Growing A Winter
Vegetable Garden

It’s time to start a winter vegetable garden. The summer harvest is in and the weather is cooling before winter sets in.... The sweetest carrots and kale are grown when the weather is cool.

In the cold northern regions winter vegetables are grown in the spring before summer gets started and winter is winding down.

Winter vegetables are planted in the cooler winter months in warmer regions of the country.

Growing a winter vegetable garden in the cooler northern climates needs the following to be successful;

  1. Protection during the freezing temperatures.
  2. Cool vegetable varieties.
  3. Correct planting dates for your area.

Winter Protection

With some protection you can grow a winter vegetable garden in the cold northern areas of the country. Cold frames, hoop houses and row covers offer protection for cool season crops and can even grow through the winter with no added heat.

  • Cold frames are used to start seedlings in the spring and can be used to grow winter vegetables well into the fall. A cold frame is a box covered with glass sloping to the south. They are easy to construct and can be stored away in the summer.
  • Hoop houses consist of hoops over your growing area covered with plastic. A mini green house so to speak.
  • Row covers protect growing crops from light frost. New materials give you different degrees of protection. Standard row covers protect crops down to 28 degrees F and let in 85% light.

Doubling up on your season extenders can increase crop production through the winter on hardy vegetable crops. For example covering your rows with a cold frame will bring your inside climate down 1 ½ growing zones. Putting a cold frame or row cover over your rows inside a hoop house will bring the climate under the row cover down another 1 ½ growing zone.

Winter Vegetables Varieties

Choosing the right vegetables to grow in the cool weather can prolong your harvest. Winter hardy vegetables love the cooler weather and need less hours of sun during the day. Vegetables grown in winter take double the time to mature.

During the coldest winter months the vegetables go dormant until the weather warms again. Root vegetables can be over wintered in the ground to be harvested in the early spring.

Carrots become very sweet when grown in the cold winter; most varieties are suited to winter gardening.

Collards & Mustard's are cold-hardy, leafy vegetable, and harvest from fall to spring for steamed greens and stir-fries. Collards can grow without any protection.

Lettuce varieties of Continuity, Winter Density, Cimmaron, and Rouge d’Hiver are very hardy and can be grown over winter.

Arugula has a milder flavor when grown in the winter. Arugula can be harvested all winter just like spinach.

Corn salad or Mâche, is one of the hardiest winter salad greens. Use the leaves as you would lettuce. It has a mild, nutty flavor and mixes well with stronger flavors from arugula, and other winter vegetables.

Scallion will be ready for harvest right through to the following spring.

Spinach thrives in the cold weather. All varieties can be grown as a salad crop harvesting through out the winter. Can get up to five cuttings before it bolts in the spring.

Peas direct sow all varieties in early July for a fall harvest.

Parsley will produce all winter with protection. Conventional curly variety and Forest Green do better over winter.

Cabbage Danish Ballhead, Embassy, January King, and Ermosa. Harvest in late fall for storage.

Winter Kale all varieties grow sweeter after frost and can be grown and harvested all winter.

Swiss chard

enjoy the leaves and stems until mid-winter. Flavor is better when grow in the cool seasons.

Winter Vegetable Garden Planting Dates

Start your winter vegetable garden in the late summer according to your frost dates. When the frost starts in your area, cover your rows with your chosen crop protection.

Some vegetables will be ready to eat during the winter and last till spring, such as spinach arugula Swiss chard mache and parsley. Others will over winter for an early harvest in February and March including carrots, lettuce and winter spinach.

Sow the following in July for mature winter harvest and sow again in the first two weeks of August for winter harvests:

  • Peas
  • Carrots-will over winter under protection
  • Cabbage-harvest in late fall for winter storage
  • Swiss chard

Sow these vegetables the middle of July through August for fall and winter harvest. They will grow through to spring with protection.

  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Corn Salad
  • Lettuce
  • Collards and Mustard's
  • Kale
  • Parsley

For more information on winter vegetable gardens I recommend reading Eliot Coleman's four-Season Harvest.

It is possible to enjoy fresh greens through out the winter months. Winter greens are meant to be grown in the cooler months of the year where their flavors are sweeter and mild.

Secrets to growing winter vegetables, picking varieties that thrive in the cold winter months.

Setup Indoor grow lights to start your seedlings or grow winter vegetables inside.

› Winter Vegetable Garden