Homegrown: Winter Gardening
Just because Summer is going, and the days are getting colder, it doesn’t mean you have to give up delicious homegrown herbs and vegetables. And it’s not too late to start a fall and winter garden either, although you gotta hurry because that frost is coming (at least for you Notherners).
Here’s a handy little chart to guide you through your winter gardening. Now, each plant is unique and requires its own conditions, so this is just a general guideline.
What Can I Plant?
There are tons of plants that do great in the winter. These include beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chards, garlic, greens, kale, lettuce, onions, peas, pumpkin, radishes, squashes, turnips, and more. A lot of these, particularly the greens, chards, and broccoli, can bolt and produce small or bitter fruit and leaves in the hotter summer months. Planting in winter gives them a more suitable climate for delicious produce. Of course, don’t forget the herbs!
While this will vary greatly depending on the plant, most fruits and vegetables will typically have a 2 month harvest time. Some greens however can be harvested as quickly as 1 month and some plants like broccolli could take upwards of 3 months. That being said, colder temperatures can slow this time down as well.
The Takeaway: You should technically plant your garden so that the harvest date happens before the first frost. But if you keep your plants protected with bed liners, domes for the plants, or by planting in a greenhouse, you can bend or break this rule.
Winter Garden Requirements
In fact, so long as you keep your plants protected (or hidden) from that frosty weather, you can grow many vegetables right through the freezing weather. Some plants even welcome freezing weather with open arms. That being said, if you’re up north where freezing weather is common and frequent, I suggest planting in a greenhouse, or in raised beds with protective tarps or tents for the plants. Those of us in the south, and in areas where frost is uncommon, have it a bit easier and can get away with just planting our winter vegetable garden in raised beds.
You should fertilize your winter garden just like you would your sumer garden. I typically amend my garden bed with a good helping of slow release fertilizer before planting, then I will use a water soluble fertilizer every couple of weeks to ensure steady growth and fruit production. Always read the instructions on the fertilizer though as over fertilizing can be just as bad, if not worse, than under fertilizing.
Again, plants will need just as much water in winter as they do in summer. The only trick here is to remember that many areas get more rain in the fall and winter months, so it isn’t necessary to water as much as you would in the summer months.
The Takeaway: A good soaking once a week should suffice. You want to water enough to soak the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches. Only water again when the top couple inches are dry.
Like nutrients and water, wintertime plants need just as much sunlight as summertime plants. How much is that? A lot! It’s best to give your vegetables and fruits at least 6 hours of sun a day. More morning sun in the summertime can be beneficial because here it is less harsh. However, in the winter, the sun is much lower in the sky, and afternoon sun is less damaging and intense, so this is not as much of a factor int he winter.
Here’s the big one that sets winter planting apart from summer planting. A lot of fruits and vegetables do not like freezing temperatures, and often times, frequent and heavy frosts can damage and kill plants. Not all plants are as affected by the cold though. While it varies from one plant to another (so check up on each specific vegetable), it’s safe to assume most winter plants can handle a light occasional frost. If you get a lot of cold weather though, it’s better not to risk it; move those plants into a green house or protect your bed.
Do you have a winter garden? What do you grow? Do you have some tips and tricks for wintertime gardening? Share them in the comments below!