If you’ve got some spare planting space in your unheated greenhouse, cold frame, or vegetable patch, grab your gardening gloves and plant some autumn vegetables.
Some vegetables don’t mind the cold that much. Plant them in autumn, and they can yield a crop throughout winter or earlier than usual next year. And the best part is that many of them are easy to look after.
What vegetables can be planted in autumn and winter?
From asparagus to spinach, there are many vegetables you can plant in autumn. Some you can harvest in winter, and these include spinach, lettuce, salad leaves, radishes, and potatoes. Others will give you earlier spring or summer crops next year compared to planting them after the last winter frost.
Where and how you plant them is important, so read on to discover our full list of vegetables to plant in autumn together with tips and advice.
Good to know: You can also plant onions, spring onions, garlic, or shallots in autumn but because they need time to grow, you won’t be able to harvest them until next summer.
Here’s our list of 15 vegetables to plant in autumn and winter:
Rich in vitamins and minerals, spinach is one of the best vegetables to plant in autumn. You can enjoy it throughout winter provided you plant it in successive rounds after the end of summer.
Ideally, you want to plant it in a greenhouse, garden tunnel, or similar structure to shield it from inclement weather and frost. But you can grow it outside too. Spinach grows best in moist soil.
Tip: Harvest spinach regularly to keep it cropping well into spring. Watch out for the flowers and remove them once they appear so that your spinach won’t run to seed.
2. Winter lettuce
This hardy lettuce can provide a healthy green crop throughout winter. Sow the seeds before the end of early autumn, ideally in a greenhouse or another covered structure. You can also sow winter lettuce outside and use plastic sheeting to protect it from freezing temperatures.
Often, the best way to grow winter lettuce is to sow into trays and then transplant the young seedlings. Plant it in rows, leaving around 6 inches between seedlings.
Tip: Harvest the outside leaves from multiple plants rather than a whole lettuce at a time. This way, winter lettuce will keep on growing.
Rocket is another dependable cold-weather crop that you can sow after the summer heat gives way to autumn. It’s actually better to sow rocket in autumn than summer to avoid bolting.
You can harvest rocket one leaf at a time throughout winter until the warmer days return and the plant flowers. Rocket grows quickly, so if you plant it early, you can count on enjoying some as early as the end of autumn.
Tip: Plant rocket seeds in clusters, leaving around 8 to 10 inches between each cluster, depending on the variety of the plant.
4. Salad seeds
Looking forward to some healthy winter salads without trips to the supermarket? Get a variety of cold-weather salad seeds and sow them in an unheated greenhouse.
Some varieties you can grow in winter include leaf collections, land cress, lambs’ lettuce, or cos lettuce. You can find these seeds sold individually, or as part of autumn seed mixes. If you want to grow lettuce outside, choose cold-tolerant varieties like butterhead lettuce or romaine.
Salad seeds grow more slowly in colder temperatures. The upside is that they don’t grow to seed which makes them taste bitter. You don’t need to protect them unless you’re getting deep frosts. If that happens, you can use clear plastic sheeting to speed up their growth.
Tip: Don’t harvest the entire head but rather use the cut and come again harvesting method to help the plant recover and put forth new growth.
5. Pak choi
You may have tasted pak choi at your local Asian restaurant. Sow this hardy leafy green into a greenhouse or polytunnel.
Pak choi typically takes around 45 days to mature, but colder temperatures may slow down its growth. Even so, you may be able to enjoy it in later autumn or winter if you plant it early in September or, with a few more risks, in October.
Tip: Don’t harvest all your pak choi leaves during winter. Let a few of the plants mature so you can chop the succulent stems into delicious stir-fries.
Got some leftover gardening space in your green patch? You can sow some winter radishes or another hardy variety. You can also sow radishes in containers and move them to the greenhouse or the garage once cold weather makes itself at home in your garden.
Radishes don’t like growing in hot temperatures. If you sow the seeds 4 to 6 weeks before the first frost, you can still get a harvest within a month or so. For best results, choose a fast-growing variety.
Their size, speed of growth and simplicity makes radishes one of the best plants to grow with children.
Tip: Plant radishes in a sunny spot or they may become too leafy. Leave around 6 inches between radishes. Amend the soil with an all-purpose fertiliser or aged compost. Harvest once the surface roots are about 1 inch in diameter.
Radishes are also a good companion plant for spinach as they protect it from insects.
To enjoy a potato harvest in time for Christmas, plant seed potatoes in pots early in autumn. After the first frost, move the pots indoors or within a protected gardening structure.
You can also grow potatoes in bags in a greenhouse. For this, you’ll need an 8-litre potato bag or similar container, multipurpose compost, and a chitted potato tuber.
Important: Use cold-stored potato tubers rather than potatoes harvested in summer. The latter enter dormancy and won’t yield a crop in winter.
Planting seed potatoes in early autumn means you can harvest second cropping potatoes within 10 to 12 weeks, just in time for the winter holidays.
Good to know: Growing potatoes in bags makes them less vulnerable to pests.
8. Spring onions
Crunchy and flavourful, spring onions are great in stir-fries and soups. Sow them in early autumn so you can harvest them in spring, before slower-growing onions poke their heads out of the ground.
Tip: Sow the seeds thinly so you won’t have to worry about having to make space between them later.
Onions are yet another autumn vegetable you can plant directly in the ground while the weather is still mild. If you’re not in a hurry to harvest them, that is, because you won’t be enjoying them until next summer.
You can find both yellow and red varieties that are cold-tolerant. Plant a mix of them for diversity, or choose your favourite and stick to it.
Tip: To enjoy a harvest early in summer, plant onion sets, which are partly grown onions.
Whether you prefer them pickled or raw, sweet shallots can make the difference between a good dish and a great one. They go fantastically with stir-fries, soups, and salads.
Plant autumn varieties as late as October so you can enjoy them early next summer. They’re no more difficult to grow than onions and as long as you’re patient with them, they’ll grow just fine.
Tip: Add garden compost to the soil you grow shallots in. You’ll get a heavier and tastier crop.
Garlic is easy to grow if you plant it in autumn. You’ll need fertile, moist soil, and a bit of patience since you won’t be enjoying it until summer.
Make sure to choose a variety that can withstand the cold. That way, you can plant it outdoors without worrying about having to protect it from the elements.
Tip: Plant garlic in soil that’s not too acidic and that drains well. For accurate results, get a simple pH meter.
Next, how about a delicacy that doesn’t only taste good, but is a rich source of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants?
Good to know: Asparagus needs a few years to become established in a garden. But once it does, it can crop for decades. From each asparagus crown you’ll be able to harvest dozens of spears.
If you’ve always wanted asparagus in your garden, plant it in autumn to give it the chance to become established over winter.
13. Broad beans
Gardeners around Britain plant broad beans in late autumn to enjoy in mid-spring. Look for hardy varieties that thrive in British winters. That way you can plant them outdoors and save space in your greenhouse for more delicate autumn-sown vegetables.
Tip: Broad beans grow well in deep trenches and in soil that drains well. Constantly moist soil may damage them.
Living in Southern England? You can get a serious headstart on harvesting peas next year if you sow them in mid to late autumn.
Sow the seeds under the cover of a cold frame so you won’t have to worry that the cold may damage them.
Tip: Make sure to factor in the support that some varieties require. Often, it’s easier to install trellises when you sow the seeds than later on.
Don’t forget about carrots. You can sow them in November for an early and crunchy orange crop in spring.
If you’re worried about a hard frost, use a homemade mulch to protect your carrots until the weather warms up. You can make this mulch from chopped leaves or straw.
Tip: Sow carrot seeds near garlic and onions to deter pests.
More on this: How to Grow Carrots in Your Garden
What veggies grow in autumn and winter?
Veggies you can grow in autumn and winter include winter lettuce, spinach, oriental salads such as rocket and pak choi, potatoes, and radishes. You can plant these in early to mid-autumn and harvest them in winter.
Carrots, broad beans, peas and allium vegetables like onions, spring onions, garlic, and shallots also grow in winter given adequate conditions. But they won’t crop until next spring.
For best results, choose hardy varieties adapted to UK weather. The quality of the seeds is an important factor when it comes to growing vegetables late in the year. Get the best you can find.
What can you plant in autumn and in winter?
Cold-resistant vegetables you can plant in your garden include radishes, potatoes, onions, garlic, winter lettuce, rocket and other salads, spinach, carrots, peas, and broad beans. All of these can handle colder temperatures.
If you have a greenhouse, polytunnel, or cold frame, you can plant many of these even after the cold weather comes knocking at your garden gate. Make sure to get the soil ready by adding compost if needed and weeding it in time for planting.
What vegetables are good for a winter garden?
The best vegetables for a winter garden are hardy and don’t require much looking after. They include spinach, salad, lettuce, onions, garlic, potatoes, radishes, peas, broad beans, carrots, and asparagus.
Some of these vegetables won’t be ready for harvesting until next year. Even so, they can give you an earlier crop than you’d normally get if you planted them in spring. Also, by giving them enough time to become established in your garden, you may find that they taste better. You can plant them outside before the ground becomes cold and hard.
Where to plant autumn vegetables?
You can plant autumn vegetables in an unheated greenhouse, cold frame, polytunnel, special planting bags or sacks (for potatoes), large pots, or directly in the soil. Spinach, winter lettuce, rocket, radishes, and potatoes are cold hardy. They can grow outside with minimal protection provided you choose the right varieties.
Bear in mind that some vegetables like onions, shallots, garlic, carrots, peas, broad beans, and asparagus have a longer growing cycle. Planting them in a greenhouse or polytunnel won’t accelerate their growth. You’ll still have to wait until next summer to harvest them. But gardening structures can help protect all vegetables you plant late in the year from frosts and pests.
How to protect autumn vegetables from freezing
Cold hardy vegetables can handle lower temperatures. But if you face an early freeze or are concerned about the vegetables you’ve planted outside your greenhouse or polytunnel, you can cover them for protection. Use a row cover, garden cloth, tarp, or a blanket. For carrots and other root vegetables, you can use a deep layer of mulch.
How should I water vegetables in cold weather?
Once the cold weather comes, you’ll have to change the watering schedule for your plants. You won’t have to water them as much as in summer. Water them when the soil is dry unless a specific vegetable has different requirements. It’s best to water them during the warmer part of the day to avoid damaging the roots. Avoid watering the leaves to prevent them from freezing.
The wrap up
With so many vegetables you can plant late in the year, you can start your kitchen garden this autumn.
The best part is that vegetables like potatoes, radishes, lettuce, spinach, or salads can give you healthy crops throughout winter and help with foodscaping. Brush up on the basics of growing your own vegetables, plant them well, and you won’t have to wait long for the fruits of your labour.
In the end, it would be a pity if you didn’t make the most of your vegetable garden this autumn, wouldn’t it? Choose the veggies on our list that you like the most, and plant them while there’s time. And if you miss out, there are always more veggies to plant in the spring.