Is cabin fever wearing you down? Are you ready to play in the garden despite December being the coldest stretch of the year? Or maybe you want to become more self-sufficient? Break out your thickest gardening gloves and a coat, then! Because there are a handful of yummy vegetables you can grow, even in December.
Before beginning, be sure to check out the USDA Plant Zone Hardiness Map to identify your planting zone.
Planting Vegetables In December
Growing vegetables during December presents unique challenges and opportunities for gardeners. While the colder months might seem less conducive to gardening, several cold-hardy vegetables thrive in winter.
(And in some growing zones – the ludicrously hot weather during summer can HARM your veggie crops!)
For new gardeners venturing into December gardening, winter crop selection is critical. Cold-tolerant vegetables like spinach, kale, carrots, radishes, broccoli, and lettuce are excellent for December planting.
But – pay attention to timing. Winter planting schedules vary based on your location’s frost dates and the cold-hardy crops you choose. Starting seeds in the fall ensures established plants by the time winter sets in, allowing them to endure the colder weather.
Preparing the garden for winter involves soil preparation and protection. Ensure the soil is well-draining and rich in organic matter to support plant growth. Mulching around plants provides insulation, conserves moisture, and protects roots from freezing temperatures. Additionally, consider using row covers, cloches, or cold frames to shield plants from harsh weather conditions.
Winter gardening isn’t just about the yield. It’s also about the learning experience! Embrace the opportunity to understand the nuances of plant growth in colder climates. Winter gardens offer the satisfaction of nurturing plants and harvesting fresh produce during a season traditionally seen as dormant for gardening.
And if you want to plant in December, we recommend the following cold-weather crops.
Best Cold-Hardy Crops for Winter Planting
Check out our hand-picked selection of the hardiest vegetables that thrive in cooler temperatures, ensuring a bountiful winter garden. These are our top picks for December planting!
1. Leeks – Hardiness: 0°F (-18°C)
Leeks are cold-tolerant vegetables with a mild, onion-like flavor. Their ability to endure colder temperatures makes them valuable for winter gardens. They add depth to soups or shine when sautéed as a side dish.
2. Radishes – Hardiness: 20°F (-6°C)
Radishes are fast-growing and cold-tolerant. They’re perfect for winter gardens. Their peppery flavor adds zest to salads, and their ability to mature quickly makes them a rewarding crop in colder months. Enjoy sliced radishes in salads or pickled for a tangy twist.
3. Broccoli – Hardiness: 20°F (-6°C)
Broccoli is a cold-hardy vegetable rich in vitamins and antioxidants. Its ability to withstand frost makes it an excellent winter crop, offering nutritious florets for soups, stir-fries, or steamed as a side dish.
4. Swiss Chard – Hardiness: 15°F (-9°C)
Swiss chard is a resilient winter crop with vibrant stems and nutrient-packed leaves. It’s rich in vitamins A, K, and C, offering antioxidants and minerals. Its cold tolerance makes it an ideal choice for winter gardens. It’s delicious sautéed with garlic or added to soups and stews.
5. Cabbage – Hardiness: 10°F (-12°C)
Cabbage is a hardy vegetable rich in vitamins and can withstand cooler temperatures. Its firm texture and versatility make it great for soups, slaws, or fermented as sauerkraut.
6. Spinach – Hardiness: 15°F (-9°C)
Spinach is a nutrient-dense, cold-hardy leafy green, rich in vitamins A, C, and K. Its hardiness makes it an excellent winter crop, able to withstand frost and colder temperatures. Best enjoyed fresh in salads or lightly sautéed for a quick and nutritious side dish.
7. Scallions – Hardiness: 0°F (-18°C)
Scallions are cold-hardy and versatile. Their mild flavor adds a fresh kick to various dishes. And they’re perfect for winter gardens. Use them raw in salads or as a garnish for soups and stir-fries.
8. Carrots – Hardiness: 15°F (-9°C)
Carrots are cold-hardy root vegetables packed with beta-carotene and vitamins. Their ability to remain in the ground and be harvested throughout winter, as long as the ground isn’t frozen, makes them valuable for winter gardens. Enjoy them raw as a crunchy snack or roasted for a sweet side dish.
9. Kale – Hardiness: 10°F (-12°C)
Kale is a robust leafy green that thrives in colder weather. It’s packed with nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and K, making it an excellent choice for winter gardens. Use it in salads, smoothies, or sautéed as a side dish.
10. Peas – Hardiness: 20°F (-6°C)
Certain pea varieties, like snow peas or sugar snap peas, tolerate cold weather well, making them suitable for early spring harvests. Peas are rich in vitamins and can work fresh in salads or lightly steamed as a side dish.
The above crops aren’t the only cold-hardy crops. But they’re the ones we recommend most for December planting, especially if you’re lucky enough to live in USDA growing zones 8A through 13.
December Planting Guide For Zones 1 – 13
We’re also sharing many more crops suitable for December sowing. Check them out below.
What to Plant In December In Zones 1a to 3b
Most of Alaska, Montana, and North Dakota. Parts of Wyoming, Idaho, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
For this zone, you’ll need to plant inside your home or in a greenhouse if you want to get some winter gardening accomplished.
The issue isn’t necessarily because the cold is too harsh for seeds. The main problem is that the ground is usually frozen solid and unworkable.
If, for some reason, you’re having a warm enough December that you can still stick a spade in the ground, try the following.
These plants won’t emerge until spring, but they’ll get a good start for when your ground starts to thaw out.
For this region, it’s better to focus on growing plants indoors. You can technically grow any garden plant inside as long as you have the space and the lighting to provide for it.
What to Plant In December In Zones 4a to 5b
Most of Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maine. Parts of Alaska, Montana, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
In this zone in December, you can also plant the following.
Again, because this is such a cold area, it’s better to focus on indoor gardening in containers rather than outdoor gardening during December.
Related: Top 9 Best Fruit Trees for Zone 4
What to Plant In December In Zones 6b to 7b
Portions of the Pacific Northwest, Washington, and Oregon. Northern California and areas around the Bay Area and northward. Mountain states like parts of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. The Midwest – including portions of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, and Kansas. The Northeast – portions of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Mid-Atlantic, portions of Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and West Virginia.
In Zones 6a to 7b, the weather is much warmer than 1a through 5b. But the weather is nowhere near as temperate as hardiness zones 8 through 11, 12, or 13.
If you wish to grow vegetables in December, in zones 6a to 7b, consider indoor gardening or using protected environments like greenhouses or cold frames. Doing so allows you to control the temperature and create a more suitable growing environment for a wider variety of vegetables, even in colder months.
That said, in warmer parts of these zones, you may be able to plant the following during early December.
Late fall and early winter are also the best time to sow cherry seeds in these regions. (We know we’re talking about vegetable crops. But cherry seeds are one of our favorite food forest additions!)
You can also plant the following vegetables earlier in the year, usually late fall, to harvest throughout the winter, including December.
What to Plant In December In Zones 8a to 9c
The Southeast – Florida, southern Georgia, southern Alabama, southern Mississippi, Louisiana, and southern South Carolina. The Southwest – Southern parts of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. The West Coast – Coastal areas of California, especially in the southern parts.
USDA hardiness zones 8A to 9C encompass regions with relatively mild winters and longer growing seasons.
You can sow and grow various cold-season crops in these regions during December. Our favorites are the following.
- Garlic: Try Inchelium Red. This variety has good cold tolerance and typically yields large bulbs with a mild flavor. It’s known for its storage quality.
- Lettuce: Varieties like Winter Density or Arctic King can work for a winter harvest.
- Spinach: Cold-hardy varieties like Bloomsdale or Winter Giant are lovely winter crops.
- Radishes: Fast-growing varieties like Cherry Belle or French Breakfast work for a quick harvest.
- Carrots: Choose varieties known for their cold tolerance, such as Danvers and Nantes.
- Broccoli: Certain varieties, like Waltham or Calabrese, can be sown for an early spring harvest.
- Cabbage: Varieties such as Early Jersey Wakefield or January King work for spring crops.
- Snow Peas: Some snow pea varieties, like ‘Oregon Sugar Pod,’ can be sown for a winter or early spring harvest.
The above are just a tiny sample of yummy veggies you can grow in December throughout the 8a to 9c growing zones. But they’re some of the least fussiest crops for chilly weather.
What to Plant In December In Zones 10a to 13
Most of Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Parts of Texas, Louisiana, California, Arizona, and Florida.
In this zone, the temperature seldom falls below freezing. Thankfully, the few times it does, it is an exceptionally light frost from which you can easily protect your plants. You can plant almost anything you want here!
All of the crops mentioned above grow here, as well as the following.
- Peppers of all kinds
- Sweet potatoes
- All sorts of beans
Zones 10a to 13 are arguably some of the best vegetable-growing zones on the planet. You can cultivate a massive variety of healthy veggies year-round in these regions. Our editor from New England is jealous!
Indoor Container Gardening in December
Indoor container gardening is always an option too.
The only thing that can hold you back with indoor container gardening is space and lighting. If you have a large enough pot and a bright enough grow light, anything is possible.
If you’re a little more limited on space or artificial lighting, try keeping small containers on your windowsills. Herbs are a great option. Just be sure to check your windows for drafts. Plants, especially young ones, do not tolerate cold drafts well at all.
Planting Microgreens in December
If you have a grow light and some seed trays, try your hand at raising microgreens inside your home. Microgreens grow fast, sometimes ready for harvest in as little as a week, and they take up very little space.
Some popular microgreens to grow indoors over the winter:
- Red cabbage
- Swiss Chard
Check out True Leaf Market for an amazing variety of organic and non-GMO microgreens seeds. They have all the varieties above and much, much more.
You can’t go past Bootstrap Farmer for your microgreens tray supplies, especially if you’re buying in bulk, but True Leaf Market has fantastic kits available as well, which include everything you need to get started.
Hydroponic Gardening in December
One last option to consider for indoor gardening is hydroponics. Hydroponic gardening is low maintenance and space-effective. Hydroponic towers are relatively affordable, or at least easy to make, and an excellent solution for the December gardener.
Some easy plants to start with in your hydroponic garden are:
- Bok choy
- Herbs include peppermint, basil, oregano, sage, stevia, tarragon, rosemary, and lemon balm.
Greenhouse Planting In December
Greenhouses are your best bet if you want December veggies in a cold growing zone. Opt for cold-tolerant crops like kale, spinach, lettuce, radishes, carrots, and herbs that thrive in chillier conditions. Utilize raised beds or containers filled with high-quality soil to provide optimal growing conditions for your chosen vegetables.
Light is essential for plant growth, especially in the darker winter days. Ensure your greenhouse receives adequate sunlight exposure by keeping windows clean and debris-free. Consider using grow lights if daylight hours are limited in your area to supplement natural light and provide the necessary spectrum for plant growth.
Maintaining proper humidity levels and ventilation is vital. Adequate airflow prevents fungal diseases and helps regulate moisture, ensuring a healthy growing environment for your greenhouse vegetables. Regularly monitor and adjust environmental conditions to create an optimal growing space.
Winter Gardening and December Gardening FAQs
We know choosing crops to grow in December is tricky – especially if you’ve never started a cold weather garden.
We hope our cold-weather gardening FAQs help.
Try planting cold-weather hardy plants, such as kale, garlic, and onion, in your winter garden, so long as they are suitable for your region and can be covered or brought indoors during cold spells.
You can also try your hand at microgreens or hydroponic gardening to increase your range of crops in winter!
If you’re growing indoors, you may plant tomatoes, potatoes, peas, squash, lettuce, arugula, spinach, peppers, cucumbers, squash, radishes, eggplants. Also, consider herb-type plants such as basil, oregano, rosemary, mint, sage, sorrel, thyme, lemon balm, chives, bay, and parsley.
You can start a garden in December if you live in a warm region. December gardening also works if you start the seedlings indoors or if you grow and keep the plant in a container and inside. You can prepare your garden for spring if you live in colder regions. But make sure the ground isn’t frozen solid!
It is not too late to plant a winter garden if you have the right tools. You can start seeds in seedling trays, keep vegetables inside indoor containers, or plant outside if you live in the correct USDA hardiness zone.
You can start some seeds indoors. Our favorite seeds for cold weather are mustard, beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, kale, parsnips, or radishes to plan for winter. Each plant is beautiful with unique colors and will brighten up any garden.
If you are growing plants indoors over the winter, consider tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, salad mixes, and beets to brighten up your wintertime indoor garden.
Cold hardy plants can be planted outside during the winter, granted you live in the correct USDA grow zone. You can also cultivate your garden indoors in containers or start seeds in trays in your house. Look at vegetables like kale, cabbage, onions, turnips, beetroot, potatoes, and garlic.
What Should I Do In My Garden In December?
If you’re feeling restless and want to spend time in your garden during winter, consider adding or upgrading your hardscapes. Add or move rocks, build a fence (if the ground isn’t frozen solid), add in bug hotels, bat boxes, benches, rocking chairs, and a pergola, or even build yourself a potting station.
You may be able to add in new soil, compost, or fertilizer during the winter, too. If you never got around to mulching your garden in the fall, try doing that now.
If you have a cottage garden, take the time to walk your pathways and admire the beauty of winter while meandering through your garden.
December can be quiet in the garden, especially in colder climates. Here are a few more fun (and rewarding) December gardening tasks to keep you busy.
- Mulching: Apply mulch to protect tender perennials and insulate the soil from extreme temperatures. New fruit tree transplants also love some organic mulch.
- Plan for Spring: Use December time to plan next year’s garden layout, order seeds, and decide on any changes or improvements you want.
- Stratify Seeds: Sow your stratifying fruit seeds in the winter, like cherries, apples, pears, plums, peaches, nectarines, apricots, almonds, walnuts, chestnuts, persimmons, serviceberries, and quinces. (These seeds benefit from cold before they germinate!)
- Protect Plants: Use burlap or protective covers for sensitive plants to shield them from harsh winds, frost, or snow.
- Pruning: Prune dormant trees and shrubs, especially those susceptible to winter damage. Remove broken branches or those at risk of falling under snow load.
- Tool Maintenance: Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing them for winter. Tool maintenance helps prevent rust and ensures they’re ready for use in the spring.
- Composting: Continue adding kitchen scraps and garden waste to compost bins. Turn the compost to aid decomposition.
- Inspect Structures: Check and repair fences, trellises, and other garden structures damaged by wind or winter weather.
- Feed Birds: Provide food and water for birds during the colder months. Fatty bird suet, cracked corn, and sunflower seed are their favorites. Hang bird feeders and consider installing a bird bath heater to ensure access to water.
- Prepare for Ice and Snow: The heavy winter storms are already here – or are right around the corner. Have ice melt or sand ready for pathways and driveways. Keep shovels and snow removal equipment easily accessible.
- Monitor for Pests: Watch for pests or diseases that might still be active during mild spells. Treat as necessary.
Remember, the tasks can vary based on your specific climate and region. But this list should help prepare your garden so it’s ready for spring.
Once you’re all caught up with those tasks, start brushing up on your gardening knowledge. Read a book, listen to a podcast, watch a YouTube video, or scroll through our extensive series of gardening blog posts.
What will you do in the garden this December? Are you decorating for Christmas? Starting seeds indoors to get ready for spring? Let us know!
We know homesteading is difficult these days – especially in the winter when food gets scarce.
We hope our guide on December gardening and cold-weather sprouting helps you.
If you have tips or tricks about gardening during cold seasons, please share them with us!
Or, if you have winter gardening questions, let us know in the comments.
Thanks again for reading.
And have a great day!
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