Plant a Cool-Season Vegetable Garden Get our crop list and growing guide, and enjoy homegrown greens in fresh salads and stir-fries all winter Veggie gardens to fall for As much as we love ripe tomatoes, by midsummer, we’re already fantasizing about our fall vegetable garden. While rangy tomato vines and dead cornstalks make their way to the compost pile this time of year, we replant our Test Garden beds with the prettiest edibles: structural Swiss chard, voluptuous cabbage plants, and vining snap peas. By getting the garden established in the still-warm fall days and watered by rainfall, a cool-season garden looks good from autumn through spring. Click ahead for tips from our vegetable plots, from design advice to the best vegetables to plant for the cool season. Pinterest Keyhole garden layout A keyhole design makes the most of a smaller yard because it gives over minimal real estate to pathways. Make beds no wider than 4 feet for easy maintenance and harvest; keep soil loose and healthy by walking on pathways only. In this Test Garden plot, we created symmetrical plantings for a flow of colors and textures. The beds measure 2 1⁄2 feet wide and 9 feet long, connecting at one end, and feature (clockwise): Collard ‘Top Bunch’ Mustard ‘Southern Giant’ Collard ‘Georgia’ Brokali (broccoli/kale hybrid) Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’ Mustard ‘Red Giant’ Cabbage ‘Stonehead’ Mustard ‘Southern Giant’ Cabbage ‘Red Jewel’ Frisée Viola ‘Sorbet Coconut Swirl’ Rows garden layout In a larger yard, simple rows have graphic impact (think of striped farmland). Make beds no wider than 4 feet for easy maintenance and harvest; keep soil loose and healthy by walking on pathways only. In an area measuring 15 by 18 feet, we kept beds graphic by planting bands of a single vegetable variety, then created a backdrop with tall vining crops. The four rows are 7 feet long, of varying widths, and include (clockwise): Cabbage ‘Red Jewel’ Cabbage ‘Stonehead’ Mustard ‘Southern Giant’ Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’ Sugar snap peas ‘Super Sugar’ Siberian garlic Garlic ‘Early Italian Red’ 8. Elephant garlic Italian parsley Mustard ‘Red Giant’ Cutting celery Arugula Chives Frisée Carrot ‘Rainbow Sun’ Lettuce 'Marvel of Four Seasons', a heading heirloom variety, has sweet-tasting, wavy bronze-tipped leaves. Frisée This Mediterranean green (also called curly endive) is prized for the spice and texture it brings to fresh salads. Frisée and other endives tolerate more heat than lettuces but grow faster in cool weather, typically maturing in 90-95 days after sowing seeds. Arugula (Italian) Tender leaves add bite to salads and other dishes. For best flavor, harvest them when they're 4 inches tall. Swiss chard The sturdy stalks of 'Bright Lights' come in a rainbow of colors, including gold, pink, red, and white; the frilly leaves are dark green. Red Giant mustard ‘Red Giant’ forms stunning maroon leaves with bright green ribs. Spicier than store-bought mustard varieties, it makes an excellent addition to salads paired with robust poultry and meat dishes. Light frost deepens the flavor and color. Southern Giant mustard Bright lime 'Green Wave' has frilly leaves and won't bolt (rush to seed) as fast as other mustards when weather warms. Here are some great ways to use this variety in your cooking: Chop greens and simmer in chicken stock with slices of ginger and bean-thread noodles Sprinkle chopped greens into risotto Mix greens into rice dressing for roasted turkey or chicken Ruby Streaks mustard Sweet and pungent. ‘Ruby Streaks’ mustard grows from a center stalk surrounded by a frill of finely serrated, ruby-colored leaves. Cool weather causes the color to deepen to deep purple while higher temperatures can prompt the plant to bolt (send up flower stalks). If allowed to flower, the edible blooms can be snipped for garnish for soups, salads, or open-faced sandwiches. Mustard ‘Green Wave’ Bright green leaves practically glow in a fall garden. The hot flavor mellows when cooked, and this variety is slow to bolt. Curly-leafed kale Super-ruffled 'Winterbor' is a vigorous grower that stands up to cold temperatures. Leaves turn sweeter after frost. Lacinato kale Bumpy gray-green leaves of 'Nero di Toscana' are tasty, ornamental, and extra hardy. Great ways to use it: Blanch, then add to penne pasta along with cooked Italian sausage. Pan-fry in extra-virgin olive oil with preserved lemon and red chile flakes. Simmer until tender, chop, and layer into meat or vegetarian lasagna. Brokali ‘Apollo’ This broccoli/kale hybrid produces small broccoli heads and side shoots that keep growing large, tender leaves. Romanesco broccoli The multipointed chartreuse heads of 'Veronica' have a texture and flavor similar to mild, nutty cauliflower. Great ways to use it: Steam florets and toss while still warm with your favorite vinaigrette. Sauté florets in butter with oil-popped mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Roast florets with olive oil, olives, and halved shallots. Broccoli raab (Rapini) Leaves and small florets of 'Spring Raab' have a slightly stronger flavor than broccoli. Cauliflower 'Cassius' has round, creamy white heads that reach 7 to 8 inches across, with a rich flavor. Savoy cabbage Lime green 'Alcosa' forms tight heads, ideal for closely spaced planting. Great ways to use it: Braise with olive oil, onions, bacon, and caraway seeds. Chop coarsely and pan-fry in butter with diced potatoes. Steam individual leaves until just tender, then use the leaves as wraps for steaming fish. Red Jewel cabbage Stunning both in the garden and on the plate, ‘Red Jewel’ forms deep burgundy leaves in almost perfectly round heads. The mild flavor, crisp texture, and stunning color make it one of our favorites for cool-season edible gardens. Napa cabbage With a mild flavor and crunchy texture, Napa cabbage makes a delicious addition to soups and salads. The heirloom ‘Flat Dutch’ variety (pictured) produces firm, large heads that store well. Great ways to use it: Slice and sautéed with plenty of garlic and olive oil Add to hot soup broth and allow to soften before serving Thinly slice and eat raw dressed with sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and slivered almonds More: Our tastiest cabbage recipes Collards Collards produce large, blue-green leaves and taste like a combination of cabbage and kale. Flavor improves after a light frost. ‘Georgia’, a favorite Southern variety that also grows well in the West, produces tender leaves with a mild flavor. Red bok choi Similar to the all-green varieties in flavor, red bok choi (also called red bok choy or red pak choi) grows beautiful russet leaves which deepen in color in cool temperatures. Harvest outer leaves to add to salad mixes or cut the entire plant to stir fry. Green onion Both the white and green parts have a strong, zesty flavor. Elephant garlic Closely related to leek, elephant garlic forms unusually large edible bulbs with a mild garlic flavor. Young leaves can also be snipped and used like scallions. Sugar snap peas Grow tall peas with the support of trellising or choose a bush-variety that requires no support. ‘Super Sugar Snap’ (pictured) is a tall-growing variety that can be eaten either as a whole-pod when picked young or left on the vine and harvested for shelling the peas. Cutting celery This leafy herb is more about an intense celery flavor than a crisp stalk. Keep it on hand for adding to soup stock. Carrots Start seeds for carrots in sandy soil completely free of rocks and clods. ‘Purple Sun’ produces deep purple carrots with a center sunburst of gold—particularly pretty sliced in salads. Planting tips Soil. Till the bed with a garden fork to remove rocks and break up clumps before raking the soil smooth. Then cover the soil with a few inches of compost, till that in, and rake again. Planting. Start most of the seeds indoors in September―except arugula, which you can sow directly in the ground―then transplant seedlings outdoors six to eight weeks later. (In cold climates, plant in spring.) Always sow extra seeds in case some don't germinate, and keep excess seedlings in case any plants in the ground fail. Spacing. Though you can follow the recommendations on the seed packets, space seedlings on the tighter end of the range so the beds will look lush. More: Your guide to cool-season crops Design tip: Plant for contrast Place different shapes and colors next to one another. Here, frilly green leaves of chartreuse mustard pop against purple cabbage. Design tip: Mix in flowers Include an edge of violas for cheer; the edible blossoms can dress up winter salads too. Design tip: Use support Create a simple A-frame trellis out of bamboo and wire to support vining snap peas—and add a lush backdrop to beds. Design tip: Keep it bountiful Plant crops that produce all season, like kale and chard. They maintain garden structure as you pull out single-harvest ones, like cabbage. Harvesting tips Cut the outer leaves of cool-season greens—such as collards, kale, mustard greens, and Swiss chard—often to encourage new leaves to form. For head-forming crops such as cauliflower and cabbage, use pruners to cut off the heads when they’re firm and well-formed. When arugula reaches 4 to 6 inches tall, shear it down to 1 to 2 inches tall so it will regrow.