Despite the natural state of dormancy that most plants undertake for the winter months, if you choose the correct varieties you can grow yummy veggies all winter long. Whether you really want to boost your sustainability credentials or you just want to see if you can pull it off, the tips below should keep your garden producing even during the colder months.
If you happen to live in a climate that stays relatively mild all winter long with temperatures above 60 degrees or so, congratulations. You’re lucky enough to grow a myriad of vegetables in the open. For gardeners in other areas who can expect frost, ice, and a fair amount of snowfall, these are the vegetables you should limit yourself to for any winter gardening this season.
Don't Rush Into the Cold
Before you pull on your garden gloves and get out your tools, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Plants won’t grow as large or quickly in wintry conditions so temper your expectations for the harvest first and foremost. Although these plants will grow when the temperatures drop, they won’t grow as big or as quickly as they do in optimal conditions so don’t expect prize-winning lettuce or leeks the size of your head.
Another factor to consider is some form of coverage for your plants. While these veggies are cold-hardy, they're not invulnerable so they may still need some physical covering to protect from the harshest of the elements. Cold-cover cloth or cold frames are common ways to shield your crops from chilly weather.
Super Hardy Veggies
All of these veggies can not only survive a hard frost, but they can also handle temperatures below 28 degrees.
Spinach is not only chock-full of vitamins, but it’s also hardy enough to survive whatever winter throws at it. Grow it for a delicious salad or to add to soups, stews and more. For the best winter yield possible, aim to plant varieties like Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach or Giant Winter Spinach. As the name implies, these are especially suited to grow even when temperatures drop.
Broccoli is also super hardy and while you may not see giant broccoli florets during the winter season, there will be enough to add to your favorite stir fry recipe or stew. Because you're gambling against the weather by planting in this season, it's important to give your vegetables the best chance possible. This means that your gardening techniques need to be tiptop. For example, broccoli will grow most effectively in soil that is mildly acidic, and spacing is also an important factor. You want to leave roughly 18-24 inches of space between your broccoli sprouts.
Kale is the faithful staple of winter gardens. Seriously, it’s not a plant you can easily kill as it can survive even when it hits the 20 degrees range. Your kale may not grow as tall or have as many leaves, especially if the plant becomes overwintered and bolts in the spring. However, it will still flourish and colder conditions can actually change the flavor of your harvest and make them taste sweeter. Other greens that’ll survive the season include salad greens like arugula.
Garlic is often planted in the fall and as a result, does most of its growing during the winter months. Although you can’t see beneath the surface to see the bulb developing, you can see the green scapes growing. Trim them periodically to add to salads, soups, and other dishes for a mild garlic taste.
Leeks also do the majority of their growing during the winter months. Don't sow any leeks you plant until spring months to get the most growth.
Radishes are small anyway, but they continue to grow during the winter months. Since they have such a short growth window - typically about a month - you may be able to get several harvests during the cold winter months.
Veggies that will survive some of what winter has to offer
These vegetables may not be as hardy as the winter-hardy options; however, they’ll still be okay if temperatures did to the 28-32 degree range.
Lettuce, radicchio, endive are a few of the salad greens that can take a bit of cold and frost. If you fancy a winter salad, grow these for yummy salads all season long.
Carrots do their best growth during the winter months. Although the green part may die back in the cold temperatures, the root will still continue to grow, don’t you worry.
Parsley can grow in a variety of conditions, even the cold. It’ll remain surprisingly hardy when the air dips to freezing. Be sure to clip a bunch before the weather turns too cold so you can enjoy fresh parsley in your soups and stews.
Celery is an essential part of any soup stock. Luckily, it continues to grow and will survive the winter months.
Peas are also a crucial element of a yummy soup or warming winter pasty. They will also grow for a bit in the winter and prefer the cooler temperatures of the late winter and early spring.
Cabbage is another vegetable that’ll grow throughout the early part of the winter and early spring. Be sure to harvest it before the coldest part of the winter so you can use it in stews and other hot dishes.
What’s the best part about snow in the garden?
Snow cover actually acts as an insulating mulch in the garden and may keep the soil below warm enough for the plants to survive throughout the cold winter months.
If you live in an area that gets more rain than snow, you may have to worry about rot. If that’s the case, cover your veggies with clear plastic tunnels to ensure they don’t get drenched and suffer from rot. Also, be sure to place mulch around the base of the plants to insulate the soil.