There is no doubt that my husband and I live a simple lifestyle. But, simple doesn’t mean we do without. In fact, the other day we were marveling at how well we are doing for being so, shall we say, blessed with a challenging budget. We were out in the garden harvesting what would be the last of the tomatoes for this season. Then, out of the corner of my eye I see arugula peeking out from the ground. I take a few more steps and I see tiny little kale leaves starting to grow. The thing about having a garden is that the garden gives and gives and gives. As one crop goes dormant, another emerges. No matter what the season, we always have something to look forward to.
Right about the month of September, we harvest the last of whatever we planted in the spring. These vegetables are coming to maturity and will need to be harvested before the cold weather sets in. It is time to start thinking about what we want to plant now, so that we can enjoy them during the winter. We look for plants that can withstand the harsh cold temperatures of the winter months.
The document shown below is a list of vegetables that are suitable for planting in cooler or cold weather. I extracted the information from the back of my seed packets to show the number of days to germinate and the number of days to maturity.
List of Cold Weather Vegetables
I live in northern California, so the winters are not as gruelingly cold as other parts of the world, but we do get a few days of freezing temperatures which can destroy some plants. When planting vegetables in the cold months, no matter where you live, it is important to know the First Frost Date and the First Freeze Date for your region. You also need to know how many days it takes for your vegetable to mature. When planting a winter garden, you want to plant so that your vegetable will mature on or before the coldest part of the season.
You can find reliable information about frost and freeze dates at the National Climatic Data Center.
If you purchase seed packets, the back of the seed packet usually has the information you need on the back of the packet. If the plant takes 30 days to mature, then count back 30 days before the first frost date to determine when to plant your vegetable.
FREEZE Day is when the temperature reaches 32° Fahrenheit or below. Celsius is 0° or below.
FROST Day is when the temperature reaches 36° Fahrenheit or below. Celsius is 2°or below.
Obviously, FREEZE days are colder than FROST days. Frost can kill most plants. So, to play it safe, pay attention to frost days in order to have a cushion between weather that is merely extra cold versus weather that has the potential to kill your plant.
Cold weather plants like the air and soil to be cold, so be sure to plant your vegetables so that they mature before the warm weather settles in.
Hardy and Semi-Hardy Vegetables
Some plants can withstand colder temperatures than others.
Hardy - Plants that can tolerate frosty weather (about 25° to 28° Fahrenheit and 4° to 2° Celsius) are considered hardy vegetables.
Semi-hardy - Plants that tolerate light frost (about 29° to 32° Fahrenheit and 2° to 0° Celsius) are considered semi-hardy vegetables.
The back of your seed packet may tell you which plants are hardy or semi-hardy. If this information is not on the packet, you can go online to search for the information. I have found the agricultural departments of universities to have the most reliable information. You will find Texas A&M University and Cornell University to have a thorough amount of information about all sorts of vegetables.
Hardiness Zone and the USDA
To use the information on your seed packet effectively, you need to determine your planting zone. This information can be found at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. The USDA assigns a number to each region and refers to this number as the Hardiness Zone. Look for your Hardiness Zone at USDA. Your Hardiness Zone will help you decipher the information you find on the back of your seed packet. This information will give you a guideline on the best time to plant your vegetable. For example, I live in northern California and I discovered that my Hardiness Zone is 9.
In the Fall
While fall days are generally cool, you are concerned with the first day of the year that, potentially, will have frost. Meteorologists call this the First Frost Date. Then, as cooler weather continues, you will be concerned with the First Freeze Date.
These dates are not accurate, but history dictates that there is a high chance that there will be frosty or freezing temperatures on these dates. Be sure you have harvested your crop on or before Fall’s First Frost Date and First Freeze Date.
In the Spring
While spring time is generally warm, you are concerned with the last day of the year that, potentially, will freeze. Meteorologists call this the Last Freeze Date. Generally following the Last Freeze Date is the Last Frost Date.
As weather goes, these dates are not accurate, but based upon historical weather averages, you can rely on these dates and safely plant on or after Spring’s Last Freeze Date and Last Frost Date.
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Cold Weather Harvest Tip:
Harvest on or before Fall’s First Frost Date and First Freeze Date.
During the month of September, along with harvesting the last few vegetables of the season, I spend time with chores that help prepare the garden for cold weather planting. The following chores are just about all you need to do to prepare your garden for fall and winter planting:
- Rake away dead leaves and fallen stalks
- Stir the compost pile for the final time this year
When you are done with these chores, start thinking about your planting strategy. I like to write the First Frost Date and the First Freeze Dates on a calendar and then see what can be planted for harvesting before or on the First Frost Date.
Cold weather gardening is quite rewarding. With proper planning, you will be able to enjoy vegetables during the cold winter months. I wish you much success with your gardening.
Marlene Bertrand - Helping you enjoy the lifestyle of urban gardening!
Copyright Marlene Bertrand 2015. All rights reserved.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), http://www.usda.gov, Last visited: 9/13/15
Cornell University, http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/homegardening/sceneb771.html, Last visited: 9/13/15
Aggie Horticulture – Texas A&M University, http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/wildseed/info/1.2.html, Last visited: 9/13/15
Johnny’ Selected Seeds, http://www.johnnyseeds.com/c-1-vegetables.aspx, Last visited: 9/13/15
Data.gov, http://www.data.gov/climate, Last visited: 9/13/15
The Old Farmer’s Almanac, http://www.almanac.com, Last visited: 9/13/15
National Centers for Environmental Information (formerly known as National Climatic Data Center), http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov, Last visited: 9/13/15
Bonnie Plants, http://bonnieplants.com/library/which-veggies-for-which-season, Last visited 9/15/15.