Planting a Winter Vegetable Garden

Gardening can be done in the winter in almost any climate, even in colder states, as long as gardeners are willing to take the time to protect plants from the harsh weather. While people in colder areas can garden throughout the entire winter season, it is easier for people in warmer states that don't experience such severe shifts in weather. There can be many reasons to plant a winter garden, among them the fact that certain crops such as spinach and broccoli, grow better in the cool season. For people that live in warmer states, winter gardening tends to also involve less work. In the fall and winter, there are fewer diseases and insects that can attack plants and weeds do not grow as quickly.

How to Prepare a Winter Garden

A winter garden should be prepared by first turning the soil, and then removing any weeds. The area should then be supplemented with compost. In areas that experience cool, damp weather in the winter, it may be a better idea to plant the garden in raised beds as cool rain can cause plants to rot. Once you have decided on where to plant your garden, and whether to use raised beds, you can begin choosing crops. Winter is considered cool season crop time and things such as greens, root crops, legumes, and brassicas tend to grow and flourish. When choosing which crops to plant and when, it is important to take your specific location into consideration. You can also find crop varieties that are adapted to certain regions and are also adapted for winter gardening.

Greens

  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Mustard
  • Kale
  • Arugula

Lettuce

Root Crops

  • Beets
  • Radishes
  • Onions
  • Carrots

Legumes

  • Peas
  • Flava beans

Brassicas

  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage

Maintaining a Winter Garden

Many warmer areas of the country experience more rainfall during the winter season, so watering is only necessary if you don't receive regular rainfall in your area. In drier areas, plants should be mulched to help them retain moisture, and keep weeds from growing. Areas that experience higher rainfall should avoid mulching, as the cool temperatures combined with lots of rain can lead to plants rotting as well as infestations of snails and slugs, and mulching can make the issue worse.

Generally in winter, there are less pests to worry about but things such as slugs and cabbage worms can still be a problem in cool areas. Snails and slugs do not like copper so if you are gardening in an area where there may be a lot of snails or slugs, you can protect raised beds with copper flashing. Plants can also be covered with floating row covers that are tucked snugly into the soil to keep slugs and snails out. Row covers are also good for areas that experience freezing temperatures as they can protect plants from the cold while still allowing air, sunlight, and rain to get to the plants.

With winter gardens, crops should be harvested as needed. Many vegetables including carrots, cabbage, and cauliflower are picked and finished but there are other plants that will continue producing. Lots of greens such as lettuce and spinach can be cut a number of times and will regrow throughout the winter. With proper planning and regular maintenance, anyone can plant a winter garden and enjoy the fresh vegetables from their harvest.

Winter Garden Resources

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