Would you like to grow fresh vegetables throughout the winter season? There are many varieties of vegetables that do just fine in the cold, in fact, some even prefer it. If you want to succeed, you’ll need to start planning your winter garden in summer.
Here’s what you need to know to grow your own winter crops.
When to plant winter crops
The best time to plant winter crops will depend on the type of vegetable you’re thinking of planting. Some vegetables need to be planted in mid-summer to be ready for harvesting in mid to late winter.
If you want, you can also stagger the planting process to have your crops ready at different times of the year. This will ensure that you never run out of fresh vegetables. Just make sure to change your plants according to the season. Some plants will never produce anything in winter.
Keep in mind that crops also tend to grow very slowly during the cold season. If you want them ready to harvest on time, you’ll need to plan the planting early enough. Some vegetables taste better after experiencing some frost. For instance carrots. For this reason, many gardeners opt to expose their carrots to light frost. This goes for a few others as well.
Before planting anything, however, make sure to do your research. Seedlings often need protecting before they are hardy enough to withstand the cold.
How to protect your winter crops
The best way to protect your vegetables in winter is to plant them in a cold frame or greenhouse. You can also use mulch to protect the roots and base of the plant against cold and frost. Some vegetables do just fine in very cold weather without protection. This is especially true for those that can grow in snow.
Your protection against harsh weather doesn’t have to be expensive. You can simply place a thin bedsheet over your plants to protect them at night. Just make sure to open them again in the morning.
If you leave your plants closed up, they might not get enough sun to survive. The winter sun is already quite weak so make sure they get as much as they can.
Best vegetables to grow in winter
Cauliflower is a vegetable that can be grown all year round. There are many varieties with different harvest times. When planting this crop, make sure it doesn’t mature mid-summer. It’s best to have them mature in winter.
The cold will slow down growth while preventing the heads from splitting. The best temperature to grow cauliflowers in is around 16-18°C (60-65°F).
You can stagger the planting to make sure your cauliflowers don’t all ripen at the same time. This way you’ll have fresh veggies all year round. Also, make sure to choose the right variety for the right time of year. Some kinds of cauliflower will ripen property in summer despite the heat.
Broccoli is another plant from the brassica family that does well in winter. Make sure to plan your planting time in such a way that your broccoli will be ready to harvest in winter.
The best temperature for ripening the head is no more than 24°C (75°F). The reason for this is that the growth of the plant will be slowed down which allows more nutrients to the flower. It also makes it easier to grow the head without it dividing into separate florets.
This plant can be grown in either full sun or partial shade, but make sure it is fed properly and watered enough. Failure to provide what it needs will result in a ruined crop.
3. Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts are cool-season veggies that do best in mild winters. They can withstand short periods of freezing, but long-lasting cold snaps and snow will result in no Brussels sprouts forming. It’s best to grow them in a greenhouse if you know your soil temperature will drop below -12°C (10°F).
Brussels sprouts need to be harvested in late fall or even winter. To get your timing right, plant your seeds 3-6 months earlier depending on the variety. These plants do best in temperatures between 7-24°C (45-75°F). They can, however, withstand short periods with a temperature as low as -7°C (20°F).
Cabbage, just like cauliflower, can be grown all year round. It’s also best to avoid harvesting this crop mid-summer depending on the variety. If you want to stagger the harvest time, plant different varieties with different maturing times. Some varieties even prefer to ripen in summer. This way you can have cabbage all year round.
Cabbage seeds will germinate in temperatures as low as 4°C (40°F). This makes it possible to sow even in winter. You will need to protect the seedlings, however, so it’s best to start them in planting trays or cover them with row covers.
The best temperature for growing cabbage is between 13-24°C (55-75°F).
Carrots can be grown almost all year round. If you protect them in winter, you might even be able to grow them whenever you like. These plants prefer loose soil without any rocks and a soil temperature between 7 and 30°C (45-85°F).
To grow these delicious vegetables, make sure to choose the right varieties. The ones that mature quickly are best for growing in winter. These are often referred to as candy carrots. The reason for that is that carrots are sweeter once they’ve experienced some frost. It’s best to grow carrots in cool temperatures between 13 – 24°C (55-75°F).
Celery prefers to grow in areas with a cool temperature ranging between 15°C and 21°C (60-70°F). In colder winter areas, you’ll need to protect these plants against frost and snow. You can do this by growing them in cold frames or greenhouses.
It’s possible to harvest at any time without killing the plant. Simply cut off the stalks on the outside of the plant. Once your celery plants get exposed to hard frost, however, they will stop growing. To prevent this, make sure to cover them at night.
7. Collard greens
Collard greens are known to be the most cold-hardy of all the species in the brassica family. It’s always best to harvest them before spring arrives. Once they start to flower, the leaves will turn bitter.
It is possible to keep them tasting delicious for a while longer by planting them in cold rooms. This will delay flowering somewhat. For the best results, make sure your plants grow at a temperature between 13- 24°C (55-75°F).
8. Green onions
Green onions are very hardy plants. They will survive the winters in most hardiness zones. Usually, you can harvest them at any time once the plant reaches maturity. Just make sure to not eat them once they start to flower.
In areas with frost, you will need to protect your plants to keep them alive through winter. The best temperature to grow green onions in is between 20-25°C (68-77°F). For this reason, try growing them in a greenhouse for the best results.
Kale is one of the hardiest vegetables in existence. It can withstand temperatures as low as -24°C (-10°F), but it grows best in temperatures between 13- 24°C (55-75°F).
Kale is very easy to grow in winter. You don’t need to care for this plant at all. When the ground freezes, you don’t need to water or feed it. It will simply exist and resume growing once the ground thaws.
If you want your kale to keep on growing throughout winter, keep it in a cold frame or a greenhouse to prevent the plant from experiencing frost.
Leeks are a great plant to store in the ground in winter. Mature leeks will stay fresh covered in a layer of snow. Simply harvest one when you need it. Make sure to plant your leeks early enough to ensure the plant is mature when the first frost hits.
Leeks grow best when the maximum temperature remains below 24°C (75°F). It’s best to sow leeks in spring. They will usually be started in containers before being transplanted into the garden. The leeks will then complete their growth and be ready to harvest in late autumn and throughout winter.
Mustard is very finicky in hot weather. It will often quickly go to seed without you having a chance to harvest it. For the best results, plant mustard greens in autumn and every 4 to 6 weeks after that. You may have some trouble with germination if the soil temperature is less than 4°C (40°F) Make sure the last bunch you plant will be ready to harvest before the temperature exceeds 24°C (75°F) in spring.
Parsnips have a reputation for being very difficult to grow. This is usually due to people trying to grow them at the wrong time of year. Parsnips are cool-season vegetables that prefer some frost for the best taste.
Parsnips that experience some frost have a stronger, sweeter flavour than those grown in any other season. The frost causes the starch in the root to turn to sugar. If your parsnips were grown in winter, they’ll most likely have a nutty flavour.
To achieve this result, leave your parsnips to experience at least two weeks of temperatures between 0-4°C (32-40°F). During this time, the plant will slow down its growth and turn starch into sugar in the root to sustain itself.
Radishes are quite tolerant of frost. They will even survive severe freezes that damage the foliage of the plant. Once they defrost, the foliage will grow back from the roots. Like parsnips, radishes will have a stronger flavour when they’ve experienced some frost.
They can usually survive temperatures as low as -6°C (20°F). That said, radishes prefer a temperature between 4-21°C (40-70°F). You can also leave your radishes in the ground during winter. As soon as you’d like to eat one, simply dig one up for your meal.
14. Swiss chard
Swiss chard is a duel vegetable. It grows very well in hot summers as well as freezing cold winter, in fact, this vegetable may even taste better if it experiences some frost. That being said, don’t grow swiss chard in an area with temperatures below -9°C ( 15°F) without protection.
You can use a cold frame or a greenhouse to offer some protection to your plants. You can also leave them to overwinter with some protection to harvest in the next year.
Growing vegetables in winter isn’t impossible but may not always be easy. To be successful in your mission, make sure to choose the right varieties during the correct season. Also, make sure to do some research beforehand. Some plants need protection to survive winter.
Whatever you choose to do, have fun doing it.
What are the best vegetables to grow in winter?
Any vegetables from the brassica family like cauliflower, broccoli, kale or cabbage are a great choice for winter gardens. You can also try root vegetables like carrots, radishes and parsnips.
When can I grow winter vegetables?
It’s best to start winter vegetables in late summer or autumn depending on the type of plant. This way the plants will be ready to harvest in winter. If you live in a frost-free area, you can plant throughout the season. Just make sure you don’t harvest in mid-summer.
How do you start a vegetable garden in the winter?
For the best results, start by planting your seeds in a seed tray. Keep them inside a greenhouse or other protected area while they grow into established seedlings. Once ready, turn over your garden, add some compost and plant your seedlings. You will need to protect them until they are mature enough to handle the cold by using row covers.