A winter garden fills the kitchen with healthy vegetables just when the weather turns cold. Planting a variety of veggies, from broccoli to beets, in August gives the seedlings time to establish themselves in the garden. As the weather cools and frost spreads over the garden, the leaves and roots of many cool-season vegetables become sweeter and tastier.
Members of the cabbage family (Brassicaceae or Cruciferae Family) are cool-weather vegetables that thrive in both early spring and late fall until frost. Depending on the species, these vegetables are also grown through the winter in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8b through 10. While most of the Brassicas are biennials, they are grown as annuals in the garden and harvested before they flower. Broccoli and cauliflower are exceptions; they are harvested after the flower heads appear, but while they are still immature, before they burst into bloom.
Brassica seedlings are set out in the garden in August for a fall or winter harvest. If the weather is still hot, protect the seedlings from the afternoon sun with shade cloth or sheets suspended on bamboo poles. As the hardiest of the cool-season vegetables, most Brassicas' flavor is enhanced by cold weather and a touch of frost.
- Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) - 50 to 70 days.
- Cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata) - 80 days.
- Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis) - 60 to 90 days.
- Kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala).
Leafy vegetables include annuals and biennials, such as beet greens, that are grown as annuals. These cool-season vegetables are planted from August until 60 days before the first frost date.
Beets (Beta vularis) developed for both greens and roots, such as 'Bull's Blood,' which has deep red leaves and roots, are grown through the winter in USDA zones 10 and 11. Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is also planted in late summer and fall in USDA zones 6 through 8a and in winter in USDA zones 8b through 10.
- 'Bull's Blood' beet -- 35 days for baby greens and 58 days for roots.
- Chard or Swiss chard (Beta vularis var. cicla) -- 35 days for salads and 60 days for mature leaves.
- Lettuce -- 40 to 90 days, depending on the variety .
- Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) -- 40 to 55 days.
Peas (Pisum sativum) thrive in cool weather. Plant peas in August or September for a fall crop, before the first frost arrives. Harvest dates vary depending on the variety, ranging from 54 to 72 days. Count back from the first frost date and allow an extra seven to 14 days so the peas have time to develop. If the weather is still hot, provide afternoon shade to protect the developing vines, flowers and pods. Peas grow best when allowed to climb a trellis.
Root vegetables that thrive in cool weather are often sweeter after a frost. Plant the seeds in loose, organically rich soil from August until approximately six to eight weeks before the first frost. Root vegetables may be grown in sun or in warm regions, in partial shade.
Beets (Beta vulgaris
var. crassa) - 45 to 65 days.
Carrots (Daucus carota subsp. sativus) - 50 to 80 days.
Radishes (Raphanus sativus) - 22 to 70 days.