If you live in an area where winters can be exceptionally long, bitterly cold, and blanketed in deep snow. But, still wanted to enjoy a homegrown harvest from my vegetable garden year-round.
Knowing which vegetables are best suited for winter cultivation and which season extenders work best with those vegetables is essential to ensuring a fruitful harvest during the winter months.
This involves growing plants that can withstand low temperatures inside structures such as cold frames, mini hoop tunnels, greenhouses, or polytunnels.
If you’ve never grown winter vegetables before, it’s best, to begin with, a small number of plants and either a cold frame or a mini hoop tunnel. Experiment with both and see which one yields the best results in your geographic area.
This winter, you might want to give some thought to cultivating cold-hardy plants, which are plants that can survive temperatures as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit (perhaps, they could even be considered for the early Spring).
These vegetables not only thrive in chilly conditions (some of them can even be grown indoors). However, due to the fact that they have a compact growth habit, they absolutely love confined areas and do very well in containers.
1: Broccoli Rabe
The planting of broccoli rabe is simple, and the vegetable matures at such a rapid rate that it can be planted directly in the garden. The seeds are so small that it is nearly impossible to plant them at the recommended distance of four inches (ten centimeters) as recommended by seed catalogs.
When the seedlings are a little bigger, do your best to thin them out to a height of 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm). Don’t toss out those pieces that were cut down. Remove the roots with your scissors, then wash the seedlings and add them to the rest of your salad greens.
Carrots are simple to cultivate; all you need is soil that is loose, rich, and free of clods and stones, and the temperature of the soil should be between 45 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
This means that you can grow carrots virtually at any time of the year in raised beds or containers; you can even grow them in the winter if you protect them with a plastic tunnel.
Carrots are slow to germinate, so they will be better off with some early protection from the elements. Burlap strips can be used to create a barrier between birds and heavy rain that will keep the seeds safe until they begin to sprout and root.
In the event that temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, protecting beds and seedlings with spun poly row covers or plant blankets is recommended. Carrots should be grown inside plastic tunnels for protection in areas where it is likely that the temperature will drop below freezing.
Grow beets as a winter crop in areas that experience relatively mild winters. Because sugars are stored in the roots during periods of cool weather, late plantings that continue to mature through the winter will produce the sweetest fruit.
Although beets can withstand frost, they will produce seeds if the temperatures remain too low.
Beets are a crop that thrives in cooler climates. Beets can be planted once more between two and three weeks before the date of the last average frost in the spring.
As well as in the late summer or early fall six to eight weeks before the first typical frost of the autumn. In areas where winters are mild, growing beets as a winter crop are possible.
It doesn’t matter if you cultivate them indoors on a windowsill or under lights, or outdoors in a cold frame, low or high tunnel, or a greenhouse; microgreens are an excellent crop to cultivate during the winter months.
Microgreens are incredibly young greens that are harvested when there are only a couple of true leaves on the plant. They are incredibly nutritious. This means that you can go from planting the seed to gathering the harvest in as little as two weeks if conditions are favorable!
They have a lot of nutrition due to the fact that the very young plants are just getting ready for further development, so they are very small but they pack a big nutritional punch.
Because the young plants are still dependent on the nutrient reserves that were stored in the seed, they can produce a crop that is quite respectable even when subjected to slightly lower light levels. This is due to the fact that young plants need light to achieve perfection.
When growing your microgreens on a cool windowsill, heating mats, like the kind you’ll be using under your tomato seedlings next spring, can be very useful; a small fan is a good insurance against disease in warmer, more humid conditions, such as in a lush planting that is taking place under grow lights.
It’s not as difficult to grow lettuce in the winter as you might think. The key is to choose varieties that can withstand frost and combine them with a season extender such as a cold frame, mini hoop tunnel, or polytunnel. This will allow you to harvest your crop later in the year.
From December through March, I enjoy the convenience of having a steady supply of tender, organic lettuce leaves that have grown just a few steps away from my back door on plants that I grew myself.
You’ll find below my all-time favorite cold hardy varieties of lettuce, as well as specific information on when to plant it, how to protect it from the elements, and when to harvest it.
6: Swiss Chard
Not only is the Swiss chard able to thrive in the high temperatures of summer, but it can also withstand the cold of winter. In point of fact, chard that is grown in colder climates might actually have a better flavor. Temperatures lower than 15 degrees Fahrenheit, on the other hand, are lethal to plants (-9 C.).
Plant chard in the spring of the first year, collect the leaves throughout the summer and then leave the chard plants in the garden all through the colder months of the year.
They will start growing again in the spring after that, and you will be able to enjoy early spring greens as well as leaves that will last you through the second summer.
To increase the likelihood of success, cut the plant’s leaves at a height of at least three inches (eight centimeters) above the ground during the first summer. This will ensure that the plant is able to grow back.
Kale can withstand the cold and will continue to grow even after it has been frostbitten multiple times. If you live in an area that experiences relatively mild winters, you may be able to continue cultivating kale in your garden throughout the year.
If you are growing your kale outside, you might want to use a cold frame or a hoop house to provide some protection.
You can continue to cultivate kales even if it is anticipated that temperatures will routinely drop below 0 degrees Fahrenheit; however, it is recommended that you bring the plant indoors.
The planting of kale seeds toward the end of winter is another way to get a head start on the following year’s gardening season.
Kale is one of the vegetables that is considered to be one of the hardiest because it can survive in extremely cold temperatures. According to Burpee, kale can endure temperatures that are ten degrees Fahrenheit below zero and still continue to thrive.
In regions where winters are not excessively harsh, the plant is hardy enough to make it through the entire winter season. According to Bonnie Plants, kale can overwinter in USDA zones 7 and higher. You can grow kale year-round if you live in one of these zones.
8: Sugar Snap Peas
There are a lot of people who are aware that you should plant sweet peas in the fall in order to get the earliest blooms, but not nearly as many people do the same thing with peas.
Peas can be planted at any time between now and the beginning of November in order to have them grow to maturity before the onset of the harsh winter weather.
Then, after receiving some form of protection during the coldest month of the year, they will emerge victorious in the early spring. As they continue to mature, they will provide you with fresh peas one month earlier than any that were sown in the spring.
There is a round variety of pea seeds, as well as a wrinkled variety. Because round seeds are smooth, there is nowhere for the water to collect as they swell in the first stage of the germination process. Because of this, round seeds can be sown in conditions that are colder and more wet.
Because it can withstand extremely low temperatures for an extended period of time, spinach is an excellent option for overwinter production. When the temperature drops, the plant’s vasculature becomes more sugary because of the increased blood flow. This protects the plant from the effects of freezing temperatures by acting as an “anti-freeze.”
Temperature and the absence of sunlight both have a significant impact on the rate of growth. The resumption of normal growth can be expected once spring has arrived.
If none of the seeds was saved from the spring planting, finding seeds in the fall can be challenging. Be sure to make provisions to have extra seeds for the harvest the following autumn.
In the majority of years, planting needs to be finished before the middle of October in order to allow for adequate germination and root growth.
Recent studies conducted in the United States have shown that winter spinach grown in a low tunnel and covered with row cover grows just as well as spinach grown in greenhouses or high tunnels. These studies were conducted in the past few years.
In addition to keeping temperatures more moderate, low tunnels protect winter spinach from ice and snow, and they also keep the leaves of the plant relatively dry.
10: Asian Greens
One more plant that makes the cut for the best vegetables to cultivate during the winter is Asian greens. Gardeners who use seed catalogs have access to an incredible variety of Asian greens that come in many different varieties.
We cultivate a variety of them in the spring, summer, autumn, and winter months, and my research has shown that bok-choy, tatsoi, mizuna, and mustard greens are the ones that are most suitable for harvesting in the wintertime.
These are incredibly easy to cultivate and offer a wide variety of flavors, colors, and textures in their leaves.
Either sow the seeds directly into the garden beds at the beginning of September or bring the seedlings indoors and give them a head start under my grow lights. The transplanting into the garden beds takes place in the middle of September.
The planting season for winter onions can begin either in the spring or the fall. Onions, on the other hand, typically produce larger yields when planted in the fall.
It is common practice among gardeners to sow onions in the fall, then store some young onions in a dry place so they can be replanted in the spring.
Planting time for winter onions is whenever the ground can be worked, which is typically between October and December in the majority of climates, or two to three weeks prior to the first hard freeze, whichever comes first.
The cultivation of winter onions must take place in full sunlight, as these onions are unable to flourish in shaded environments.
Plant the onions at a depth of two to four inches (five to ten centimeters), leaving a space of four to six inches (10 to 15 centimeters) between each bulb. Water well.
As the onions are buried, they are able to withstand the cold weather. Onions can survive the winter in northern climates if they are covered with a layer of mulch. This is especially helpful in colder climates.
Because arugula seeds are able to germinate at temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius), they should be sown outside as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. Plant seeds in the late summer or early fall for a harvest in the fall or winter.
Plant the seeds a quarter of an inch deep and space them about an inch apart in rows that are 10 inches apart. You could also sow the seeds of arugula alone or combine them with the seeds of other salad greens.
Seeds germinate in about a week (or slightly longer in cold soil). Before planting, you can hasten the process of germination by soaking the seeds in water for a few hours.
Potatoes are among the most frost-resistant vegetables that are currently available. The greens of the potato will perish when there is frost, but the tuber itself will live on and can continue to grow.
They are simple to cultivate in a container and extremely calorie-dense, making them an excellent choice for a winter vegetable crop.
Consuming a potato in baked form or as part of a hearty potato stew during the colder months of the year can be incredibly comforting and satiating, making them an excellent option for this time of year.
Late in the month of August or early in September is the best time to plant potato tubers about two to three inches deep. Make sure the diameter of the containers you use is at least 16 inches.
Because of this, it is best to use containers that are between 5 and 10 gallons in capacity and have a depth of at least 15 inches so that the potatoes can develop normally.
If you are planting more than one potato, leave a distance of about three feet between each row and space each potato 12 inches apart.
The cabbage plant is a demanding one, both in terms of the number of nutrients it requires and the amount of space it consumes in the garden.
It is not difficult to cultivate if you begin by giving the soil the nutrients it needs and taking measures to protect it from the most common kinds of pests.
It is well worth the effort to cultivate fresh cabbage if you have the space to do so, as it can be used to make a tasty slaw or steamed with some pepper and butter. The ‘Savoy’ variety of winter cabbage is hands down our favorite.
It is best to sow winter cabbage in March and April in a greenhouse or an environment with similar conditions, and then plant the seedlings outside approximately four weeks later.
Plant one seed in each cell of a modular tray with a depth of approximately 2 centimeters of high-quality seed compost. Once per week, apply a mild liquid seaweed fertilizer until the garden is ready to be planted.
In a manner very similar to that of cabbage, the planting season for broccoli extends from late summer into the fall. Because of this, there should be sufficient time to grow the crop as a winter crop.
During this time, you should begin germinating the seeds, and after their first month of growth, you should begin to harden them off.
The ideal container for broccoli is one that is approximately five gallons in size and has roots that can grow between 12 and 18 inches deep. While monitoring the level of dryness in the soil once every week, water the plant at a rate of about 1.5 inches per week.
Consider increasing the frequency of your watering’s to every other day if the soil dries out quickly and the broccoli leaves begin to wilt.