If you live in the Northern Hemisphere you may find that your garden season is far shorter than that of other regions, take heart, even if you are in a cooler area or the far north, you can still grow plenty of great vegetables in your garden by taking a cue from what grows in cold winter weather.
To start with, winter vegetables prefer temperatures that are, on average, 15 degrees cooler than other vegetables. Once you understand this, you’ll be able to have a gorgeous garden by simply choosing the right vegetables to plant for your cooler temperatures.
To make it even better, a lot of your cooler season vegetables don’t mind a good frost now and again. In fact, a few of them even thrive on that frost. Here are some of the vegetables that you can plant before the last frost of the season (or if you’re in an area that sometimes gives you an unexpected frost in the middle of the growing season).
Start by planting these in the early spring. It’s okay if the last frost hasn’t yet happened as long as you have the plants or seeds in the soil.
Beets are an ideal choice. Since they grow underground the frost rarely affects them. The soil helps to keep them plenty warm as the last few frosts of the season are generally closer to the top of the soil area.
Brussels sprouts are often chosen for their unique appearance. You’ll appreciate them more during the holidays.
Cabbage is an ideal cool weather or winter vegetable to plant.
Carrots will germinate and grow quickly when you plant them in the early spring.
Cauliflower and broccoli both like a bit cooler temperatures and will thrive if you plant them early.
Celery is one of those fun to grow vegetables that if you cut it rather than pull up the entire plant, it will come back time and again lending you a great resource for your celery for an entire year.
Chard, these leafy greens are ideal in a salad or fried up with some bits of onion and bacon.
Collards are considered a delicacy to many and you can fry them up just as you do chard.
Coriander (cilantro), for many, no Mexican dish is complete without the addition of this delectable herb.
Fennel is famous for it’s similarity to licorice in flavor. Ideal fried or tossed into a salad.
Kale offers up plenty of options in fried kale, kale chips and as an addition to a salad.
Kohlrabi is very similar to cabbage and you can eat it raw as well as cooked.
Lettuce isn’t too picky about the weather as long as it gets some sun to germinate and some cooler weather.
Mizuna, and Mustard greens are both great in salads.
Onions when they are bulbs are ideal chopped in salads and fried up in other dishes.
Onions used as green onions are ideal in salads and other dishes.
Pak choi (Bok choy) is a wonderful addition to Asian foods and as a stand in for lettuce in a salad.
Potatoes are perhaps the most versatile of all of the cold weather vegetables on our list.
Radishes can be planted throughout the season and harvested when they are ready. Many plant them every few weeks all season long and enjoy them long into the winter months.
Snow peas are another ideal addition to the winter garden as are other peas that thrive in the cooler temperatures. This is another plant that you can plant every few weeks so that you can enjoy the tasty treats throughout the entire season.
Spinach is much like lettuce and doesn’t mind cooler weather either.
Once the weather starts to get warmer, your winter vegetable plants are going to stop growing. Pick them at their peak for top performance. You’ll appreciate the difference in flavor and texture if you pick them before the heat comes on.
When the weather cools back down in the fall you can replant them and continue to enjoy their bounty in your garden.
When the spring plants begin to die off, you can replace them with the cooler winter vegetables and look forward to many more weeks of delicious vegetables on your dinner table. Typically they will stop producing when the frosts become more aggressive.
Maintaining Your Winter Garden
Your plants will thrive if you choose a rich organic fertilizer and give them some of this once or twice. Start by preparing the soil a week or so ahead of time and then a few weeks after planting. Apply only near the plant base for best results.
Keep in mind that the more you harvest your fall crops, the more they are going to produce. Many varieties will produce a second, smaller portion of the vegetable after you pick the first one.
Good examples of this are cabbage, celery, romaine lettuce, and broccoli. Keep in mind that the second cutting will not be a large as the first and often it will be an offshoot from the plant.
You can further extend your winter growing season if you use a low lying frame and cover it with a heavy duty plastic to keep the heat in your garden area. Many a gardener has used this technique to extend the winter garden season into the holidays.
(Images c/o krgjumper, Kurt Bauschardt, looseends, rosipaw, Valerie Lam, David Fisher, naturalflow, arbyreed, Alice Henneman, Lynn Hare, Emily G. Round, htomren, U.S. Department of Agriculture, theilr, Melinda Stuart, United Soybean Board, mikamika.)