Did you know there are crops that can handle frosts & snow?
When people hear that I’m a fall & winter gardener in Canada they’re often confused, surprised, shocked, or don’t believe me at all.
The trick to having a fall or winter garden is the right crop selection, the right season extenders and getting your timing right.
Today I wanted to go a little further and discuss what cold-hardy crops and varieties can handle frosts and snow.
Before I begin, vegetables harvested in the fall or early winter tend to be better than ones that have been harvested in later winter or closer to spring. Using season extenders (which you’ll find more details of in the links above) will help keep vegetables easier to harvest using cold frames or low tunnels. Root crops like beets, carrots, parsnips can be challenging to harvest once the ground freezes unless mulched with straw and covered with tarp over the bed or using low tunnels. Most root crops can also be harvested and stored in root cellars. I’ve left parsnips and carrots in the ground and harvested them throughout the winter during mid-winter thaws.
Most of the greens will look limp with frosts but you’ll be happy to know they rebound & can be harvested. Although not vegetables, peanuts are frost tolerant crops that you can plant.
One of the first things to know is that your summer crops will not be able handle frosts or snow unless you have a temperate greenhouse. You want to grow cool season and cold hardy crops in the fall and winter garden. I’ve heard of people miraculously keeping tomatoes alive during early frosts with double layers of season extenders (like heavy weight row cover/frost fabric and a low tunnel) but honestly, I don’t want to have to baby my crops.
I often don’t start covering cold hardy crops until -3C/-5C 26/23F because I’ve found it will reduce their hardiness and cold tolerance for the rest of the winter. Even veggies that you’re supposed to mulch or protect (like ‘Winter Density’ lettuce) I’ve left out in the open with no protection to -10C/14F.
If using season extenders be mindful they don’t overheat and make sure you vent them on warmer winter days.
The fall & winter gardening I’ve done tends to be around the o to -15C/5F sometimes I’m using season extenders, and sometimes not. Some winters are colder but there’s snow protection, other winters are mild with no snow. Remember the snow acts as an insulator so if you do get lots of snow that’s not always a bad thing, just difficult to harvest during the deeper winter months. On the coldest of nights it’s better to have snow protection than being exposed to the -20C/-4F air temperatures. Low tunnels are fantastic but you do have snow removal to stay on top of. I view it as a winter workout to have fresh winter vegetables!
I’ve shared a list of cold hardy vegetables before but I wanted to go further today and talk about varieties (PIN the ‘cool season & cold hardy crop list’ for later). Just like certain vegetables can handle the summer heat better, certain ones can handle frosts or snow better than others. For example lettuce isn’t a vegetable that you would think is hardy but there are ones that I’ve harvested after the snow and even overwintered like ‘Winter Density’.
Cold Hardy Crop List for Frosts & Snow
Where I’ve had experience I’ve also written specific varieties (there are more- please comment to contribute with your experiences 🙂 )
- Cabbages: January King, Deadon, Danish Ballhead
- Brussel Sprouts: Most can handle frosts & snow
- Carrots: Napoli, Autumn King,
- Cauliflower: Snowcrown (fall), Purple Cape (-10C/14F), Galleon (Overwintering)
- Broad Beans/Fava
- Sprouting Broccoli
- Beets: Winterkeeper Lutz
- Corn Salad/Mache
- Collards: Champion
- Kale: Red Russian, Blue Scotch, Winterbor, Redbor (lacinato handled light snow early in the season but not prolonged exposure).
- Leeks: Tadorna, Bandit, I’ve had some Bleu de Solaise overwinter in mild winters.
- Lettuce: Winter Density, Rouge d’Hiver, Marvel of Four Seasons (Merveille des Quartre Saisons)
- Mescluns: Winter specific blends
- Mustards: I’ve harvest mizuna, komatsuna & giant red in the snow and even had them overwinter.
- Pac Choi: Ching Chiang, Mei Quing Choi, Tatsoi, Toy Choi, White stemmed pac choi.
- Parsnips: Gladiator, Hollow Crown
- Radishes: Daikons are great in the fall & winter, Black Spanish Round.
- Rutabaga: Laurentian
- Spinach: Renegade, Bloomsday Savoy, Corvair
- Swiss Chard: Fordhook Giant
- Turnips: Hakurei, Purple Top
I hope to add to this list after experimenting with new varieties.
It truly is amazing what you can harvest from the frosts & snow!
5 thoughts on “List of Winter Vegetables to Harvest in Frosts & Snow”
Our winters (in the UK) aren’t quite as cold as yours, but we have a tradition of winter gardening – mostly brassicas, so cabbages and kales, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. I have planted flower sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli in my garden already, and leeks. It will soon be time to plant the other overwintering alliums – onions and shallots, and garlic (I’m just harvesting last years!). I love having things growing in the veggie garden in winter 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
Your winter gardening sounds amazing! I was born in the Uk (Manchester) & lived there for 7 years. I still remember my grandpa’s large garden (she still lives there, as do all my cousins 🙂 ) and I’m certain it was his garden that got me hooked as a child.
I appreciate the list of vegetables That can handle the cold. I have something growing pretty much year round. But Ive been wanting to add more in the wintertime. It gave me some ideas to try…. I already grow a good size garden, Have Fruit vines, bushes, & trees. Winter time I plant onions, Turnip’s (purple top)/ Turnip greens (Seven top) . The weather here in TN makes it challenging. It can be 100+(heat index in the triple digits) in summer & it can get below 0 in the winter. But, There’s nothing like fresh grown food!
Your garden sounds amazing Brett. I’ve been meaning to try the seven top turnips for the greens. We get terrible heat waves in our spring and early fall which is why I started overwintering and winter gardening because the heat would make cool season crops bolt. I would definitely venture into more fall and winter gardening in your location, often takes a couple of years and trying varieties to get the right timing for your micro climate. Best of luck!