If you love gardening but don’t want to take a hiatus for the winter, don’t worry! You can still enjoy vegetable gardening by planting some hardy vegetables that are strong enough to withstand the winter chill.
Why Grow Vegetables in Winter
Winter vegetables offer a unique flavor and freshness that you can’t get from winter store-bought produce. There are some vegetables that are actually sweeter and have more robust flavor after being exposed to a frost or two.
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Plus, winter gardening is great for the environment (and water bills) since it requires less water and fewer resources, and there’s far fewer bugs in the winter. Knowing that you’re eating produce picked right in your own backyard will make winter meals even more satisfying!
My one final plea for winter gardening, if the promise of fresh food doesn’t entice you enough, is simply the stress relief and anxiety reducing benefits of gardening. Many people take the winter off, when the days are shorter and seasonal affective disorder is on the rise, but I implore you to consider continuing gardening through the winter.
You can certainly scale back, possibly just having a container or two, especially if winter’s are particularly harsh where you are and you’ll need to use a cold frame or other kind of covering (see my tutorial for making a cold frame at the bottom of this post). Or use a cover crop that you occasionally harvest from, but don’t throw gardening out with the cold weather. It does you far more good than you think.
What Types of Winter Vegetables Can I Plant?
There are a number of winter vegetables that can be grown outdoors all winter. As always, you want to select what you and your family will actually eat. However, the most popular winter vegetables include:
- cabbage: There are so many varieties to grow in winter. Try Savoy Cabbage from Eden Brothers Seeds.
- carrots: Carrots are cold hardy and can handle winter’s chill with ease if planted in the warmer days of fall. Try Scarlet Nantes Carrots from Eden Brothers.
- kale: Kale is the winter vegetable of choice for many gardeners; it’s hearty and will continue to grow into the spring and even summer. Try this fun Blue Kale from True Leaf Market!
- collards: A classic southern green can be planted individually or tighter for a cover crop. Try Vates Collards from True Leaf Market.
- spinach: Dark, leafy greens are incredibly nutritious and easy to grow. They tolerate snow and frost (in moderation). Winter Giant Spinach from True Leaf Market would be fun to try.
- Swiss chard: Beautiful and delicious, chard can easily be grown in front flower beds as well as vegetable gardens. Try Flamingo Swiss Chard for a bright pink pop to your garden.
- turnips: Eat the greens and the root of this winter favorite. Try Golden Ball Turnips from Eden Brothers Seed.
- radishes: This quick growing vegetable comes in a multitude of varieties. Try the fast growing Comet Radishes for a bright pop this winter.
- lettuce: From romaine to arugula to mizuna, winter is the season for fresh lettuce. Try Little Gem an heirloom romaine variety.
- broccoli: Believe it or not, winter is a great time to grow this tasty vegetable. Try Di Ciccio Broccoli for a fun new variety this year.
- mustard greens: A delicious addition to any winter garden is this hardy green. Try these Mizuna mustards from True Leaf Market.
- garlic: Though it needs to be planted in fall, garlic will grow all winter long before being harvested the following spring/summer. (See my full post on how to grow garlic at home.)
These vegetables have a hardiness to cold weather that allows them to flourish in lower winter temperatures. Planting these winter vegetables is not only rewarding, but they provide a nutritious winter harvest that you can enjoy all winter long! And with the prices at the grocery store increasing by the day, it can also help ease your grocery budget as well.
Consider your zone for winter gardening
For gardening all winter long, you do want to consider your growing zone. If you live in an area that 3 feet deep in snow all winter, then your winter gardening will look different than someone in zone 8 who barely sees a flake of snow all winter.
Many seed packets and seedling information have valuable information on how winter hardy a particular vegetable is, so be sure to double check before you start winter gardening and compare it with your zone. Check the USDA hardiness map here to determine what growing zone you are in.
Are There Any Tips For Winter Gardening?
Gardening in winter requires a few tips to be successful. Here are some helpful tips for a successful winter garden:
- Preparation is key: Make sure your garden soil is well-drained and that you are planting winter vegetables at the right time for winter.
- Consider a covering: Winter gardens in colder zones should be covered with a cold frame or even an old window. This will help keep your winter garden warm, and protect it from frost damage by trapping any heat during the day and releasing it in the evening. See my tutorial here for creating an easy cold frame at home.
- Water is still important: Though winter gardens may need less water, do make sure winter gardens are watered. You’ll also want to consider how you’ll water in winter, especially if your area freezes regularly and your outdoor spigots are winterized. Hand watering from a can may be the easiest solution, especially if you have scaled down your garden for the colder months.
- Feed your plants: Just as in the warmer months, do set a schedule for feeding your winter vegetable garden with good quality compost and fertilizer. I like to use a liquid food in the winter since I’m watering a bit less.
Winter gardening can be a great way to get fresh vegetables all winter long, even in colder climates. With some preparation and the right winter veggies, you can enjoy winter harvesting all winter long! Happy winter gardening!