any other variety, providing a wonderful bounty in the fall.
- Sweet Cherries – if you don’t want birds to eat your crop of these delectable fruits, you should choose to plant the yellow variety. Birds love the red ones.
For these trees and bushes to not only survive low temperatures but thrive, experts recommend they be planted in sunlit areas on a slope with plenty of space between them.
This will allow them to soak up as much sun as they can while they get plenty of good drainage off their roots. Putting turf in-between the rows will help slow down, maybe even prevent erosion.
If you don’t have a lot of space and are forced to put the trees close together, prune the inward-facing branches and leave the outward-facing ones alone.
The inside ones aren’t much use since there will be little room for fruit, and the fruit on them won’t be able to get much sun for ideal growth. The outside branches are more ideal.
Mulching and Row Covers
It should be noted that many of the listed veggies are somewhat delicate.
To help them survive the ground freezing, it’s highly recommended they be heavily mulched not only on top but also around the roots. This will allow growth and protect the tender root tips.
Also, row covers will protect the leafy varieties from coming into direct contact with snow and freezing winds. This will protect them from frost damage as well as being killed by hard freezes.
As you can see, there are many great winter vegetables, and fruits that can be planted and harvested outside the seasons we normally think of as “the growing season”.
With some planning, some mulch, and a wide variety of cold-loving plants, you can have just as bountiful, and beautiful, a garden in the cool season as you can in spring and summer.
Be sure to check your Zone to make sure you’re planting the proper crops for your area for the best results.
If you decide to plant something outside the Zone be sure to provide a micro-zone for it — a small area that meets its basic requirements of soil and temperature.