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The Ultimate Winter Vegetables List for your Garden


By Emily Murphy

With cooler temperatures upon us, it’s time to consider which garden vegetables to grow and how best to protect them. Fortunately, there are easy solutions for protecting winter crops. When choosing your vegetables, look for seed packets and plant tags that reference “cool” or “cold season” in the description. Cool season vegetables are those that thrive and grow when the mercury drops, preferring colder temperatures over warmer weather.

Wondering what winter vegetables to plant this cold season? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about:

Best Winter Vegetables to Grow

Can Frost Affect Growing Vegetables in Winter?

Frost has the benefit of sweetening winter vegetables and enhancing their flavor. However, even the seeds of winter vegetables need a certain amount of warmth to germinate – check seed packets for details. Most vegetables need protection from extreme cold and wind.

What is the Ideal Soil Temperature for Growing Winter Vegetables?

The vegetables listed above thrive in winter. However, the growth of many, like spinach, lettuces and arugula, slows as temperatures drop. For best seed germination, plant when temperatures are still between 60/65°F and 40°F. This also gives plants time to begin to mature before the coldest days of winter.

When growing vegetables for winter or early spring harvests, it’s important to keep the soil as warm as possible. Some veggies, such as carrots, sweeten when grown in soil that dips below freezing. However, active growth ceases when the soil remains frozen. There are a variety of strategies that will help mitigate freezing temperatures. The colder your region, the more protection you’ll need to offer your winter veggies for optimal results.

How to Protect Winter Vegetables

There are several strategies to protect cool season veggies. The measures you take will depend upon your climate and coldest average winter temperatures (also known as your hardiness zone).

    1. One way to protect veggies is to apply generous layers of mulch and straw to planting beds.

Mulch, like coarse compost and straw, helps protect soil from pelting rains while insulating soil temperatures.

    1. Floating row cover is a specially designed fabric that defends against frost.

It keeps heat in and insulates the soil, protecting plants from cold snaps or sustained low temperatures.

    1. Straw bales continually decompose, and as they do so, they generate heat.

Plant on straw bales or place containers and smaller boxes on straw bales for added warmth.

If you live in the coldest climates, USDA zones 6 to 7, use a combination of tactics to protect your vegetables. Apply mulch with compost and straw in cold frames or hoop houses. If you receive plenty of winter snow, use it as an insulator with mulch and row covers.

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