Which Vegetables are Best to Grow in Cool Weather?

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People who live in areas that experience killing frosts can extend their growing season with cloches and row covers, or even grow edibles right through the winter months in a lightly heated greenhouse. Though you’ll have to wait until spring to plant warm-weather fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and beans (or grow them in a carefully controlled greenhouse with heating, humidity controls and elaborate lighting), you can grow edibles in the cooler months. Just remember that you do have to be selective about which vegetables to grow at this time of year. They need to be able to tolerate the shorter daylight hours, a less intense sun and, of course, cooler temperatures. Here’s a list of some of the best edibles to grow that fit the bill.

Brassicas

Plant Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower. You can even try to find some of the more unusual types that are hard to find, like cheddar cauliflower, Chinese greens and mustards and colorful kale varieties.

Fava Beans

These are tall-growing plants with light green leaves and outrageous fringes of white flowers with a big, black blotch. Pollinated flowers turn into long pods with velvet interiors cushioning big beans also called broad beans, faba beans, field, bell or tic beans.

Root Crops

Try carrots (with white, red, purple, and yellow colors in addition to orange), beets (again, in multiple colors), parsnips and radishes, celeriac and salsify roots.

Leafy stuff

Plant chard and spinach, as these greens prefer to grow in cooler temperatures. Some types of chard are decorative with brilliantly colored stems.

Lettuce

Choose your favorite romaine, loose-leaf, headed, etc. These do best in the cooler temperatures because if they are grown in too warm of a climate they send up flower spikes (called bolting) and the whole plant becomes bitter.

Bulb Forming Members of the Onion Family

Onions, garlic, shallots, leeks and other bulb forming members of the onion family do well when planted in autumn and will grow all winter, usually being ready for harvest in the spring or summer.

Peas

Look for tall or short vines, snap peas (the swollen pods remain edible) or snow peas (that stay flat, pictured).

Asparagus or Winged Pea

This is a low-growing vegetable you will find sold in seed packets. It is showy with its little red flowers and has a flavor like a cross between a pea and asparagus. Grow it for something fun and unusual.

Potatoes (late winter)

Potatoes prefer growing in cool weather. The leaves wilt when temperatures get too hot. So long as the soil doesn’t freeze, they can stay in the ground for months.

Strawberry plants

Grow them in beds or containers. They are perennial so they will grow year after year.

Asparagus Plants

Plant these in autumn and expect to wait 2-3 years before you can crop the first spears (sprouts) from planted roots.

There’s nothing like the flavor and high nutrients of fresh picked food. These cool-weather plants will do well in gardens that won’t freeze over. Find space in your garden so you can grow edibles year round!

Photo credits: Jane Gates

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