By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 26 July 2011)
The following are some profiles of cool-season-loving leafy vegetables that you can grow for fresh greens in the fall, winter, and early spring.
Although there are recommended planting times for various vegetables, many gardeners have experimented with later planting times for cold-loving crops such as leafy vegetables and been rewarded with produce throughout the year. The following are some top picks for winter harvests.
Start cabbage during the first half of July and it should grow well throughout the fall and into at least early winter. Cabbage can tolerate some frost.
A relative of the beet, chard also grows well in the cool seasons of spring and fall. White-ribbed varieties withstand frost better than red-ribbed. Chard may even produce some new leaves in January and February.
Chervil can be planted in early spring or as late as September in places where winters are relatively mild. This cool-weather-loving plant grows well throughout the winter if it doesn’t get too cold or rain too continuously.
Chicories (French Endive/Belgian Endive, Radicchio, Sugarloaf)
Plant until mid- July for a fall harvest. In the fall, you can dig up the roots, transfer the plants to a container of moist soil in a warm room, and cover with sand to force for winter greens. Chicory can sometimes continue outdoors throughout the winter – radicchios and sugarloaves are the most likely to survive frosts.
Chinese cabbage does very well in late fall, and can even be planted in fall for a winter harvest or winter for a spring harvest in places where winters aren’t exceptionally cold.
These extremely nutritious greens, also known as nonheading cabbage or tree cabbage, are very frost-tolerant. Plant in mid-summer and harvest from fall through mid-winter.
A popular herb that also produces pungent, spicy seeds, cilantro hrives in full sun but can tolerate light shade and withstand frost well. However, it may suffer in continuous wind and rain. Putting coriander under cover for the winter (i.e., a covered patio) increases its survival chances.
Plant kale in July for fall and winter crops. Green kale is better than blue for winter crops, as frost can cause blue kale to turn yellow.
Sow kohlrabi in mid-July and harvest in fall when plants reach 1-2 inches in diameter. These plants can tolerate some frost.
All lettuces grow well throughout the fall, though damp weather may lead to mildew on leaves. Plant romaine and head lettuce in July and leaf lettuces (those that form more open leaf clusters rather than tight heads) until the middle of August. Lamb’s lettuce and land cress do particularly well over the winter if temperatures don’t get excessively cold, and may produce leaves even in late winter. Some good varieties for winter growing include Arctic King and Valdor.
Mizuna, a hardy Japanese green, can withstand temperatures of around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) and light frosts. In places where winters are colder, using a cold frame can facilitate winter harvests.
These quick-growing plants can be sown throughout September for a fall harvest and even later for winter greens where frosts are minimal and temperatures don’t dip much below 50 Fahrenheit/10 Celsius (the exceptions are Bok Choy or Chinese mustard, which should be started in August). New leaves may even appear in January and February.
Plant parsley at the beginning of July for a crop that should last through to spring. Although parsley can tolerate cooler temperatures, it grows more slowly.
Arugula can be grown throughout winter if it doesn’t get excessively cold, and may even produce new leaves in January and February.
Plant spinach in late summer for fall and early winter harvests. For best results, chill seeds in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 weeks before sowing. In some cases, plants may continue to produce new leaves throughout the winter.
As its name suggests, winter purslane is a good cold-weather salad crop. Plant in late summer or fall for winter crops.
- Albert, S., Harvest to Table. (2010). “How to Grow Coriander and Cilantro.” HarvestWizard.com.
- BBC Gardening Guides. (2011). “About Winter Salads.” BBC.co.uk.
- Dowding, C. (2008). Salad Leaves for All Seasons: Organic Growing from Pot to Plot. Devon, UK: Green Books Ltd.
- Fort Valley State University College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology. (2011). “Growing Chinese Cabbage.” Ag.FVSU.edu.
- University of Illinois Extension. (2011). “Watch Your Garden Grow: Collards.” Urbanext.Illinois.edu.