Extend the Harvest with these Cool Season Vegetables

Planting cool season vegetables allows you to harvest fresh produce into the winter in milder climates. Give these fall vegetables a try to extend your gardening season.

Contributed by Shannon Stonger

Purple cabbage growing in a garden.

We may not get the milder summers and fall beauty that northern climates have, but here in zone 8, we do get to grow some vegetables right on into winter, so that we can harvest hardy vegetables for months past the usual end of the growing season.


pretty garden with tomatoes and flowers - cover of book "edible front yard garden"The Edible Front Yard Garden

Does your homeowners association prevent you from growing food in the front yard? What if they never even KNEW? My ebook, The Edible Front Yard Garden will show you how!

Considering Cool Weather Crops in the Garden

There are some greens and root crops that do well – even tasting better – after our lighter freezes (28-32 degrees F). But then there are some that really just turn to mush and are inedible.

Most fall vegetables, even the cold-hardy varieties, would do well to be covered at temperatures below 25 degrees.

So what is it that makes one vegetable withstand a freeze and another not so much? And which fall vegetables can tolerate the mild frosts and freezes?

green a purple kale growing in a garden

To answer the first question, it really comes down to the sugar content of a vegetable. As the temperatures drop, the water in the cells expands as it begins to turn to ice. Eventually, when the freezing point hits, the cell walls burst and frost or freeze damage is incurred.

Cold-hardy vegetables and vegetable varieties are often higher in sugars than their counterparts. Sugar water freezes at a lower temperature than regular water, allowing the cell walls of the higher-sugar vegetables to stay intact.

You may notice, too, that during a slow cool down of fall and into winter, vegetables get sweeter over time, thereby giving them a high cold-tolerance as winter sets in.

Related: Partial Shade Vegetables for a Successful Harvest

buckwheat and kale growing in a garden

Related: Fast Vegetable Crops for a Late Start Garden

Planning Ahead for Fall Crops

Planting these cool season vegetables long before the onslaught of light freezes really helps. Mature plants seem to tolerate the cold better than immature plants.

And, because moisture holds heat, nights of high-humidity or precipitation tend to be safer for fall vegetables than the cold, dry, windy nights.

cabbage, top; beets, bottom

Cool Season Vegetables to Consider

First of all, when looking for seeds, seek out the most cold hardy varieties of any of these cool season vegetable crops. Secondly, stick with greens and roots.

Warm season vegetables include fruiting plants like tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, and peppers; these will keel over as soon as a frost hits. 

cabbage growing in a garden



All of the above cold season vegetables often survive right through to spring in a milder climate such as ours.

However, when night-time temperatures are set to drop below freezing in the vegetable garden, we often cover the more vulnerable fall vegetables like lettuce, cauliflower, beets, etc. with blankets or row covers.

blankets and sheets on brown grass, extending the growing season for fall vegetables

Over-Wintered Foods

One more option for growing food in cooler temperatures right into winter is over-wintering crops.

These are things that withstand the cold and might give you small harvests during the cold winter but will surely come to life in spring and deliver. The most common of these are garlic and onions but we have also done fava beans and greens with great results.

Originally published December 2017; this post has been updated.

Click to save or share!

About the author: Shannon Stonger is the founder of the blog Nourishing Days, where she shares her family’s journey towards sustainability. She is the author of The Doable Off-Grid Homestead, Traditionally Fermented Foods, and the sourdough baking book 100% Rye. She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and lives with her husband, five children, and various farm animals on their five-acre homestead in Texas.

4 comments… add one
  • Carol l Oct 3, 2022 @ 15:56

    “….All the brassica crops,…”
    Which are those?

  • Pam Aug 22, 2020 @ 14:19

    The worms infested my broccoli and cabbage this summer. Does that happen in the fall?

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 28, 2020 @ 7:34

      Do you have a local cooperative extension office? They’d be able to tell you what times of year are most problematic for cabbage worms.

  • Alice Marie Nov 11, 2019 @ 2:30

    Thanks for posting this. We’re getting a hard freeze tomorrow night . I’ll be sure to cover my kale and swiss chard. Next year I’ll use your list to plant even more varieties.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *