The Best Vegetables To Plant That Thrive In Colder Fall And Winter Temperatures

Autumn might mean the end of poolside days and long nights, but not everything from summer has to stop in September—including a garden full of fresh, ripe veggies. We often associate our edible garden with abundant summer harvests, but you can still enjoy a diverse garden well into fall. 

This goes for every gardening zone in the continental US, though specific compatibility will vary by region. From the brisk Northeast to the balmy Southwest, several vegetable staples not only survive but thrive in the shorter days and cooler autumn temps. 

There is still plenty of time to enjoy a home harvest before the cold deep winter the Farmer’s Almanac predicts for most of the US. For even better results, plant your cold-loving veggies deeper than the package suggests to give them the cool, damp environment they crave.

The Best Vegetables To Plant In Fall

Between leftover back-to-school treats (thanks, kids) and Halloween goodies, there are ample sweet treats to enjoy in the fall. Balance out these well-deserved chocolate breaks with leafy greens, hearty root veggies, and brassicas from your own backyard.

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These vegetables have evolved to protect themselves against the cold by accumulating sugars. Not only does the sugar prevent water in the plant cells from freezing, but it also makes these veggies taste extra sweet, flavorful, and delicious. Thanks, Mother Nature.

Some resources recommend trying pelleted seeds, which are coated with a layer of clay to increase ease of handling, reduce seed waste, and encourage even spacing. These types of seeds also retain moisture better than non-pelleted seeds, which means you get to worry less about constant watering.

Plant hardiness zone map

Of course, where you live impacts the type of vegetables that will thrive best in your garden. We’ll be referencing the above plant hardiness zone map when detailing which vegetables grow best in which regions.

1. Dark, Hearty Greens

Dark leafy greens in colander
(Elena Elisseeva/

Bok choy, kale, and Swiss chard are all well-suited for cooler temps. Bok choy and Swiss chard are the most durable and can grow in Zones 2-11 and 3-10, respectively. Kale is a bit pickier, thriving in southern Zones 7-9. The cooler but not freezing weather softens the bitterness of these nutrient-rich greens for a deeper, more palatable flavor.

2. Lettuce And Spinach

Mixed greens in white bowl
(Natali Zakharova/

Whether you’re making salads, sandwiches, stir-fries, or omelets, fresh lettuce and spinach are two kitchen staples that will elevate these dishes to the next level. Lettuce produces sweet, crisp leaves in the fall in Zones 4-9. Spinach can be planted a little further north in Zones 2-9 and has a short maturation period so that you can enjoy multiple harvests before winter. 

3. Hearty Root Veggies

Root vegetables
(Irina Fischer/

Fall is also a great time for planting hearty root veggies, which means more flavorful and robust soups, stews, and roasts. Turnips, beets, radishes, and carrots all thrive in Zones 2-11, with small discrepancies from plant to plant. These veggies have a fairly long maturation period, which means they need to be planted before the autumn months.

However, they boast amazing flavor if left to their own devices through fall. Because they’re root vegetables, they can even withstand light frosts with minimal damage. The extra sugar will only make these vegetables yummier.

4. Peas, Beans, & Brassicas

Assorted brassica vegetables in wooden bowl on table

Finally, other cool-loving veggies you can enjoy in the fall include green beans, peas, and brassicas (i.e., cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower). All of these plants do well in Zones 1-11. However, cabbage does better in the North, and cauliflower and broccoli thrive in the South. Peas and green beans are fairly middle of the road in Zones 2-10 and 2-9, respectively. 

Autumn will be here (and gone) before we know it. So, make sure to get a jumpstart on your cold-weather veggies now while the opportunity is still ripe.

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