What to Grow in Your Winter Garden
Winter can be more than dormancy and mid-term elections. There are plenty of crops that can be grown throughout the winter and they include some of the most nutrient dense ones; kale, bok choi and spinach. If you live in a climate with mild winters your winter garden can be overflowing with:
- Cover Crops
I garden in Los Angeles where we always have something growing, it doesn’t snow and when we see frost we get scared and stay inside. Most of my tips here are for those who garden in warmer parts of the country but the vegetables I describe are all tolerant of cool temperatures. If you live somewhere with harsh winters plant these vegetables in late summer before the cold sets in.
This is one of the most agriculturally important plant genera. It includes kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, arugula, bok choy, mustard and many more. Below are some of my favorite brassica varieties to try:
- Red Russian Kale
- Siberian Kale
- Brunswick Cabbage
- Red Express Cabbage
- Romanesco Broccoli
- Purple of Sicily Cauliflower
- Georgia Southern Collards
This category includes lettuce, swiss chard, spinach and many lesser known greens like endive. Frosty nights actually help draw out the sugars in these plants and improves the taste. Hot days, however, cause them to bolt. Bolting is when a vegetable plant produces flowers. To do this, the plant draws energy and sugars from its leaves to put into flower and seed production. This, in turn, will turn the leaves bitter. Cutting off the flowers (like with basil) will not prevent this bittering.
Below are some varieties of greens I recommend.
Root vegetables do not transplant well so direct sow them. Most root vegetables will not germinate below 40°F so make sure to get them in the ground before nights get too cold. Try these varieties:
- Nantes Carrot
- Purple Dragon Carrot
- Touchtone Gold Beets
- Chioggia Guardsmark Beets
- Easter Egg Radish
- Cherry Belle Radish
- Purple Top White Globe Turnip
This genus includes garlic, onions, leeks, shallots, scallions and chives. I am a garlic lover and love trying out new varieties each year, it is like tasting rare wines. Garlic is best planted from individual cloves in October or November. For onions, if you live in the north look for long-day varieties, southern gardeners should stick to short-day varieties.
Parsley, dill and cilantro are my winter herbs. But, it is a great time to plant perennial herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage. After planting, give my Winter Herb cocktail a try.
Winter is a great time to grow cover crops. These plants, also known as green manures, return nutrients to your soil, prevent soil erosion, retain water, provide nectar for pollinators and suppress weeds. For more details on how to choose and grow cover crops take a look at my post:
This year I am experimenting with combing winter crops by growing a crop of white clover underneath my kale plants. The white clover fixes nitrogen in the soil as well as works as a living mulch. At the same time, it provides forage for bees and I can snack on it too. Click on the below link to purchase white clover seed.
Winter gardening is slower paced than other times of the year. Crops grow slow and deliberate. Pack them in tight and get lots of fresh vegetables. Take a cue from nature and work slow and methodical. With good planning, you can have a productive garden year-round.