7 Hardy Salad Greens for Winter Gardens

Does the threat of cold weather and the changing of the seasons bring a tear to your eye? Pre-winter blues got you down?

Just because it’s turned crisp and cool outside doesn’t mean you need to stop enjoying fresh garden greens.

While it is true that many annual crops don’t do well in freezing conditions, there are several cold-hardy greens that can be grown well into those chilly winter months, and even last until spring in more mild climates.

A close up vertical image of arugula growing in the garden under a blanket of snow. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.

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This article will delve into selecting the best plants for winter, but first, we’ll touch on a few general tips to keep in mind.

Here’s everything we’ll cover:

Tips for Winter Lettuce Success

The first step to growing any type of winter greens successfully is to find a sheltered but sunny spot in the garden with good drainage. This is key, as young seedlings may freeze if water pools.

Sow your seeds in early fall, or start them indoors in summer and transplant the seedlings out at least a few weeks before the first frost in your area, to give them more time to become established before the days shorten.

A close up horizontal image of fresh salad greens growing in a wooden raised bed cold frame.

Water well and keep moist until seedlings emerge, or until your transplants are well established.

It’s crucial to keep the soil warm enough so that the roots don’t freeze. There are a number of techniques and materials available to you for keeping the soil from freezing, such as hoop houses, cold frames, garden blankets, and even thick mulch.

You can learn more about season extension methods in our article.

Protect newly planted seeds and young seedlings with a garden blanket if a freezing night is in the forecast. Remember to open row covers on sunny days to allow for adequate airflow, and to keep the inside from overheating.

Once the plants are established, water only when necessary, and do so at midday. Do not water if freezing temperatures are predicted overnight, as this could cause frost damage on the foliage.

See our guide for even more helpful suggestions to grow delicious leafy greens in the cooler months of the year. (coming soon!)

So, how should you choose which plants to grow? When selecting your seeds, look for varieties that can germinate in cool weather, and that are hardy in cold temperatures.

We’ve made the process of picking the best options as easy as possible. Read on for a list of yummy greens to grow in winter.

1. Arugula

Spice up winter salads with some arugula, Eruca vesicaria ssp. sativa. Quick-growing and frost tolerant, this flavorful leafy green is hardy to 28°F.

A close up horizontal image of arugula growing in the winter garden under a light covering of snow.

You can sow seeds up until late fall. The seeds will germinate in temperatures down to 40°F.

Protect plants from hard freezes with a cold frame or hoop house.

A close up square image of a blue and white plate with freshly harvested 'Rocket' arugula set on a wooden surface.

‘Rocket’ Arugula

Seeds of ‘Rocket’ arugula, the popular variety typically found in supermarkets, are available for purchase from Eden Brothers.

Read more about growing arugula in our guide.

2. Lamb’s Lettuce

Lamb lettuce, or Valerianella locusta, also referred to as mache or corn salad, produces rosettes of small rounded leaves with a mild nutty flavor. This plant does exceptionally well in cold weather and can even survive under snow.

A close up horizontal image of a small wooden planter growing lamb's lettuce under a covering of snow.

Mache is slow-growing. To produce an adequate crop, you may want to plant a large amount. You can also use protective cloths or other types of row covers to speed growth.

A close up square image of freshly harvested lamb's lettuce in a wooden bowl set on a wooden surface.

Lamb’s Lettuce

Harvest individual leaves, or pick the entire rosette.

You can buy seeds in various package sizes up to a quarter-pound from Eden Brothers.

3. Mizuna

A member of the mustard family sometimes referred to as Japanese mustard, this fast-maturing cold-hardy leafy green is tolerant of low light levels, making it ideal for winter growing.

A close up horizontal image of mizuna growing in the garden.

Brassica rapa var. nipposinica seeds germinate in soil down to 40°F and can survive subzero temperatures.

The mild-flavored feathery green leaves have a pleasant crunch that’s perfect for use in salads.

A close up square image of freshly harvested mizuna in a wicker basket set on a wooden surface. To the bottom right of the frame is a white circular logo with text.

Mizuna

True Leaf Market has several options available including this one that matures in only 30 days, as well as a beautiful red-streaked organic heirloom variety.

Find tips for growing mizuna in our guide.

4. Salad Burnet

This perennial herb is hardy to -30°F, and thrives all year in mild climates. Even in frigid climates, Sanguisorba minor is one of the latest leafy greens to die back.

A close up horizontal image of salad burnet growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.

It has fern-like lacy leaves that taste a bit like cucumber. The young tender leaves can be picked and enjoyed atop salads or as a garnish.

If you’re gardening in Zone 4 or below, protect plants with a thick straw mulch, and cover on very cold nights.

A close up square image of salad burnet growing in the garden pictured in bright sunshine. To the bottom right of the frame is a white circular logo with text.

Salad Burnet

Open-pollinated heirloom seeds are available for purchase from True Leaf Market.

5. Spinach

Spinach, Spinacia oleracea, will tolerate temperatures down to at least 20°F, and can be grown year round in mild climates. It overwinters without added protection in Zones 6 and above.

A close up horizontal image of spinach growing in the garden covered in a light dusting of frost.

In colder areas, you should cover it when a deep freeze is expected.

Growth will slow once temperatures drop, but if protected through the most frigid weather, your plants will pick back up again when the days begin to lengthen in February and March.

A close up vertical image of a seed packet of 'Bloomsdale' spinach with text to the left of the frame and a hand-drawn illustration to the right.

‘Bloomsdale’ Spinach

Choose a cold-hardy variety such as ‘Bloomsdale,’ which is available from Botanical Interests.

Learn more about growing spinach here.

6. Watercress

Watercress, Nasturtium officinale, is an aquatic perennial that is hardy down to Zone 5.

With a mild, peppery flavor, it has hollow stalks and round, pale green leaves that form dense mats of foliage. Watercress is found in the wild along the edges of running water.

A close up horizontal image of watercress growing in the garden.

It can be grown in the garden as long as you are able to keep the soil constantly wet.

Use a thick mulch to help retain soil moisture. It does well planted in containers in a soilless potting mix set on top of a pan or bucket filled with two to three inches of water.

Sow seeds in fall, in soil that is 50 to 60°F.

Begin harvesting a few weeks after seedlings emerge, cutting the plants back to a few inches in height. The foliage will grow back thicker after cutting.

A close up vertical image of a seed packet of 'Bloomsdale' spinach with text to the left of the frame and a hand-drawn illustration to the right.

Watercress

You can pick up a packet of heirloom seeds from True Leaf Market.

7. Winter Purslane

Also known as miner’s lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata is a hardy plant grown for its tough, heart-shaped succulent leaves that have a spinach-like flavor.

A close up horizontal image of purslane growing in the garden with small white flowers.

The young leaves may be cut repeatedly throughout the season for use in salads.

This self-seeding annual can survive temperatures down to 5°F, and grows year round in mild climates.

Winter Purslane

Seeds are available from Outsidepride via Amazon.

Thank Goodness for Hardy Greens

Growing fresh greens is a wonderful way to keep your spirit up through those dark, frigid months. Try planting some of these cold-hardy greens and enjoy something fresh on your plate long into the winter.

A close up horizontal image of salad greens growing in the winter garden with a light dusting of frost on the leaves pictured in light sunshine.

What cold-hardy salad greens do you love to grow? Share your favorites in the comments below!

Looking for more ideas on gardening in the winter? You won’t want to miss these articles:

About Heather Buckner

Heather Buckner hails from amongst the glistening lakes of Minnesota, and now lives with her family on a beautiful homestead in the Vermont Mountains. She holds a bachelor of science degree in environmental science from Tufts University, and has traveled and worked in many roles in conservation and environmental advocacy, including creating and managing programs based around resource conservation, organic gardening, food security, and building leadership skills. Heather is a certified permaculture designer and student herbalist. She is also a fanatical gardener, and enjoys spending as much time covered in dirt as possible!

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