13 Winter Vegetables and Herbs That Grow in the Snow
You may view summer as the best time to garden, but many plants can survive and even thrive in cold and snow. Join vegetable farmer Briana Yablonski as she covers 13 winter vegetables and herbs that grow in the snow.
If you’re a diehard gardener, stepping away from your soil and plants is hard when short days and cold temperatures arrive. You’ve tried to keep things going by planting cold-hardy crops and heeding frost warnings by covering plants with a blanket of row cover. But what happens when snow arrives?
Fortunately, numerous vegetables and herbs can survive and grow in the snow; some are even sweeter after a frost! You can keep harvesting these crops throughout the winter or maintain the plants until they’re ready to harvest the following spring.
So, if you aren’t ready to stop gardening in the fall, check out these 13 veggies and herbs that can survive snow.
What to Know About Growing in the Snow
You may think your crops are goners when you hear that snow has fallen. But a plant’s status really depends on the plant type, temperature, and amount of snowfall.
Cold-sensitive plants like tomatoes, peppers, and basil won’t survive a snowfall unless they grow in a protected structure like a high tunnel. However, even frost-tolerant crops will diminish once the temperature drops low enough.
That’s where snow can come in handy. A light dusting of snow won’t impact a plant’s ability to survive cold temperatures much, but a serious snowfall helps insulate plants against cold temperatures and wind. So, while kale and carrot tops often succumb to 20°F, the same temperatures won’t hurt plants that are covered in snow.
With that said, all crops will perish when temperatures become cold enough. So, regardless of the snow on the ground, don’t expect all frost-tolerant veggies to survive 0°F.
Vegetables and Herbs That Grow in the Snow
If you live in an area that receives snow, don’t think you have to call it quits on your garden. The following 13 vegetables and herbs grow in snow and cold.
Carrots are some of the best vegetables to grow in snow. Although the cold temperatures accompanying snow can damage carrot tops, the snow also helps insulate the roots and prevent them from freezing. The cold also causes the plant to concentrate sugars in its roots, which means super sweet carrots.
While carrots can survive snow and cold, they won’t grow much once the days dip below ten hours. Planting carrot seeds in August or September allows you to have mature roots by the time the snow arrives.
Another option is to overwinter carrots for a spring harvest. I’ve planted carrot seeds in October and harvested the roots the following April. The carrot roots are only a few inches long during the winter, but they begin putting on noticeable growth once the spring solstice arrives. All carrots grow in snow, including classic orange ‘Scarlet Nantes’ and colorful ‘Carnival Blend.’
While the first frost or snow often burns outer kale leaves, the interior leaves typically remain unscathed and continue to grow. As the plants acclimate to colder temperatures, they can survive future frosts without damage if the temperatures remain above 20°F. And when kale experiences frost or snow, the leaves become notably sweeter.
If you want extra insurance that your crops will survive below-freezing temperatures and snow, cover them with a layer of row cover. However, avoid letting the cover sit on the leaves since this will lead to frostburn. I use metal hoops to keep row covers off my plants, but you can also use wooden stakes or pieces of bamboo. Secure the edges of the cover to the ground to create an insulated tunnel and prevent the cover from blowing away.
If you haven’t heard of tatsoi, think of it as bok choy’s skinny stem cousin. This brassica produces tender, slim stems and small, dark green leaves. Although its flavor is similar to bok choy, it’s more cold-hardy.
Tatsoi keeps chugging along when snow falls, even if it’s growing in an unprotected outdoor area. Like with all plants, covering the greens with a layer of row cover will help keep them warmer and protect them from drying winds. If you’re expecting temperatures below 25°F, it’s a good idea to cover your plants.
You can harvest individual tatsoi leaves (they make a great substitute for spinach) or cut the entire plant at the base. Harvesting individual outer leaves allows the inner leaves to keep growing. The plants can survive until the following spring, but they’ll bolt as days lengthen.
If someone forced me to grow only one green in my winter garden, it would be spinach. The cold-tolerant leaves become sweeter with frost and continue growing throughout the season. And since the plants remain short, I can easily cover them with row cover.
Spinach’s small size also means snowfalls above a few inches help insulate it from the cold. However, the snow also makes it difficult to harvest spinach. If you live in an area that receives regular, heavy snowfalls, covering your spinach plants with a layer of row cover or plastic makes harvesting easier. Remember that snow can weigh down these covers, so use wire hoops to keep them above your plants and secure the sides of the cover with heavy rocks or logs.
Another option is to grow spinach in a cold frame. The frame will help protect spinach from wind and extreme cold while also making it easy to brush off layers of snow.
Parsnips not only survive snow and cold but also require it to bring out the best flavor. Below-freezing temperatures allow the roots to sweeten, so wait until a few frosts arrive to harvest. But if you can’t get around to harvesting soon after frost, don’t worry!
This root veggie tolerates temperatures down to 0°F and keeps growing after snowfall. Parsnip greens become zapped before the roots, but you can cover the plants with row cover to protect the more fragile greens.
Remember that parsnips are slow-growing veggies that take over 100 days to mature. That means you should plant them in the late summer or early fall to allow them to form large roots by the first frost.
Craving a warming dish of sauteed cabbage and boiled potatoes or looking to make some winter sauerkraut? Well, fortunately for you, cabbage grows well in snow, as long as air temperatures don’t get too cold. If the outer leaves become frost-burnt, peel them off until you uncover an unharmed core.
Since extended periods below 25°F can damage cabbage plants, aim to protect or harvest your heads before heavy frosts arrive. Most cabbage varieties will hold in the refrigerator or root cellar for at least a few weeks, and storage varieties can keep for months.
Unlike many crops, the fall is the best time to plant garlic. Tucking the cloves into the ground as the days wane allows the plants to develop tiny roots and shoots. When cold weather and snow arrive, the bulbs remain cozy underground as they wait for warmer temperatures and longer days.
Garlic survives cold and snow if you plant it at the right time. Planting garlic too soon can lead the cloves to develop green leaves that poke out of the soil. Cold weather can zap these sprouts and also lead the cloves to dry out. The proper planting time will depend on your growing zone, but a general tip is to plant the bulbs within a few weeks of the first frost.
Even if you plant garlic at the right time, you may still need to protect the plants with a few inches of hay or leaves. This mulch insulates the plants from the cold temperatures and allows them to survive the winter.
Although leeks’ cold tolerance varies between varieties, most types can survive temperatures down to 20°F and moderate snowfall. You have two main options for growing leeks through the winter.
First, you can plant leeks in late summer so they’re mature by the time winter arrives. That means you’ll have many of these fragrant alliums for winter stews and roasts. The second option is to transplant leeks in the mid-fall.
The leeks will grow a bit and then remain the same size throughout the winter. Spring’s arrival encourages a jump in growth, so leeks will be ready to harvest in April or May.
9. Fava Beans
While you can plant fava beans in the spring, planting them in the fall and overwintering them allows you to obtain an earlier harvest. Plant the seeds in late September through early November to grow small plants before the first snow arrives.
Fava bean plants can tolerate frost and snow, but they begin to experience damage when temperatures drop below 15°F–20°F, depending on the variety.
Covering fava bean seedlings with a layer of row cover can improve cold tolerance by a few degrees. With that said, you’re better off planting fava beans in the spring if you live in zone six and below.
The perennial horseradish plant grows well throughout cold and snow, making it a great addition to any winter garden. It’s also low maintenance, so you can practically plant and forget about it.
The spring or fall is the best time to plant horseradish, and either option results in plants that survive the winter. Don’t be alarmed if the plant’s leaves die in the winter—the root will store energy and send out new greens in the spring.
Also known as corn salad and lamb’s lettuce, mâche is an unfamiliar green in much of the United States. This cold-weather crop is more popular in Europe, and I think it deserves a chance to shine.
Luckily for winter growers, mâche not only survives in colder temperatures and snow, but it thrives. Seeds germinate in temperatures as low as 50°F and have difficulty sprouting when the soil is above 70°F. The mature greens can tolerate air temperatures down to 5°F, and adding a layer of row cover can help it live through 0°F.
As with most crops, snow helps insulate mâche against winds and colder air temperatures. So don’t worry if snow covers your greens in a white blanket.
Both salad turnips like ‘Market Express’ and cooking turnips like ‘Purple Top White Globe’ can survive and continue growing after a snowfall. However, they may need some help, depending on what part of the plant you’re after.
Large turnip greens often become burnt and wilted by heavy frost and snowfall if left uncovered. The inner greens often remain unharmed, but I still like to cover turnips with row cover if I expect below-freezing temperatures or snow.
However, the roots will remain crisp and healthy until the ground freezes. So don’t worry about covering your turnips if you just want to enjoy the roots.
While radicchio sometimes gets a bad rap as a bitter green, many people find winter-harvested radicchio delightful. The cold mellows out the bitterness and creates supremely tender leaves.
All types of radicchio can survive snow, but some are better suited to short days and colder temperatures than others. I love growing ‘Rosalba’ due to its cold tolerance and the bright pink leaves it develops in colder weather. Radicchio varieties that take longer to mature can tolerate cold better than varieties that mature more quickly.
Take note that while radicchio can survive snowfall, the plants may end up looking a bit ragged. I’ve harvested uncovered radicchio heads in the middle of winter that belong in a horror show. They’re brown, slimy, and look like they’ve been plucked from the bottom of a compost pile. But peeling off the slime layer and the outer few leaves reveals a beautiful head of tender leaves.
Just because you’re expecting snow doesn’t mean you have to stop growing veggies and herbs! Choosing snow-tolerant crops and providing some protection allows you to garden well into the winter.