Growing a Winter Garden

Winter has arrived! Depending on where you live, snow more than likely blankets the ground and each time you venture outdoors you’re met with chilly temperatures. But did you know it is possible to garden during the winter months? Sure, there are a few more challenges but it is achievable. Many greens and some other vegetables actually prefer cooler weather to grow.

Winter Garden Greens:
Cauliflower
Kale
Broccoli
Turnips
Cabbage
Brussels sprouts
Collards
Bok cho

Underground Vegetables:
Carrots
Beets
Radishes
Turnips
Onions
Parsnips
Leeks
Potatoes

The Key to Winter Gardening

To achieve the best results with your winter garden you want 90-percent grown by the first frost. Then it can go into cold storage, and you can harvest it as needed throughout the winter. To figure out when to plant or transplant, grab your calendar, start with that type’s maturity date and add 10 days to allow for the shorter fall days. Next, count back from the date of the first expected frost. Whatever date you land on, that is the day your plants should be planted in the garden. 

Pro Tip: When the first frosts come, protect your garden with a thin sheet or row cover.

Adjust for the Temperatures

Depending on the winter weather, temperatures can be brutal from December to March. As the temperatures get colder and winter becomes harsher, you will want to modify your garden to protect it from the cold. 

#1 – Replace light-colored mulch with dark-colored mulch. This will help trap more heat inside the soil.

#2 – Use heat-absorbing compost.

#3 – On nights where the temperature falls into the twenties or below, place plastic on top of your garden and then add an old comforter on top to protect your harvest from the winter elements. But remember to factor in humidity, depending on where you live – humidity could be helpful.

As soon as the morning sun rises, be sure to pull off those blankets and let your garden breathe.

Next Steps…

While it may be too late to grow all the greens and underground vegetables this winter, keep these tips in mind for next year. The process and planning truly begins in the summer and fall. 

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SOURCES: Miller, Elizabeth; Miller, Crow.Countryside and Small Stock Journal; The Art of Winter Gardening. Waterloo Vol. 83, Iss. 2, (Mar/Apr 1999): 59.