As I’m writing this, snow is falling enthusiastically outside, adding to the foot-deep blanket that’s already out there. And you know what? I’ll be heading outside to dig out some snow-tolerant vegetables for dinner.
Half my garden is full of vegetables and herbs that grow in snow, simply because I’ve chosen to live in a place that pretty much requires them.
Below are 12 snow-tolerant species to consider growing in your winter garden. I have firsthand experience with most and have suggestions for the best varieties to try.
12 Vegetables That Will Grow in the Snow
Sure, many of us have grown cold-tolerant veggies in our gardens, but snow tolerant veggies are on another level.
Life in rural Quebec means dealing with sub-freezing temperatures for nearly seven months out of the year. It usually starts to snow in mid-October, and the last bit of snow melts in late May.
Not only does this mean that the growing season is really short, but it also means that it’s smart to grow food that can withstand a fair bit of snow.
1. Brussels Sprouts
About 20 years ago, long before I ever took a permaculture course or sank my hands into compost, I saw a photo of Brussels sprouts growing up through deep snow.
That image stayed with me, and I made several attempts to grow sprouts once I had land of my own to play with.
This is one species that taught me that I need to choose varieties and cultivars best suited to my growing zone, rather than just planting what I liked and hoping for the best.
Try Long Island Improved sprouts for better cold resistance. They’ll keep growing up through the snow and get sweeter and more flavorful after a frost or three.
Kale has a reputation for being stubborn enough to keep growing even under heavy snow. I can attest to this stubbornness, as I just harvested a few fistfuls of the stuff after clearing snow off them for the third time.
Aim for varieties that have been cultivated in cold climates. For example, my Dwarf Siberian kale has proven to be a snow-tolerant superstar, and Winterbor has done really well too.
Curly or frilled varieties do better than their smooth-leaved cousins, as they’re hardier. Also, note that kale sweetens significantly after being exposed to freezing temperatures.
Much like their mini cousins (Brussels sprouts), cabbage can often keep growing after a snow dump, depending on the variety. Tender, soft-leaved types like Savoy or Napa aren’t terribly snow-tolerant, but hardier varieties are.
I’ve had luck with Copenhagen and Capture F1 varieties, which have stayed vibrant down to -10F. They’re great for sauerkraut and soup, and ideal for cabbage rolls.
Here’s a tip: if you want to make stuffed rolls with the leaves, let the heads freeze completely. Then, when you thaw them out, the now-pliant leaves fall off, ready to be stuffed and rolled.
This is another member of the Brassica family that seems to do fine with a few snowfalls. In fact, it does better with cold weather than hot, as it’ll bolt when temperatures soar too high for its liking.
I’m currently growing Wild Rocket arugula and pulled some out of the snow for this morning’s omelet.
Just note that unlike kale or cabbage, arugula gets woody with cold exposure. As a result, it’s not ideal for fresh eating. Add it to soups, stir-fries, egg dishes, or garlicky braised greens.
If you like the taste of celery, consider growing celeriac root as part of your autumn/winter garden. Some people have difficulty growing it after a snow, but I’ve found that it does just fine as long as it has a straw blanket to guard it against direct moisture.
Giant Prague celeriac has yielded the best results to date as far as snow-tolerant root vegetables go. Again, since this was cultivated in a colder region (the Czech Republic), it thrives well in similar growing zones.
I’ve made the mistake of growing Italian beets in my garden, assuming that they would be frost-hardy because they’re beets. Oh, I was wrong.
Chioggia beets, in particular, practically shrieked and shriveled as soon as the first snowflake hit their greenery, so they’re a no.
Now, I grow Cylindra (Formanova) beets in autumn and winter instead. They’re originally from Denmark, and I can almost hear their Viking-like roars of triumph when they emerge from frozen soil in full, deep crimson health.
Sejren er vores!
I’m a huge fan of heirloom carrots, especially if they’re interesting colors. This year’s Scarlet Nantes were some of the best I’ve ever had, but they crapped out in early autumn. If you’re looking for snow-tolerant species, those ain’t on the list.
In contrast, the Uzbek golden carrots are still going strong at the end of November.
Sure, I have to pour hot water into their containers so I can dig them out of the nearly frozen soil, but oh, they are exquisite. Again, Uzbekistan = colder climate = cold-hardy veg. Win-win.
Long before people could import culinary spices from around the world, my European ancestors grew whatever they could to add flavor (any flavor…) to their meals.
Horseradish was a welcome addition, as it provided a warming bite to all kinds of meals. It’s also amazingly snow hardy and won’t die in Scandinavian or Siberian type winter weather.
Horseradish doesn’t grow well from seeds, so try to get your hands on some young plants from your local greenhouse or nursery. Plant them about a week after the last frost date in your area.
Long after my other onions have either been harvested or turned to mush in the ground, my leeks keep going strong.
Maybe it’s because they’re native to harsh, cold climates, or perhaps they know they’re destined for the soup pot and are hanging on for dear life…
Either way, I’ve pulled these out of knee-deep snow in December, and they were still absolutely gorgeous. Aim for Giant Musselburgh or Bandit varieties if you’re in a locale that’s as snowy as mine. Oh, and sow the seeds directly into the ground, as they do NOT transplant well.
Okay, this one was a huge surprise to me the first year after I grew it. Parsley is biennial, and I didn’t expect it to survive the -30 winter weather we had that year.
Imagine my surprise when I lifted a massive ice sheet out of my potager garden and discovered a huge pile of parsley. It wasn’t merely still alive; it was thriving quite merrily.
Interestingly, I’ve found that curly varieties are much more snow-tolerant than flat-leaved ones. So far, the double-curled parsley I’ve grown has proven to be the hardiest.
You may be familiar with rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) as a seasoning for poultry and potatoes alike. This hardy perennial herb looks like a miniature evergreen tree, which is why many people assume that it’s a snow-tolerant species.
It isn’t, generally. Rosemary is a Mediterranean herb that thrives best in warmer climates. So why add it to this list? Simply because—like so many other plants—the key is to choose the right variety for your climate.
I grow a variety called “Arp“, which is hardy to -10°F/-24°C, and won’t be killed by a sudden snow dump. I’d still recommend growing your rosemary in pots so you can bring them indoors if things get super cold, but at least you know this cultivar won’t fall into a swoon at the first snowfall.
12. Winter Savory
As far as snow-friendly herbs go, winter savory (Satureja montana) certainly lives up to its name. I have dug down through three feet of snow and hacked off sprigs of this to cook with in late January, and it was still doing fine.
Try to get your hands on a variety that’s been grown within 100 miles of your own garden. That way you know it’ll thrive in your own space. I’ve grown several varieties of this herb, all to good effect, so you don’t need to worry too much about finding a specific snow-tolerant one. They all are.
Choose Wisely for Your Climate, but Diversify Too
If there’s one thing I can really recommend, it’s diversifying your garden’s portfolio. What I mean by this is not necessarily planting all your snow-tolerant species in late summer for a winter harvest, nor planting all your delicate species in springtime.
Plant some snow-savvy species as soon as the ground thaws, and keep tender veg growing as long as possible. Why? Because weather can be downright dizzying with its fluctuations and lack of predictability.
Do you live in a place that can get a snowstorm in July and a freak heat wave in November? Then you run the risk of losing all your crops if you’ve only planted species that thrive in specific, expected weather patterns.
Plant beets and kale in springtime in the coolest, shadiest spots in your yard. Keep tender greens growing as long as possible in the autumn. Plant as much as you can in all the spaces you have available, with full knowledge that you may lose 1/3 of what you plant to inclement weather.
That way, whether things heat up or cool down unexpectedly, you’ll still have more food to eat than you expected.