Top 10 Cool-season Vegetables to Plant Now

Get our crop list and growing guide, and enjoy homegrown greens in fresh salads and stir-fries all winter.

Sunset associate garden editor Johanna SilverSunset associate garden editor Johanna Silver
Planting secrets from Sunset associate garden editor Johanna Silver

Design: I love the keyhole-shaped bed! It frames the planting so the crops never look out of control as they grow.

Soil: I till the bed with a garden fork to remove rocks and break up clumps before raking the soil smooth. Then I cover the soil with a few inches of compost, till that in, and rake again.

Planting: I start most of the seeds indoors in September--except arugula, which I sow directly in the ground--then transplant seedlings outdoors six to eight weeks later. (In cold climates, plant in spring.) I always sow extra seeds in case some don't germinate, and I keep excess seedlings in case any plants in the ground fail.

Spacing: Though I follow the recommendations on the seed packets, I space seedlings on the tighter end of the range so the beds will look lush.

Harvesting: When arugula reaches 4 to 6 inches tall, I shear it down to 1 to 2 inches tall so it will regrow. Once chard, kale, and mustard have developed about eight leaves, I pick their outer ones so the plants keep producing.

More on plants beds

Sweet-tasting, wavy leavesSweet-tasting, wavy leaves
'Marvel of Four Seasons,' a heading heirloom variety, has sweet-tasting, wavy bronze-tipped leaves.

More edible garden ideas

A vigorous growerA vigorous grower
Curly-leafed kale
Super-ruffled 'Winterbor' is a vigorous grower that stands up to cold temperatures. Leaves turn sweeter after frost.

Comes in a rainbow of colorsComes in a rainbow of colors
Swiss chard
The sturdy stalks of 'Bright Lights' come in a rainbow of colors, including gold, pink, red, and white; the frilly leaves are dark green.

A flavor similar to cauliflowerA flavor similar to cauliflower
Romanesco broccoli
The multipointed chartreuse heads of 'Veronica' have a texture and flavor similar to mild, nutty cauliflower.

Great ways to use it:

  • Steam florets and toss while still warm with your favorite vinaigrette.
  • Sauté florets in butter with oil-popped mustard seeds and cumin seeds.
  • Roast florets with olive oil, olives, and halved shallots.

A slightly stronger flavor than broccoliA slightly stronger flavor than broccoli
Broccoli raab (Rapini)
Leaves and small florets of 'Spring Raab' have a slightly stronger flavor than broccoli.

A rich flavorA rich flavor
'Cassius' has round, creamy white heads that reach 7 to 8 inches across, with a rich flavor.

Strong, zesty flavorStrong, zesty flavor
Green onion
Both the white and green parts have a strong, zesty flavor.

Try it in lasagnaTry it in lasagna
Lacinato kale
Bumpy gray-green leaves of 'Nero di Toscana' are tasty, ornamental, and extra hardy.

Great ways to use it:

  • Blanch, then add to penne pasta along with cooked Italian sausage.
  • Pan-fry in extra-virgin olive oil with preserved lemon and red chile flakes.
  • Simmer until tender, chop, and layer into meat or vegetarian lasagna.

Braises wellBraises well
Savoy cabbage
Lime green 'Alcosa' forms tight heads, ideal for closely spaced planting.

Great ways to use it:

  • Braise with olive oil, onions, bacon, and caraway seeds.
  • Chop coarsely and pan-fry in butter with diced potatoes.
  • Steam individual leaves until just tender, then use the leaves as wraps for steaming fish.

Adds bite to salads Adds bite to salads
Arugula (Italian)
Tender leaves add bite to salads and other dishes. For best flavor, harvest them when they're 4 inches tall.

Read on for more information about cool season crops. If you're not sure where to start, here's our veggie 101 primer. And before you plant, find out if the crop will grow well in your climate zone. Not sure of your zone? Look it up here.