There are plenty of vegetables and herbs to grow outdoors in fall and winter, even here in Canada, but you have to remember to get your crops started in mid-summer. The key is to allow the plants time to mature before the cold weather sets in.
For more, see the Fall Garden Guide with tips on sowing, growing, and creative autumn projects.
The Year-round Vegetable Gardener
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.
• 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 resume as it increases in spring.
• Fall & Winter Vegetable Gardening 101
• Fall & Winter Seed Sowing Plan (to do in summer)
• 20 Fast-Growing Vegetables for Spring or Fall
Online Seed Shop: Buy Frost Tolerant Vegetable Seeds
at Botanical Interests (US shipping)
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.
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.
Even if you don’t want a big winter garden, it is worthwhile to grow one bed of essentials like leafy salad greens and learn as you go.
Most cool-tolerant crops do fine with frost cloths or a basic poly-tunnel over top to protect them from harsh weather conditions.
For my first few years, I just placed tarps over tall raised beds and that was sufficient.
Related: How to Grow Vegetables in Winter
How to get started and recommended resources
Start Your Fall Seeds in Mid-Summer
- Make a sowing plan (see mine for help).
- Get your seeds ordered.
- Sow slowest growing crops mid-summer.
Step 1 is to make a plan (see my free printable plan, below) and get your seeds ordered here-Botanical Interests sells good seed collections.
From there, by mid-summer, start sowing so everything is well-established by the time winter weather sets in.
Choose any cool-tolerant or frost-tolerant crops recommended for fall and winter growing.
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 mid-summer will need extra time to be ready for harvest, sometimes by several weeks.
Related: How to Read Seed Packets
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.
If you just want some fast-growing cool weather crops, this list of Spring and Fall Veggies is perfect.
Instead of leaving bare soil, also consider growing cover crops to protect and enrich your garden soil during the winter months.
1Veggies to Start INDOORS (under grow lights) Mid-Summer
Check the seed packets for the number of days it will take from seed to harvest and allow extra time for slower growth as the weather cools.
Seed catalogs often have suggestions for specific varieties that do nicely in cooler weather—or need it to avoid bolting. There are hundreds of options!
- Brussels sprouts
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Botanical Interests has a selection of frost-tolerant seeds here:
2Veggies to Start 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 mid-summer.
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 fall heat waves like we do.
- Swiss chard
3Fast-Growing Veggies to Sow Directly OUTDOORS Late Summer
- You may need frost cloths, a poly-tunnel, or cold frame for weather protection.
- Many of these plants take just 20-30 days to mature and you can eat them as they grow.
- 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’.
- Mustard greens
- Pak choi
4Fast-Growing Herbs to Sow Directly OUTDOORS Late Summer
As mentioned, all of these are suggestions and results will depend on your growing zone and conditions.
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)
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 on the printable.
When you click on the button, this printable will be added to your cart. Don’t worry, there’s no cost, and you can download it instantly.
Let’s keep the gardening going all year-round!
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛