Cold Hardy Plants: Grow Edible Fresh Greens Year-Round

For fresh greens in the winter, grow cold-hardy plants using these season-extending gardening techniques.

| August/September 2006

  • cold hardy plants - plastic tunnel
    Using season-extending techniques in winter and early spring can help you produce an abundance of cold-hardy plants for great salads all year.
    Photo by Walter Chandoha
  • cold hardy plants - fabric covers
    You can grow salads even in winter by protecting your greens with simple fabric row covers.
    Walter Chandoha
  • cold hardy plants - purple mustard
    ‘Osaka Purple’ mustard is a self-seeding annual.
    William D. Adams
  • cold hardy plants - tatsoi
    Tatsoi is part of the brassica family.
    David Cavagnaro
  • cold hardy plants - spring salad
    Sure, this spring salad contains lettuce — but also endive, mustard, pea shoots, arugula, beet greens, sorrel, kale, corn salad and mizuna, a veritable buffet of flavors and nutrients.
    Tabitha Alterman
  • cold hardy plants - corn salad
    Corn salad or mache: ‘Piedmont’ and other large-leaf varieties produce the most greens per plant.
    David Cavagnaro
  • cold hardy plants - radicchio
    Radicchio is a perennial green. The ‘Red Treviso’ variety lends itself to cut-and-come-again harvesting.
    William D. Adams
  • cold hardy plants - claytonia
    Claytonia (miners lettuce) may need a little more protection than some of the other cold-hardy plants.
    William D. Adams

  • cold hardy plants - plastic tunnel
  • cold hardy plants - fabric covers
  • cold hardy plants - purple mustard
  • cold hardy plants - tatsoi
  • cold hardy plants - spring salad
  • cold hardy plants - corn salad
  • cold hardy plants - radicchio
  • cold hardy plants - claytonia

Fresh greens of all kinds are a year-round staple in my family’s kitchen. We have learned to transform the traditional “lean time” of the coldest months into a time of abundance by growing hardy and semihardy greens adapted to each season and using season-extending techniques in winter and early spring. Try these techniques and you’ll be thrilled the first time you pick a fresh, crisp salad right from your back yard — in the middle of January.

Our most reliable cold-hardy plants are those that have had at least one season to develop extensive root systems. Regardless of your location, these “naturals” — cooking greens and salad plants that naturally overwinter — will always be your best performers. The naturals usually can survive winter on their own with no protection in our Zone 6 region in the mountains of North Carolina, and they are vigorous early producers. In colder zones, you can use the protection techniques described below and enjoy cooked greens and fresh salads prepared from a variety of tasty and nutritious greens all winter long.

You may already be familiar with many of the stalwarts of winter gardens:

  • kale (‘Winterbor’ hybrid is among the hardiest)
  • collards
  • spinach (‘Space’ and ‘Hector’ thrive even in cold climates)
  • winter-hardy lettuces (‘Tango’ and ‘Brune d’Hiver’ are excellent choices for winter gardens)
  • salad brassicas, such as tatsoi and rape

In addition, there are two other categories of cold-loving naturals:



Self-seeding annuals that will return from year to year: 

  • arugula
  • giant red mustard
  • mâche or corn salad (‘Piedmont’ and other large-leaf varieties produce the most greens per plant)
  • claytonia, aka miners lettuce (needs a little protection)

Perennial greens: 

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3/8/2007 8:18:18 AM

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