Summer and early fall are full of plush harvests and tomato plants you can't seem to pick fast enough. But when fall turns cold it can feel like everything in your precious garden is dead. It doesn't have to be!

There are plenty of winter plants you can grow or start in the ground when things get chilly. Learn more below!

1. Onions

What's better on a cold winter day than a soup cooking on the stove? Not much, unless you've grown the onions in that soup yourself. Trust us, plants you've grown in your garden, taste so better than anything you could buy - even at a fancy farmers market.

And you'll be enjoying that delicious onion kick for a long time. Onions have a long growing season, so plan to get started early. You'll want to put these into the ground in late winter or early spring, to be ready for a summer or even late fall harvest.

Onions keep rather long as well, as long as you keep them dry and avoid rot. You can easily chop them and freeze them once they're harvested for those winter soups you're already dreaming about.

If you're not a big onion fan, try a different variety. Sweet onions, red onions, or even shallots - which you know from fancy white wine sauces. They're the small but delicate onions that give those French sauces their je-ne-sais-quoi.

On that note, spring green onions are an easy winter plant. You plant them in mid-fall and they'll be ready come February or March, depending on your climate.

2. Spinach

Not any spinach, but 'perpetual spinach' is a great winter crop. Like onions, you plant it in Autumn; but unlike onions, you won't have to wait to harvest until spring.

If you buy the perpetual spinach variety and continue to harvest it, you can have fresh greens winter through late spring. Yes, winter salads have us dreaming of warm dressings and boiled eggs.

If you want that harvesting season to last as long as possible, make sure you're committed to cutting and pruning growth. If you don't, the spinach will return to seed and you'll be left with those gross grocery store spinach bags.

3. Asparagus

If you're not a patient gardener, skip this one. We're serious! Asparagus can take up to two years to really grow. But if that seems worth it to you, it can be planted in late winter/early spring.

As soon as the ground is workable (cold but not frozen) you can throw some crowns in the ground. You can get these from your local greenhouse or nursery - it's pretty much impossible to grow asparagus from seed.

Make sure you plant them in a bed with good drainage, because these green spears are picky. Once they're planted and growing, give them a year without any harvesting.

One the ferns start to grow, you can cut them back. Don't eat any berries or you'll be sad. Finally, the second year, those cutoff ferns will be beautiful asparagus spears! Don't worry about having to replant these, they're perennials and will pop up even stronger year after year.

You can grow asparagus in the same bed as parsley or basil, which is nice - because the spears themselves need a lot of space between them. Growing these two herbs in your asparagus bed will help you use some of that dead space.

4. Calendula

Want some flowers in that winter garden of yours? This daisy-cousin is beautiful and hardy. It also makes a great essential oil (it's very calming) if you're into that.

The plants themselves will grow from late fall through spring, depending on your climate. They need full sun and moderate water but need good drainage.

You can pick from bright yellow, orange or a more subtle pastel variation when it comes to color. They grow about 2 feet high and will keep producing as long as you cut their flowers back.

It likes growing along root vegetables, which are a great choice to grow in winter. We're talking about radish, carrots, chard and even tomatoes.

5. Cyclamen

Another flower, this winter bloom shoots up in gorgeous shades of white, pink and red. In nature, they shoot out from piles of dead leaves - reminding us that there's always growth from death.

As such, they do like a healthy serving of leaf-mulch compost when you put them in the ground. They'll last you a good while if you give them part shade regular amounts of water.

6. Broad Beans

Still hungry? Well, these hardy green bean cousins will work great in soups and even stir fries this spring when they're ready to pop up. You can plant them in mid-to-late October for an early spring harvest.

Don't waste any part of these beans - even the ends you're used to snipping off. You can saute them until soft with butter. Delicious! 

7. Spring Carrots

We once heard the words "carrot leaf pesto" from a customer and our lives have never been the same. All of a sudden, a plain basil pesto no longer excites.

But that means you'll have to grow the carrots in the first place - which you can start doing in November. If you have some sort of growing enclosure, you can expect those to be ready early spring.

Get that carrot top pesto recipe here.

8. Ornamental Kale

Kale gets a bad rep in the big society, but if you grow it you know it adds a warm earthy flavor to any dish.

You won't want to eat these kale plants though - they're for decoration. They'll add some deep green and even purple into your garden when everything else is dead. They even grow up to two feet tall, so it'll really make a sad garden feel live again!

Winter Plants in Review

Don't be sad when your final fall harvest comes to an end, these winter plants are right around the corner. Gardening is a year-round job and your plants need you.

Want someone to help you with this constant task? We're always here. Learn more about winter plants in this post.