October might seem like too late in the year to be planting vegetables, but there are several varieties that should be started late in the fall so they will be harvestable in spring. There are other vegetables that are so cold-hardy, you can grow them right through winter.
Plant Now for Spring
If you want to be able to harvest large cloves of garlic next summer, October is an ideal time to plant garlic. It is best to plant a few weeks before the first hard frost so the roots have time to become established. The plants will go dormant through winter and grow as the ground warms in spring. Make sure to loosen the soil and plant the garlic in an area that gets 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day.
In warmer areas, short-day onions can be planted in the fall to overwinter so you will end up with larger bulbs next year. Short-day onions only need about 10 to 12 hours of daylight to grow. Onions need at least 4 to 6 weeks of warm temperatures to become established, so take that into consideration. In areas that have frigid winters where temperatures drop below 28 degrees Fahrenheit, it may be best to wait until spring and plant as soon as the soil is workable.
Cold Hardy Vegetables
Leeks are one of the most hardy and low-maintenance vegetables there are. Leeks can be started from seed 10-12 weeks before your last frost and transplanted outdoors when the temperature is around 45 degrees Fahrenheit Leeks like to be planted deep to encourage long stalks. Our American Flag Leeks are hardy enough to survive in snow in zones 4 and above if covered with a good mulch.
Kale is one of the most cold-hardy crops you can plant in the fall. You will want to try to plant them early enough that they are established before regular frosty nights set in. Red Russian and Siberian Kale are varieties that are hardy enough to survive in temperatures well below freezing so you can have nutritious greens throughout the winter.
Collards are another green leafy vegetable that is known as a Southern favorite, but they also do well in Northern climates. Collards have the hardiness of kale but add a different flavor and texture to your winter dishes. They can continue to thrive through temperatures down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spinach is another cool weather favorite. The varieties that do best in the late fall and winter are ones with deep savoyed or rippled leaves like our Bloomsdale Spinach because the texture helps the plants resist frost. Spinach is fast-growing, and mature plants can withstand temperatures down to about 15 degrees Fahrenheit. That means you can harvest the outer leaves and allow the spinach to keep growing throughout most of the winter.
Cabbage is a winter staple vegetable that can grow in USDA hardiness zones as low as zone 1. Established plants can handle temperatures as low as 15 degrees F. Our Brunswick Cabbage is an old German heirloom cabbage that is particularly cold hard and stores very well. It is especially well suited to fermenting and pickling as sauerkraut.
If you’ve invested in creating a grow tunnel or greenhouse there are other cool-weather vegetables that you can plant in October and grow through winter. These include arugula, lettuce, Swiss chard, carrots, celery, and radishes. October isn’t yet the time to put away your gardening tools. There are still plenty of vegetables you can plant to sustain you throughout the winter and get ready for the warmth of spring.