Though we tend to regard summer as the heyday for growing vegetables, cool-season crops in the spring and fall can be just as rewarding. The cool daytime temperatures and occasional light frost yield the sweetest, crispest, most flavorful vegetables around—stretching the summer bounty into an almost year-round smorgasbord.
Whether you want to get a head start on planting in the spring or extend your gardening season in the fall, cool-season vegetables are the perfect solution.
Knowing When to Plant
- Cool-season vegetables thrive when daytime temperatures average between 65°- 80° F, with nighttime temperatures staying above 40° F. Spring and fall (and winter in some areas) provide perfect conditions for these crops.
- Most cool-season vegetables can tolerate a light frost and are generally planted 2-4 weeks before your last frost date in the spring.
- Since hot temperatures make these vegetables bitter, or cause them to go to seed, plan your growing seasons to avoid harvesting when the temperatures climb above 80° F.
- If you shop carefully, you can buy seeds or plants with detailed information about germination, proper planting times, and maturity for that particular variety. Armed with this information, and your average first and last frost dates, you can plan your fall and spring harvests for just the right time.
- If you live where the summers are cool, you can plant successive crops and harvest straight through until the first heavy freeze in the fall. If your summers are hot, follow up your cool-season crops with a summertime planting of warm-season veggies such as tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.
Top 10 Easy to Grow Cool-Season Vegetables
Check out our top 10 most popular cool-season vegetables, with tips on how to grow them in your spring or fall garden.
Cool-Season Vegetable #1: Asparagus
Asparagus is a hardy, perennial vegetable that, once established, can produce crops for years. Most easily grown from year-old dormant roots, known as “crowns,” which should be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in early spring while crowns are still dormant.
Be patient with asparagus, since it can take several years to become established. Plan on no harvest the first year, a very light crop (2-4 week season) the second year, and a full (6-8 week season) harvest on the third year.
Cool-Season Vegetable #2: Beets
Beets are best grown from seed planted a month before the last frost. Soil should be well-drained, rich, and aerated so it’s light, fluffy, and free of stones. Successive crops of beets can be planted all season long if temperatures are under 80° F.
Begin harvesting beets when they are 1″ in diameter, and the greens at any time. Fall plantings of beets can be left in the ground and harvested as needed until the soil freezes. Radishes and turnips are more frost tolerant than beets and parsnips.
Cool-Season Vegetable #3: Broccoli
Broccoli is very cold hardy but will quickly “bolt” (go to seed) in hotter temperatures. It is most easily grown from transplanted seedlings set out about a month before the last frost in spring, or about two months before the first frost of fall.
Different varieties have different maturation rates, so choose a variety likely to mature before the weather gets too hot in your area. Cauliflower is grown in a similar fashion but is both more heat and cold sensitive than broccoli and does best in the fall.
Read our article on How to Grow Broccoli to find out more.
Cool-Season Vegetable #4: Cabbage
Cabbage likes rich soil with plenty of compost to feed the tender, tasty leaves. While cabbage can tolerate a light frost, it can go to seed if exposed to temperatures below 40° F for long periods of time.
Plant seedlings about a month before the last frost in the spring, and continue planting and harvesting as long as temperatures stay between about 40° and 70° F. When you plant your cabbage, don’t forget to add in some kale, Swiss chard, and kohlrabi for good measure.
Read our article on How to Grow Cabbage to find out more.
Cool-Season Vegetable #5: Carrots
Like beets, carrots need well-aerated, well-drained soil with no competition from weeds or other plants. Clay soil should be amended with lots of organic matter, but don’t use non-composted manure or fertilizers that are high in nitrogen. Keep the soil free of rocks to ensure well-shaped carrots, and protect from a hard freeze.
Plant carrot seeds about 2-3 weeks before your last frost date in the spring. As you thin your carrot seedlings, enjoy the baby carrots in salads.
i would like to see dates and best month the plant field peas, black eyed peas, watermelons, squash okra for Hallsboro North Carolina 28442. exactly what zone is this and when is the last frost date. in other words what can I plant in April what can i plant in January and what can I plant on Good Friday. you read zone 2,4,7 etc. but it do not tell you what state is those zone. exactly what zone is Hallsboro, North Carolina which is 7 miles from Whiteville, North Carolina. so what zone is Whiteville, North Carolina. from Dorothy Smith Person 2348 Red Bug Road Hallsboro North Carolina 28442. I love planting and anxious to plant something NOW.. Thank you
Thanks for the feedback! In response I added links in the article above to Understanding Planting Zones, which includes a color coded U.S. map and a list of the location for all the planting zones. The vegetables you’re interested in planting are summer vegetables, so you might want to check out our article on Growing Warm-Season Vegetables as well as How to Determine Spring Planting Time, which has a map for when to plant a summer garden. Good luck with your garden!
I had a good and blessed garden because I used this post for my information. I grew a 5 pound collard. It is now October 17, 2011, and I am a little late getting started this year; but since I am using this site again I am expecting to be blessed with a beautiful garden again; because if you follow the plans, you to will have great results. I plan to show my before and after planting from 10/17/2011 when my vegetables start coming up. from DOROTHY SMITH PERSON HALLSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA 28442. SO LET’S PLANT A GARDEN
I have grown asparagus successfully in my garden. If you properly plan the asparagus section of your garden, you can have decades of asparagus year after year. Be sure not to locate the asparagus patch in low-lying areas that are subject to frost or poor drainage. Asparagus likes full sun and needs porous, well-aerated soil for its dense and extensive root network. Proper preparation for growing anything always involves soil testing.
I had a good garden crop Last year. At the end of the year on December 13, 2012 I planted some sweet garden peas.Before planting them I contacted Danny Lipford for information in planting different vegetables in my area.I followed the tips he gave to me and on April 13 2012 I picked those garden peas. I got a bushel of peas. They were were a blessing to look at to see how they matured.If in doubt in planting or having a problem I do recommend Danny Lipford for any problem you might have when it come to planting a garden.To see my First Picking Pictures of The Garden Peas I planted go to Dorothy Smith Person On face Book and check Out the size of those peas.when I figure how to post them on this sight I will.And don’t forget let Danny Lipford help you plant your garden. Posted by Evangelist Dorothy Smith Person of Hallsboro, North Carolina on 4,11, 2012. Let’s get that spring garden finished to reap the benefit of the harvest.
happy 2015 to all the garden grows out there this year pass has been a blessed one for me already have my sweet peas growing in my garden they are about 2&a half to 3 inches tall I just replanted some more for that step ladder effect I hope everyone have a blessed season in their garden for this 2015 planting season-enjoy your harvest January 7-2015 from Dorothy Smith Person Hallsboro NC
it was cold here in Hallsboro North Carolina 28442 Wednesday night night and early Thursday morning today the high probably be around 30 and tonight we probably get like 18 but we got plenty of sunshine Thank God tomorrow will be a tad warmer probably 47 for the high. I got to put that plug in there for the person that help me with my garden when I need information there is no better place or shall I say person to look up than Mr Danny Lipford you can find great information on his site. I found information such as the first frost for our area for the winter is October 31st through March the 28th. Also I found out that we will have frost life from March 28 to November the 17th and that we will have no frost around April to 17th through October the 14th. information like this is very helpful and you can plan around those frost dates and you’re planning time and clearing the garden so when you have nothing to do look up Danny Lipford you will find something very interesting information.
by Dorothy Smith Person
I live in Midland, Tx and have never planted cool season crops. I only have a small garden, but get green beans, bell peppers,some onions (not too much success with them), and lots of yellow and zucchini squash. I would love to know what to plant and when to clear away the old crop and plant cool season crops. What I am wanting is a fall garden and when to plant and list of what to plant.
Thank you for your information,
March 23,2016…Here in Hallsboro North Carolina the rain has closed off a little leaving us with cool, cold, sometimes some warm days and just a little rain and some sun shine just enough that on march 10th I planted one row of sweet peas which are up already and on march 5th before I planted some collards and planted some onions in between the collards the onions are bursting up about an inch or so already. I also planted some kale and planted some mustard seeds mixed with turnip seeds they to are coming up already. although the weather set me back a little I feel good to see progress already now I can sit back pray and wait for the harvest. Easter is just around the corner; so by the 28th of March or a little after I plan on getting the rest of my seeds and plants in the ground. I pray that each individual that desire to plant this year have a success .so get out and plant something. keep some for yourselves and share the harvest. be blessed of the Lord. check me out on face book Evangelist Dorothy Smith Person and see the results of some success I have had with my hobby of planting a garden etc.