When winter comes, it doesn’t mean you need to give up on the vegetable gardens. The determined gardener can find many opportunities to keep their garden producing through the colder months.
What you can grow in winter will depend in large part on your growing zone. In zones 7 through 11, there are several vegetables you can plant and grow all through the winter. In zones 6 and below, you can help mother nature along by setting up a cold frame or greenhouse.
Eight Winter Garden Crops
If you want to keep the garden growing all year long, give one of these cold-hardy vegetables a try.
There are many onion varieties that can be planted in the fall, allowed to grow throughout the winter and harvested in the spring. The advantage of planting onions in the autumn is they will be ready to harvest a month or so earlier than spring-planted onion sets.
Cold-tolerant and hardy, the winter onion is a low maintenance plant. Onion sets (young bulbs) are the easiest to grow and can be found in most garden centers. Raised beds are a good choice for planting so you can control the soil quality, temperature, and irrigation levels. Be sure to mark out the areas where the onions are planted, so you don’t accidentally till the soil or plant on top of them the following spring.
If you live in zones 5, 6 or less, you may choose to grow your onions in a cold frame. In this event, choose an onion variety that is appropriate for your region. Burpee’s Walla Walla sweet onions are a popular choice for the Northern states. Short day onions are better suited for the warmer southern states.
Peas are a cold weather vegetable that can take a light frost. If you have milder winters (zone 8 & 9), you can begin to grow peas in October, November and even December. Sugar peas grow exceptionally well in the cooler months.
If you live in one of the Northern states, you can winter-sow your pea plants and let them sprout according to Mother Nature’s schedule. The best time for planting is 4-6 weeks before the last spring frost. Your pea pods will sprout as soon as the ground is warm enough.
Video: See this informative tutorial from the Juicing Gardener.
Similar to peas, potatoes enjoy the colder weather. Potatoes can be grown during winter in the warmer states. However, if your area is subject to hard freezes, the Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends beginning your potato plants a week or two after the last frost date. Potatoes grow from tubers or sections of mature potato pieces that have at least one eye – this is where the root will begin to form.
Taking about three months to mature, harvest your potatoes after the leaves have started to turn brown. If you don’t want to wait, baby potatoes can be dug up a few weeks earlier.
If you’re worried about all the extra space you have during winter, why not try planting asparagus? Asparagus is a perennial vegetable which means it will continue to grow year after year without re-planting. Take extra care in selecting your asparagus plot as they will be growing in that location for many years to come.
This hardy vegetable takes a bit of patience since they can take up to three years to fully mature. Some varieties may produce a small crop in the second year; however, three years is more the norm. The best time to start planting your permanent asparagus bed is in the early spring.
Rhubarb is another perennial plant that thrives in the colder winter temperatures. Begin your planting in the late autumn months, mulching with a thick layer of nutrient-rich material such as partially composted straw. Since rhubarb takes about two years to mature, some gardeners opt to plant year old crowns to speed up the time between planting and the first harvest.
The bright red stems of the rhubarb plant are a pretty contrast to all the greenery in the vegetable garden. When harvesting this crop, cut the stalks from the stems and discard the leaves, since only the stalks are edible.
Broccoli is well suited to container gardening if you prefer to grow your vegetables in a greenhouse. You will need full sun, so be sure to position the pots in a bright sunny area.
Give your broccoli some room to grow planting a single plant in a 12-inch pot or up to three plants in a 24-inch pot. The container should be sufficiently deep to allow for good root development.
7. Brussell Sprouts
In zones 8 or higher, Brussel sprouts can be planted in autumn and allowed to mature until the spring. They can handle a light frost, but grow best in temperatures that remain in the 40s and 60s. Mulch heavily to protect the plants from any cold spells or freezing temperatures.
Raised beds are useful when winter growing as you can easily install a floating row cover over the bed to keep the temperatures steady. Use hoops or stakes to secure the covers over your plants, so they don’t blow away during a storm.
8. Winter Hardy Lettuces
Several salad varieties can be started in the colder months. Since greens need a smaller growing area, they can be started in small pots and grown in either a greenhouse or even a bright windowsill. Some good varieties to try are winter purslane, kale, and spinach. Mustard greens also do quite well if you prefer a spicier flavor in your winter salads.
Enjoy Your Garden All Year Round
Winter gardening is often neglected, but many plants appreciate the chill of the winter air. Why not select a few crops from the list above and keep the garden growing all year long!