There are plenty of vegetable seeds to sow midsummer. The fast-growing ones will be ready to harvest in 4 to 8 weeks. The slower-growing cool-tolerant crops can continue in the garden all winter long—even in a cold climate—with some weather protection.
For more, see the Fall Garden Checklist with tips on sowing, growing, and creative autumn projects.
Growing Vegetables in Fall and Winter
If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you know I’m on a mission to dispel the myth that the gardening season—specifically food growing—ends as summer fades out.
Several years ago I read Niki Jabbour’s book, The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener, and it totally changed my gardening life. I had no idea you can grow vegetables right through the fall and into the winter.
But you have to get the plants started midsummer for it to work.
The beauty of cool-tolerant crops is they do not require pollinators and there are edible parts throughout the growth cycle.
And that means lots of fresh food between now and first frosts.
If you do decide to keep going for the winter, you’ll need some sort of cover like tarps, polytunnels, frost cloths, or cold frames. And this list of 10 vegetables to grow in winter will help get you started.
Either way, the first step is getting your seeds ready so you don’t miss out.
Even if you don’t want a big fall or winter garden, it is worthwhile to grow one bed or some containers of essentials like leafy salad greens and learn as you go.
You can grow until frosts set in or keep going with covers.
For my first few years, as winter set in, I just placed tarps over tall, raised beds and that was sufficient for our winter lows ( -10C | 14F).
Start Your Fall Seeds in Mid-Summer
- Make a sowing plan (see mine for help).
- Get your seeds ordered.
- Start the slowest-growing crops first.
Step 1 is to make a plan (see my free plan, below) and then get your seeds ordered here. Botanical Interests has a fall vegetable seed collection here (US shipping only).
Start sowing midsummer to allow enough time for the plants to get established. I sow the slow-growers like broccoli and cauliflower indoors away from the summer heat. The fast-growers are sown directly outdoors in a part-shade garden bed.
For winter vegetables, keep in mind that growth slows or stops in the colder months so the usual days to maturity do not apply. For example, broccoli started midsummer will gradually stop growing as fall turns to winter and the light diminishes. The plant will essentially go dormant under its winter covers and resume growing in spring when light, and warmth returns.
A wonderful thing about cool crops is that many of these vegetables including beets, carrots, and parsnips become sweeter-tasting after exposure to frost as their starches convert to sugars.
Related: 17 Flowers Seeds to Sow Mid-Summer
Seed Sowing Plan
1Sow Indoors Mid-Summer Under Grow Lights
These are the slow-growers that need to be established before frosts but deal with winter cold just fine with some protection.
I start this group indoors under normal fluorescent lights or LED lights and transplant them outdoors in late summer. You can see my indoor seed starting setup here.
This is also a good work-around if your summer is too hot and humid for much outdoor sowing.
Seed catalogs often have suggestions for specific varieties that do nicely in cooler weather—or need it to avoid bolting (going to seed prematurely). There are hundreds of options!
- Brussels sprouts
Botanical Interests has a selection of frost-tolerant seeds here:
Buy Frost Tolerant Veggie Seeds Here
At Botanical Interests, check the Frost Tolerant box in search to show options.
2Sow Outdoors Mid-Summer
This group is both fast and slow growing, depending on which part of the plant you want to eat.
If you want the mature crops (root veggies), start midsummer.
Otherwise, plant them with Group 3 (late summer) and enjoy the baby leaves, shoots, and tiny fruits and roots.
Select a slightly cool or shady location to prevent bolting if you get late summer and fall heat waves like we do.
- Swiss chard
3Sow Outdoors Late Summer
- Many of these plants take just 20-30 days to mature and you can eat them as they grow.
- Sow in the ground or containers—whatever works for your growing space.
- You can also sow seeds on a weekly basis for a continuous harvest.
- To keep it simple, look for variety seed packs sold as ‘mesclun mix’.
- To continue beyond frosts, add protective covers.
- Mustard greens
- Pak choi
4Herbs to Grow Late-Summer
As mentioned, all of these are suggestions and results will depend on your growing zone and conditions. Check the “days to maturity” to get an idea of the time required.
It is also possible to grow some of these herbs indoors through the winter if you have adequate light. See How to Grow Herbs Indoors for tips.
- Mint (in a container-it’s invasive)
- Parsley (can survive winter with cover)
- Lavender (use cuttings)
- Rosemary (use cuttings)
Related: How to Winter Sow Outdoors in Milk Jugs
This two-page list shares vegetable and herb seeds to sow in mid or late summer for cool weather growing.
Keep in mind that different varieties of the same vegetable can grow at very different paces, so be sure to check your seed packets to allow enough time from seed to harvest. I’ve listed a suggested schedule in the file.
Empress of Dirt
Fall Vegetable & Herb Sowing Plan
Save to your device and/or print it.
Fall & Winter Vegetable Gardening
Grow cool-tolerant crops like leafy greens, kale, broccoli, and carrots and more.
• Get all your crops established before freezing weather sets in.
• For winter growing, use frost covers, cold-frames, or poly-tunnels. Snow is a good insulator as well.
• Growth halts as sun dips below 10 hours per day and resumes as it increases in spring.
• How To Grow Vegetables In Fall & Winter
• 10 Vegetables That Grow In Winter (If You Start Early)
• Fall & Winter Seed Sowing Plan
• 20 Fast-Growing Vegetables for Spring or Fall
Online Seed Shop: Buy Frost Tolerant Vegetable Seeds at Botanical Interests (US shipping)
Seed Starting for Beginners
Sow Inside Grow Outside
by Melissa J. Will
NEW EDITION | Everything you need to get started with indoor seed starting for indoor and outdoor plants. Grow what you want—any time of year!
About This Ebook | Visit Ebook Shop
This ebook is a digital file (PDF format) you save to your device. It is not a physical product.
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The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener
by Niki Jabbour
Niki lives in Nova Scotia, Canada and grows vegetables year-round.
Find out how to plant, what to use to keep your crops protected, and how to keep harvesting veggies even in a cold climate all year long.
How to Grow Vegetables Outdoors in Winter (in Canada!)
Recommended LED Lights
Seedlings | Barrina Super Bright White LED Lights | Amazon
These lights work nicely for indoor seed starting and growing young plants until it’s time for outdoor transplanting.
Indoor Flowering & Fruiting | Barrina Full-Spectrum LED Lights | Amazon
If you need lights for long-term growing including plants that can flower and fruit indoors, choose full-spectrum bulbs.
More Tips: Mid-Summer Garden Tasks: What To Do Now
Let’s keep the gardening going all year-round!
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛