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Cold Crops – Frost Tolerant Vegetables to Grow Now

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Living in Pennsylvania zone 6b, our growing season isn’t as long as our southern friends and family. For this reason, I’ve decided to get a real jump start on our cold crops early this season.

Fortunately, our raised beds are already in place and filled with soil for planting. I could probably top them off and add in a bit of compost, but at least it looks like we are ready to rock and roll in the garden with our cold season vegetables and herbs.

Cold Crop Snow Pea Plants along a tree in our 2020 garden
Cold Crop Snow Pea Plants along a tree in our 2020 garden

What vegetables are cold crops?

Several different vegetables are considered cold crops, meaning they can survive the frost and cold temperatures. Generally, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, kale, lettuce, mustard, peas or snow peas, Swiss chard, and spinach grow well as cold weather crops. Potatoes and onions or onion sets also tend to be a good choice, as well as radishes, daikon, and turnips.

Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that does fine through the winter and produces edible spears usually in its third year of growth.

What are some vegetables that survive winter?

Asparagus is a perennial, cold hardy crop that can survive winter. Garlic cloves planted in fall will also survive winter, typically ready for harvest in the summer. Seed potatoes may also winter over to create a whole new crop of spuds. Depending on your grow zone, you may find other cold season crops that can also survive winter and its freezing temperatures.

When to Plant Cool Weather Crops

Depending on your growing zone, most of the time you can plant cool weather crops as soon as you can work the soil. Check the Almanac.com Planting Calendar to enter your zip code and get targeted advice on when to plant any kind of crop!

Here in PA zone 6b, we have already planted carrots, snow peas, and calendula in the first week of March.

Frost Tolerant Vegetables

Plan to plant the winter hardiest crops the earliest in your garden. If you want to get a head start on your planting, consider sowing seeds for these frost tolerant veggies.

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Daikon
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard
  • Onions / Onion Sets
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Radish
  • Snow Peas
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard / Rainbow Chard
  • Turnip

Besides these cold season vegetables, you can also plant garlic for a small harvest. Most gardening guidance recommends planting in the fall before the ground freezes, but even a spring planting should be worth your while.

Snow Crown Cauliflower plants are cold crops
Snow Crown Cauliflower plants are cold crops

Frost Tolerant Herbs

These cold crop herbs should be able to withstand the chilly temperatures. Plant them early to speed up your herb harvests.

  • Calendula
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • English Lavender
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Sage
  • Thyme

Consider growing these cold resistant crops interplanted with your vegetable garden.

More Tips on Planting Timelines for the Garden

Once you’ve gotten these cold weather crops started or direct sown outdoors, start thinking about how the rest of your garden will work.

Now is a great time to think about those garden pests you need to defeat or the ways you can leverage companion plants for a more convenient and symbiotic garden.

  • Natural Trellises – Start corn and sunflowers indoors early to use them as natural trellises.
  • Climbers – Start pole beans and other climbers much closer to the planting out dates.
  • Trap Crops – Start trap crops early indoors to make them more attractive and set them outside a few weeks before bringing the main crops out.
    • Nasturtiums work great as a trap crop.
    • Blue Hubbard Squash is believed to be helpful against squash vine borers.

Keep in mind that some cold resistant herbs may continue producing for quite some time while vegetable crops that grow in cold weather may finish up their harvest before the summer crops go into the garden.

As a biennial, Parsley is a cool weather crop that survives the winter. This parsley plant is from our 2021 garden.
As a biennial, Parsley is a cool weather crop that survives the winter. This parsley plant is from our 2021 garden.

What are the best cold weather crops?

Choosing the best cool weather vegetables to grow really comes down to your family’s tastes and personal preferences. Carrots, peas, and potatoes tend to be popular in most circles and they’re all pretty easy to grow, so that could be a good place to start with your cold weather vegetables.

Of course, there’s really no point in growing cold climate crops that no one’s going to eat. Ask your family members to list their favorites from this list of cold hardy crops.

Did we miss any good cold weather crops? If you know of anything missing from this list, please hit us up in the comments and we’ll get our cold crops list updated.

And of course, don’t forget to look into DIY frost protection for plants that can’t survive the colder temperatures, or just bring them inside. 🙂

As always, we love hearing from you with your tips, ideas, questions and comments below!

Happy Gardening!

10.17.22 – Updated to add link to frost protection post.

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