We tend to think of plants developing their edible crops in the spring and summer. This seems intuitive given that spring is associated with new life after the harsher conditions of winter, and the fact that many animal species give birth to their young in the spring, giving them the maximum time to feed up and grow before the relative privations of the colder months of the year. And indeed, many crops are ready for harvest in the warmer times, with the longer days giving them more sunshine and so energy to ripen. But there are also plenty of vegetables that can be harvested in fall and winter, including some of the most nutritious of all veggies. Incorporating some of the following plants into your permaculture design will ensure you have access to fresh vegetables throughout much of the year, and that you have a diverse and nutritious range of ingredients for your kitchen.
Cauliflower
Given a soil rich in nitrogen and potassium, along with sufficient moisture, cauliflowers will thrive and be available for harvest up until the first frost of winter. Mayflower and Aalsmeer are good varieties for providing good winter crops. Look for flower buds that are tightly closed and cut off just below the head. If you experience an unexpected overnight frost before you have harvested, the heads will still be okay to use if you cut them when frozen and use straightaway; it is only if the heads freeze, thaw and freeze again while still on the plant that they will spoil.
Jerusalem Artichoke
While Jerusalem artichokes are actually a distant relation of the sunflower, they can thrive when the days draw in and the temperature drops. With the edible part being a tuber that grows below ground, it is protected from the harsher conditions of winter. Late in fall the leaves of the artichoke plant, which are above ground, will turn yellow, as the plant matures. Prune these back to around 3 inches long, but place the cuttings over the plants to act as insulating mulch. Be aware that any plants are left in the ground over the winter they will regrow into large plants the following spring.
Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are arguably the hardiest of vegetables; they certainly are the among the cabbage family to which they belong. In fact, going through a couple of fall frosts will actually enhance the sweetness and flavor of the crop. Brussels sprouts are also adaptable in that you can harvest some of the crop when the sprouts are small earlier in the season (the smaller ones taste sweeter) and leave others to mature further on the stalk for harvest later. Typically you will want to harvest the mature sprouts before the ground freezes, however, if you experience mild winters, Brussels sprout planting can be staggered to allow for harvests throughout the colder months.
Leeks
Leeks are an ideal winter crop as they are genetically programed to survive the winter months in order to produce seeds the following spring. Fortunately, they can be harvested at any time during the colder months. The only criterion for a successful crop (as with all winter vegetables) is to prevent the ground where your leeks are planted from freezing. You can do this by adding plenty of mulch, typically in the form of straw, to your garden beds. Varieties such as American Flag and Blue Solaise work well as winter crops as they have thicker stems and shorter leaves, which enable them to survive cold conditions. You can harvest leeks at any size, with the smaller ones having a subtler flavor, and so have access to them throughout the winter months.
Winter Squash
The thick skins that characterize winter squash allow them to thrive in cold conditions, the softer flesh inside protected from the chill. This vegetables you can harvest in winterprotective shell also means you can store them – in a cool dry place – for quite a long time after harvest. There are lots of different varieties that are suitable as a winter crop, including Acorn, Butternut, Hubbard and Blue Hokkaido. All are heavy feeders so require a lot of soil nutrients. When planting add a good does of compost to the soil, and mulch your crops well to ensure they are sufficiently fed. After harvest, place in a warm, dry place for a week to cure the vegetables before use.
Parsnips
Parsnips have a relatively long growing season, so you should look to plant seeds early in spring, soon after the last frost of winter, to give the crop the maximum time to mature for harvesting in winter. They do not need as much compost as many other vegetable plants, and you should avoid adding fresh manure to the garden beds parsnips are in, as this can cause them to split, resulting in less viable crops. Sow little clusters of seeds and thin out the seedlings to leave the strongest in each cluster. Parsnips are at their best if they experience a couple of weeks of near0-freezing temperatures – this causes the starches in the vegetable to turn to sugar, adding to the flavor. You can also leave parsnips in the ground throughout the winter and harvest after the ground thaws in spring. Guerney and Cobham varieties are good choices.
Kale
Even though it is a leafy green, kale actually prefers cold weather, and experiencing a touch of frost can add to its flavor. They prefer slightly alkaline soil and a lot of moisture, so water regularly (they may also benefit from drip irrigation, but be careful not to use such a system through the winter as the pipes can freeze). You can harvest kale leave sat any point after they are approximately 8 inches long, so you can regularly take leaves from an individual plant throughout the season. You can also take a whole plant and, if you leave the rootstock in the ground, you should get new growth within a couple of weeks. Tuscan and Squire are popular varieties for a winter kale crop.

253 Responses

  1. Can you suggest specific companion or succession plants that would work with these cold weather plants? Something that will actually benefit or at least not suffer from being n the same area? My space is limited.

  2. And mention of Eliot Coleman in 3 .. 2 ..
    .. seriously, though, if you are interested in this sort of stuff, he has a lot of really useful information to provide. He has a book out but there are also some good youtube videos of his lectures.

  3. Just harvested my Jerusalem ‘chokes today – having a frittata tonight for dinner… And, planted 7 chokes as part of my fedge. Establishing a permaculture homestead in one’s 60’s is fun!

  4. I know a lot of cruciferous veggies can be grown in winter. I stopped growing them a few years ago because of a nasty infestation of bagrada bugs (I don’t spray), but I think that was in the summer. Can you beat out the bagrada bugs in the winter?

  5. everyone can do a cold frame hot box. all you need is compost heavy with straw and manure and a cold frame. works like a charm, can even grow strawberries if you plant them soon enough.

  6. NW Ohio- I have kale all year, sometimes spinach too if the winter isn’t too harsh like last year. Brussels Sprouts were great last year with temps lower that I’ve seen in years. I was surprised.

  7. In Austin. We grow several kinds of lettuce, spinach, kale, broccoli, radishes, arugula, cauliflower, bok choi, three kinds of onions, garlic and scallions, snow peas and cabbage in the winter with minimal temporary clear plastic covers when needed – maybe a half dozen times. Winter is by far our most productive season, yet local stores sell many times more summer plants and seeds, only to see them burn up in August.

  8. When I lived up here in the NW several years ago, I had a leeks and some greens all winter long. It’s tricky depending on your micro-climate but it can be done. You can buy clips that clamp plastic sheeting that you place over pvc piping that’s dirt cheap and hooped over your garden row creating a mini-greenhouse. But there are many options…sounds like an interesting website Mark. Thanks for sharing it.

  9. with the mild, spring-like early winter in California, we are getting tender nettle bids from the farmers markets. I found a bag of them in my refrigerator last night, and steamed them up and made a sort of pesto for supper. mmm.

  10. I’m not going out there in our cold NW Ohio winter to try and dig up plants —– just getting too old for that. But it hasn’t stopped me from growing a lot of them in the house in hydroponics.

  11. My second biggest problem is knowing what to grow when here in sw FL. It’s all upside down! The summer is too hot and too rainy to grow much and I never can figure out when to plant things in the winter. We might get a few nights frost in Jan or Feb or we might not but we will for sure have 97 degree days in summer and 80 degree nights. Oh, my first biggest problem:sand.

  12. zone 5a Ohio and I grow spinach, collards, kale, spring mix, leeks, carrots, parsnips, root parsley, lettuce, rapini, fennel, cilantro, rosemary, parsley, thyme, sage, winter savory, beets, rutabagas and turnips. I use a high tunnel, hoop houses and row cover to grow in winter and it works well. If I heated any of the houses i could grow a lot more but heating is very expensive and I can still grow a lot of variety with out it.

  13. In northern New England, the only vegetables one can harvest in winter are those grown on a windowsill or in a heated indoor greenhouse! Winter here is for shovelling snow!

  14. Broccoli, kale, collards, chard, some tomatoes (here in Texas) Citrus and herbs. This is what I have, The Local farmers have a lot more!!! Lucky to garden in so. TEXAS

  15. I have several types of basil going into their 2nd winter (harvested all year long) and a tomato plant going into it’s 1st winter. No blossoms or anything like that but the plants are healthy! In December… in Colorado… at 8,600 ft elevation… INdoors with southern exposure! 😀

  16. i love to garden but if you think i’m gettin my ass out in sub freezing temps for something i can either get at Kroger where i work or do without, you are nuts…

  17. I’m growing kale, chard, cabbages, broccoli, collards, parsley, peas in the garden, and some squash and tomatoes in the green house. I did not know leeks were a winter crop-that must be why mine always failed!!! And I had no idea winter squash could be grown in winter…I thought it had to grown in summer but was named winter squash because it lasted thru the winter. Going to seeds today!!

  18. 28 this morning in NoCal. I grow several types of kale, chard, Brussels sprouts, mustards in the winter. I had one lonely tomato plant out there yesterday, but it’s probably tu’d now. I keep all my cactus, succulents and tender plants in my unheated greenhouse for the winter and cover alot of other things when it freezes…

  19. Im growing peas,kale,chard,broccoli, kohlrabi,turnips, many different lettuces, carrots, beats, corn salad, radishes, mustard, strawberries, parsley, cilantro, arugula, bok choi, cabbages and thats just naming a few, I just had my first killing frost on new years eve. so I still have a few tomatoes that are ripening up on my counter 🙂

  20. I still have Kale and Brussels sprouts growing in my garden! Just dug up the last of my carrots a week or so ago. Last year I was still harvesting greens up to mid January here in OH, I just kicked off the snow and ice (Mother Natures way of deep freezing) and picked the good healthy green leaves….yum yum yum

  21. … anything left in the soil here is fair game for all kinds of critters and bugs … so i don’t encourage them … better than poisoning the ”snot” out of everything … we get help from crows and wild ducks who go through the leaves, moss and grasses …

  22. we are in ohio, I was just about to harvest my 3 head of cabbage from the same plant, smaller than the first though still delish, alas the deer needed it more than i

  23. Tomorrow we (the SERRF after school program here in Red Bluff, CA) will be harvesting yams, potatoes, radishes and carrots. We’ll also harvest some mint and do a final clean out of our green bean and tomato beds… :).

  24. Lots of mustard greens, collards, kale, lettuces, arugula, carrots, purple cauliflower, and green onions. I had snow peas until we had a few days of temperatures below freezing back in November.

  25. I have left kale and cabbbage in the ground in the Fall but as soon as I stopped making frequent trips to the garden the deer took avantage of my absence, and ate the kale and the cabbage. If you cover your parsnips with an insulation of straw, the mice my snuggle under it and eat the parsnips. Squash vines die off as soon as the weather gets chilly or a frost. Spinach keeps growing for quite awhile after the weather cools. Brussell sprouts seem to have a very long growing season here in NH. Jerusalem artichokes tend to spread and take over wherever you plant them. I would plant them far away from your vegetables, herbs and flowers.

  26. You are dead wrong on that winter squash unless you live somewhere that the temp NEVER drops below 50 on the coldest night! It is called Winter Squash because the squash fruits will last throughout the winter, NOT because it is grown in winter! All squash is grown in warm weather…

  27. Here in FL I’m waiting for my Brussels sprouts to form Brussels (just sprouts right now), onions are just starting to show, bok choy and broccoli about finished, spinach, dill, and parsley still going strong.

  28. I have winter ornamental Kale (which is perfectly edible) stubbornly out there in the garden growing. Every time it gets about 45 degrees it blooms little purple leaves in the center like a flower. I also have a small covered hoop house that has Spinach and Kale growing (unheated) year round. Indoor plants like baby spinach and sprouts are a great way to get healthy greens in the winter too.

  29. ‘My understanding’ that straw bail growing would work in the winter (no matter the location). I live in northern Ohio and have been reading on this. It looks promising for a try next year.

  30. I think this article missed the mark. I live in the Pacific NW and I COUNT on having out of doors with no insulation, kale, Swiss Chard, broccoli (until it gets down below about 25 F), and I leave in onions, carrots, and beets and pull as needed.

  31. Yeah, harvesting vegetables in winter was possible when we lived in a dry zone 5 climate, southwestern Montana, but not while we’ve lived in zones 3 and 4. The only thing I’m harvesting now is potted herbs I brought in last fall, and they’re not growing all that well. It’s just chilly, except right by the heat registers.

  32. Ha, even in a heated greenhouse (it was -17F this morning outdoors) we do not get enough sunshine in the winter to keep most green things growing very well. I have a bay window in our house with our indoor plants and they struggle through until Spring. I’ve tried cool weather vegetables in our warm porch but without supplemental light, it just doesn’t happen. I’ve gotten very good at fermenting and canning vegetables to get us through the winter. And sometimes we sneak a trip to the south to be able to go to the outdoor farmer’s markets just to remind us summer is eventually coming here at home.

  33. – Depends on your climate. In addition to those things, I can also harvest chard, collards, onions, annual herbs of course, new potatoes and sometimes Fava beans, which aren’t a true bean but a vetch.
    AND of course sometimes we have a hard freeze, like last December, and I loose everything.

  34. I hope to join the community garden down by the school sometime soon. There is also a seed storage at the Clifton Library. I hope to avail myself of it. I hope to have a raised garden this year as our land has too many termites.

  35. Here in Boulder Colorado after sub zero temps under the snow cover are arugula and onions. The arugula when braised loses its spiciness but is too strong to eat raw. We had a late winter here and the cleavers were already sprouted an inch or two high before the cold and snow came in the middle of December. Those cleavers are still green and healthy under the snow cover.

  36. I have arugula and parsnips growing in the ground right now. We had a foot of snow here last week and about 3 weeks of hard freeze before that. Those two just keep on chuggin though. I have a bunch of sweet mint growing in-ground under an apple tree with retaining rocks dispersed throughout and around it that seems to have carried on quite well too.That one surprised me. Oh, and the sage plants in the raised bed are still hanging on.
    In the greenhouse we have green onions, garlic chives, parsley, tomatoes, spinach, and cucumbers coming on.

  37. Lots of tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, strawberries, oranges, lettuces, eggplants, herbs (mint, oregano, rosemary, cilantro, basil, lemon thyme, sweet william) – Central Florida (organic)

  38. I harvested carrots last weekend, which were growing in a small raised bed covered with a hoop I made. We had our first real deep freeze this week, and I had to get them out of the ground before it froze under the hoop. Last year I grew spinach and kale thru till spring, but couldn’t harvest any during February and March as there was too much snow to even open the garden gate!

  39. I’m in south Louisiana so I’m harvesting cabbage broccoli turnips and turnip greens collards kale mustard greens carrots cauliflower swiss chard beets radishes and lots of herbs like dill celery parsley oregano shallots rosemary and lavender.

  40. I turned all my windows in to veggie gardens. I grow Tomato, Cucumber, Onion, Bell Peppers and Hot peppers, Lime tree, all the herbs you could ever imagine, leafy greens… My outdoor garden in Colorado, gave everything up to mid november when the first deep freeze and snow hit.

  41. Would like to recommend the book “Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew.
    mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
    In central southern Michigan, I have planted carrots, parsnips and potatoes just after springs last frost and wintered them past the January thaw sometimes into March. In the autumn, I cut off the green parts of the carrots and parsnips and cover with bales of straw under a sheet of white plastic. It’s important to extend the plastic well past the edges of the bed to lessen moisture that freezes everything solid. Last winter 20013-14 we had an extremely cold winter. My system didn’t work. Everything froze and rotted by last snow in April. In former years, we harvested our potatoes, carrots and parsnips burying them in a PCV bucket in a 2 foot deep hole packed with pink insulation with straw atop all covered by a piece of OSB. It’s important to mark the location of your valuable produce with a flag to find it in the deep snow. Carrots and Parsnips keep for a long time in a wood box layered in sand in an unheated attached garage, window box or basement. Potatoes keep best in an open bin where they don’t touch each other or freeze. While in Germany, when visiting my ancestral home in Blankenheim in the sixties, I noticed the largest field of ripe cabbage heads I haven’t seen since. What the German commercial farmers do to preserve the cabbage crop is to cover them in dirt ; marking the row/mound marked with a flag extending to the horizon…………………………………………………..

  42. In central southern Michigan, I have planted carrots, parsnips and potatoes just after springs last frost and wintered them past the January thaw sometimes into March. In the autumn, I cut off the green parts of the carrots and parsnips and cover with bales of straw under a sheet of white plastic. It’s important to extend the plastic well past the edges of the bed to lessen moisture that freezes everything solid. Last winter 20013-14 we had an extremely cold winter. My system didn’t work. Everything froze and rotted by last snow in April. In former years, we harvested our potatoes, carrots and parsnips burying them in a PCV bucket in a 2 foot deep hole packed with pink insulation with straw atop all covered by a piece of OSB. It’s important to mark the location of your valuable produce with a flag to find it in the deep snow. Carrots and Parsnips keep for a long time in a wood box layered in sand in an unheated attached garage, window box or basement. Potatoes keep best in an open bin where they don’t touch each other or freeze. While in Germany, when visiting my ancestral home in Blankenheim in the sixties, I noticed the largest field of ripe cabbage heads I haven’t seen since. What the German commercial farmers do to preserve the cabbage crop is to cover them in dirt ; marking the row/mound marked with a flag extending to the horizon…………………………………………………..
    Would like to recommend the book “Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew.

  43. spinach, mustard greens, Swiss chard, cabbage, arugula, green onions, leeks. The hard freezes (10 and 12 degrees F) we had just before Thanksgiving killed off everything else we hadn’t harvested in spite of row covers and straw :-(. We’re in Georgia.

  44. Celery is a Winter and Spring plant in New Zealand. I love celery but have always been unsuccessful in growing it. Mine turns out bitter and stringy. I’d love some advice.

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