Gardening: Planting Vegetables in Cold Temperatures

Cary, NC – We finally have weather that feels like it matches the calendar and if you have a vegetable garden, now is the time to change what you are planting and when. Here are some tips on what to plant in colder temperatures.

Soil Temperature

To start with, it is not so much the air temperature that you need to keep an eye on. Instead, it’s the soil temperature that is going to affect your vegetables’ growth. Measuring your soil temperature is something you should always do before planting and seeding your garden but you will likely be paying more attention now that it’s getting much colder much faster.

There are a number of soil thermometers available commercially but remember to measure both daytime and nighttime soil temperatures so you know the range of your garden.

Ornamental cabbage

What to Plant and When

As we have written about in our gardening columns in the past, leafy vegetables do best in this kind of weather. Cabbage, lettuce, onions and carrots in particular do well this time of year but also spinach, radishes and similar vegetables. If you have room for it, tomatoes do well also.

Temperatures in Cary are between the low 50s and the mid 60s for the coming weeks. Carrots, onions, spinach and lettuce do well when planted in soil around 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit so aim for the colder days in the near future. Also, onions take a white to mature and grow so when they do start to germinate, it will be closer to Spring and warm weather can help them along.

For tomatoes and cabbage, you will want the temperature higher, more around 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. You will want to plant these so they grow before the frost date because they are more sensitive to the cold than those other vegetables.

Make sure to also keep your vegetables protected with a frost prevention cloth. Put it overtop of your plants at night to prevent against sudden colds or frosts – keep an eye on temperatures and see how much moisture is coming at nights. Also keep the tender buds and sprouts protected until they get big and healthy enough to survive sudden temperature drops or Fall/Winter winds.


Story by staff reports. Photos by Hal Goodtree. The Gardening Column on CaryCitizen is sponsored by Garden Supply Company on Old Apex Road in Cary.

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