Vegetable greens growing in a raised bed

Grow Vegetables in Winter

I have seen the debates about how to grow or sow vegetables in the winter. Some say it is not possible to grow anything in winter without heat, light, or some other intensive set up. Well, it is possible to grow vegetables in winter and with less intervention than you might think. Here are 14 vegetables to grow in a winter garden.

Winter vegetable garden, is it possible?

I realize that winter is a relative term. For some, winter is a time when the grass turns a little brown for a while and it is a little cooler than summer. To others, winter means being under feet of snow with temperatures down to -40F, in zone 3, like where I live. Here is what a previous winter looked like for us:

a yard with 4 feet of snow
Yes, that is about 4 feet of snow. The top electric wire is 5 feet off the ground.

We are used to shoveling and moving snow, so that is not a problem when it comes to growing winter vegetables. However, because sometimes we can get -40F, I cannot say that year round planting is possible for me without some heat intervention. It is possible, during the fall and early winter which still drastically extends the enjoyment of fresh veggies.

Do not let this discourage you. It is possible to grow vegetables in winter. By planting the right cold hardy vegetables, you can reap a harvest long after the typical summer garden has been put to rest. Year-round planting may be possible for you depending on your zone. With this technique, the right vegetables can survive down to -10F.

How to plan a winter vegetable garden

Know Your Zone to Grow a Winter Vegetable Garden

To start, you need to know what plant hardiness zone you are in. Check out the USDA plant hardiness zone map to be able to make informed decisions about what plants to grow. If you are in warmer zones, this gets much easier and may even expand your selection of vegetables to grow.

Keep in mind that I am speaking from the view point of what I described above. I am in zone 3.

Proper selection is key when cultivating veggies for winter. You want plants that can handle very cold temperatures. In fact, some are even better in cold temperatures than when picked in the summer, such as kale.

Key tips for growing a winter vegetable garden

When planning your winter vegetable garden, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

  • Start that seed that many days or more before your days have less than 10 hours of sunlight. If you aren’t sure when that is, check your sunrise and sunset times. (For me, it is technically Nov 3rd, but the end of October is easier for me to remember.) Once the daylight is less than 10 hours a day, plant growth significantly slows. To grow vegetables in winter really means, keeping winter vegetables alive while they essentially hibernate. Harvesting can be done through the winter, but without adding a grow light, not much development will occur.
  • Protect your plant young plants from frost, even light frost. Being in a northern climate, by late September this usually happens in our area. But the first frosts have been known to happen even in August or late summer.
  • The mature plants need protection from the hard frosts, freezing temperatures, harsh wind, driving snow, and other unpleasant weather of winter in January and February . The vegetables can handle cold temperatures. Nonetheless, when combined with the other harsh elements of winter, they will not do well.

A great tool and resource for gardening! It is called Seed Time. It uses your zone to help you know when each vegetable should be started, helps with garden planning, secession planting, crop rotation from year to year, seed inventory and more.Not only does it help with planning your spring/summer garden, but it also has a winter garden feature! I have Seed Time, but have yet to try out the winter garden function.

Grow vegetables in winter in a raised bed

How to grow vegetables in winter even if you have snow

Growing winter vegetables

Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of what you need from the top down to grow vegetables in the cold.

The garden needs cover. This can be in the form of row covers, cold frames, or a green house. If you live in an area with a lot of snow, I highly recommend a green house. It need not be anything fancy, but will save your sanity. After digging off the doorstep and paths to the barn, plowing the driveway, etc. the last thing I want to do is dig out my garden when I have a craving for fresh greens. A green house will also ensure your plants have what sunlight there is as they will not be covered with snow.

Regardless of what you use for the outer layer, there needs to be three layers total. The layers are what make this work.

Inside the green house, there needs to a row cover of thick plastic, however, it should let light through. This can be spread over a frame of tubing, wood, or even metal hoops. The important part is that it is up off the vegetables a foot or more.

There also needs to be an inner layer completely covering the vegetables. This is in the form of a light covering that will still let sunlight through. Put this layer no more than 12 inches above the dirt. It keeps humidity closer to the plants. Cold air can be very drying. I included an illustration below.

A raised bed works better than individual potted plants. The extra dirt serves to aid in temperature control under the inner layer. By planting in pots, the surface area exposed to cold air is greater as well as there is less dirt for the sun to warm in the day time. If you don’t have a raised bed, planting directly in the ground works too. Just do not use pots.

What are the benefits of growing vegetables in winter?

A huge benefit of growing vegetables in the cold is that there are no bugs! No pests!

In line with that, though I am not sure which on should rank first on the list, is that there are no weeds. It actually becomes a relatively low maintenance garden.

Then there is the fresh veggies to harvest. We aim to not buy vegetables from the grocery store. The harvest from the summer garden is canned or frozen to get us through until the next harvest. However, long about November or December, I get craving salad or something fresh. Going out (in the snow) to the greenhouse and cutting fresh greens or pulling fresh carrots sounds heavenly.

Although it takes forethought to get the vegetables to maturity before the days are too short, reaping a fresh harvest in the dead of winter cuts through the cold, dreariness of the short days. Instead of eating only canned veggies and frozen meat, you can enjoy fresh greens or root vegetables through the winter.

Do you have a winter garden or something to extend your growing season? Let me know your experience.

The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using…
  • Coleman, Eliot (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 264 Pages – 04/15/2009 (Publication Date) – Chelsea Green Publishing (Publisher)

Last update on 2024-05-22 at 18:34 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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