Frost-Hardy Vegetables to Grow

A complete list of frost-hardy and semi-hardy vegetables to grow in your garden.

Are you itching to get your hands into the dirt but you’re still several weeks away from being able to plant your summer garden? Have you considered planting frost-hardy vegetables? While most vegetable plants can’t handle a hard frost, there are a select few that can. Planting frost-hardy vegetables will help you to put fresh, nutritious vegetables on your dinner table sooner. It will also allow you to get back to gardening sooner and will add some color back into your garden.

Some vegetables are truly frost-hardy and can withstand a hard frost. Some of these crops can even withstand being covered in snow! If you are out of the woods for a hard freeze, you can plant some of the semi-hardy crops that will withstand a light frost and cold temperatures.

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Semi-Hardy Vegetables to Grow

What is a semi-hardy vegetable? Semi-hardy vegetables are plants that can grow in cool temperatures that can handle a light frost or two. These crops are best suited for growing in places where there isn’t a harsh winter, but nighttime temperatures can dip below freezing. If your winters are more cold rain than snow, these crops are a good fit for you. In some climates, these crops can be grown all winter long.

Learn more about what seeds are best to start indoors and which to direct sow.

Semi-hardy vegetable can handle light frosts and temperatures as low as 28 degrees Fahrenheit. You should have row covers on hand just in case the temperature dips below that.

    Here are the best semi-hardy vegetables to plant in your garden:
  • Beets
  • Carrots (spring varieties)
  • Cauliflower
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Celery
  • Chard
  • Collard greens
  • Endive
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard greens
  • Parsley
  • Parsnips
  • Peas
  • Radicchio

Beets, carrots and parsnips are all root vegetables. Most of the growth for these crops will occur under the ground. The tops of these plants may die back with cold temperatures, but the root is still alive. In fact, these plants will often taste better and have a higher sugar content when they’ve been hit by a frost or two. When the tops of these plants are hit with a frost, it shocks the tops of the plant and tells the plant to move all of the sugars down into the root. This is why they taste better after a frost.

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Frost-Hardy Vegetables to Grow

A hard frost will happen when temperatures dip below 28 degrees Fahrenheit. If you see frequent hard frosts, but you still want to have a supply of fresh vegetables, then you’ll want to plant some frost-hardy vegetables.

    Which are the best frost-hardy vegetables to plant? Here are our favorites:
  • Arugula
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Chicory
  • Fava beans
  • Garlic
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Onion (Walla Walla sweet onions)
  • Peas (winter varieties)
  • Radish
  • Rhubarb
  • Rutabaga
  • Spinach
  • Turnips

These crops will grow well even when temperatures dip well below freezing. You may be surprised that many of these crops will thrive even under snow or covered in hoarfrost. One of the most hardy on this list is kale. Kale is a super star when it comes to surviving in cold weather.

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Growing frost-hardy vegetables is not only a good way to get more out of your growing space, but it’s also a great way to explore new vegetable varieties. If you’re unfamiliar with some of the plants on this list, like chicory, fava beans, kohlrabi, rhubarb, or rutabaga, give them a try. Adding new crops to your garden will also add new flavors, textures, and nutrients to your dinner plate. You just might find your new favorite vegetable!

Warm-Season Vegetables You Shouldn’t Plant

Since we’re talking about frost-hardy plants that you should plant, it’s important to mention that while these plants will thrive in cold weather, not all vegetables will. Many of the vegetables that you plant in your summer garden will die back quickly at the first sign of a cold snap. Plants like tomatoes, peppers, okra, eggplants, cucumbers, squash, and melons shouldn’t be planted until the threat of frost is well passed. Don’t be tempted to plant early season tomatoes when they could be hit with a frost either. Although you can plant these as soon as the weather permits, they are still susceptible to frost and freezing temperatures.

Another common misconception is that you can grow winter squash during cold weather. This is a misleading statement. Winter squash are named because they are often harvested at the beginning of winter. Just like other summer crops, they can’t handle winter weather. Instead, plan on planting pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut squash, and spaghetti squash in the late spring along with the rest of your summer garden. When the weather cools off in the fall, these crops will be ready to harvest.

If you’re itching to garden, start your plants indoors from seeds. This is one of the best ways to get an early start on your garden without working in your garden. It’s also a great way to try new varieties of plants and save money on your garden. Started plants can be expensive. If you’re growing more than a couple of plants, it’s almost always cheaper to start your plants from seeds.

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Tips for a Successful Winter Garden

Many problems that affect winter gardens are caused by saturated soils. A common problem seen in winter gardens is root rot. Root rot occurs when the soil holds too much water and there isn’t enough air around the roots. There are a couple of ways that you can combat this problem. You can start my ensuring that your winter garden has soil that will drain well. Before planting your cold-hardy vegetables, make sure that you aren’t planting them in low-lying areas. Spend the extra time to level out your garden. This will help excess water to drain and will prevent your plants from trying to grow in soggy soil.

If cold rain is an issue in your area, consider planting purple-tinted vegetables. The pigment that is responsible for creating a deep red or purple hue in vegetables, anthocyanin, can also improve resistance to root rot. You can find cold-hardy vegetables with this pigment and plant them in your garden if heavy, cold rains are an issue for you. You can easily find broccoli and kale with this coloration and root hardiness.

Are you worried about blankets of snow covering your garden? Most people put snow and a frost into the same category. However, the effects are much different. Snow that blankets a garden will act as an insulator for your plants. A frost is often more dangerous for your garden than a layer of snow, even if it’s a deep layer of snow.

Still concerned about how a frost will affect your plants? A simple way to keep frost off of your plants is to cover them. You can use row covers, cold-frames, or even household items to keep frost off of your plants. In a pinch, a milk jug or a bed sheet will work to protect your plants.

This post was written by Shelby DeVore, the founder of Farminence and the host of the Backyard Vegetable Gardener’s Summit. Shelby is a passionate gardener with 20+ years of experience gardening and growing food at home. She recently moved to north Texas with her husband and three children where she’s excited to explore a new gardening zone and build a new farm.