During the summer, vegetable gardens produce abundant fruit and vegetables that can be harvested, preserved, and consumed. But what happens in the fall and winter? Is there a way to continue planting and harvesting crops, or should you let your garden rest? Thankfully for you, we know the best crops for winter and fall!
While many crops won’t grow in the coldest parts of winter (melons, tomatoes, squash, and peppers, for instance), many veggies can! The biggest worry you should have is about sunlight. If there’s not enough light, your plants won’t grow!
The second concern you might have revolves around temperature. Luckily, the use of greenhouses, cold frames, cloches, and row covers can help you control temperature. A helpful guideline to keep in mind is that your plants will need protection if your winter temperatures regularly fall below 25 F (- 4 C).
Want to learn more about winter gardening? Then we have a bunch of resources that are perfect for you!
How Does Winter Gardening Work?
Plant Crops in Late Summer and Fall
The easiest way to start winter gardening is planing a cold-friendly crop at the end of the growing season. These late-planted crops should mature before the harshest winter weather arrives. They store well in the garden, allowing you to pick them after the rest of your crops have peaked. In addition, they will continue to be in good shape for eating during the winter. Winter lettuces, Asian greens, parsley, peas, kale, and spinach are a few examples of plants that grow well in winter.
Planting Short Season Crops
Another method to grow plants over the winter is to plant a quick-growing crop. These crops typically take much less time to mature and be ready for harvest. This includes radishes, tendril peas, lettuces, turnips, arugula, and mustard greens. Typically they mature within three to six weeks.
Leveraging Gardening Tools For Winter Gardening
The third thing I recommend is using winter gardening tools if they’re available. These tools include a greenhouse, cloche, or row cover extending the growing season. Many of the previously mentioned plants will grow quicker if grown in something like a greenhouse.
Interested in winter gardening tools? I recommend this sturdy, portable greenhouse that can be used outdoors and indoors.
Plant Slow Growing Crops Later In The Season
This is my final recommendation for growing crops during the winter. Typically, these crops go dormant when the days become shorter and the temperature drops. Then, they begin to grow, adding to the growth they put on in the fall as the days start to get longer. Typically, overwintered crops are available for harvesting fairly early in the spring. They usually don’t require winter protection. Some examples include varieties of broccoli, onions, cauliflower, and garlic.
Given the range of alternatives, it’s better to tackle the winter gardening season using several tactics. Vegetables that mature rapidly hold well in garden beds and overwinter so they can start growing again when the days become longer should all be planted.
What Type Of Crops Can You Grow?
Here are the best vegetables to cultivate in winter:
Six to eight weeks before the first anticipated frost, plant beets. Harvest the young leaves as baby greens or allow the roots to grow into tasty, vitamin-rich foods. Beets can typically remain in the ground throughout the winter if mulched when extremely cold weather arrives.
These organic beet seeds are great for the winter growing season!
Carrots can be harvested in the winter by planting them in late July or early August and letting them grow until they are big enough to consume. Keep them in the garden throughout the fall and winter, gradually harvesting them to extend their shelf life. After the temperatures drop, carrots typically won’t grow much bigger. Still, they will hold well in the soil for several months. One of the nicest Christmas delights is a freshly harvested carrot.
These carrot seeds are recommended in the father’s almanac, they’re a great choice!
Garlic is one of the simplest crops to raise. It is often planted in the middle to late fall and harvested in the middle of the summer. Add compost generously when planting, and add mulch for weed and weather protection. Garlic is a great crop because you’ll never need to buy another seed after harvesting the crop!
Broad beans are a tasty, slow-growing crop that will continue to develop throughout the winter. When the pods fatten in the early spring, harvest them. Broad beans are delicious and one of the lesser-known winter crops.
Peas can be sown outside until mid-August for a harvest in the fall. In warmer climates, peas will also survive to overwinter and start growing again in the spring with some protection. The parsley pea is a favorite; it is grown for the green tendrils that may be added to salads. Grow this pea variety to harvest it before the first frost or protect it so you can pick it throughout winter.
Sugarsnap peas are a great choice for winter. These seeds grow some delicious and hearty crops!
One of the easiest vegetables to grow is kale. The colder months make its flavor more delicious. Plant generously in early to mid-August in slightly alkaline soil for a harvest in the winter. Kale will typically resist freezing weather, but cover the leaves from heavy snowfall if you want to avoid broken leaves.
You may harvest this bitter garden crop from summer to spring because there are so many different types to select from. If necessary in your location, sow overwintering cultivars in July and August (or even later in warmer places) and use a floating row cover to defend against winter pests. Add some finished compost around the plants if you sense a slowdown in growth, and then water the area well.
Onions are another crop that will survive the winter successfully if you choose overwintering cultivars. Their growth will be reactivated by lengthening days in the late winter, preparing them for a late spring harvest. By the end of August, sow seedlings in your garden. If it gets too cold, cover them with floating row covers or straw mulch (- 23 C).
Remember that you can pretty much grow any crop under cover. This can be in various places, but I recommend using a greenhouse.
Winter Gardening Tips
Grow Crops In Raised Beds
In some regions of the continent, rainy weather can be equally as detrimental to plant growth as freezing weather. Raised beds ensure the best possible drainage by elevating your garden soil above the damp ground. In the spring, they also warm up more quickly.
Interested in setting up a raised bed? We’ve got everything you need to set you up for success.
Plant Seeds In Trays
Winter gardening frequently necessitates careful timing to maximize your planting window in the northern states or Canada. Your seedlings may benefit from a seasoned head start by starting their seeds in trays. Transplanting a healthy seedling into the ground when a bed in your garden becomes vacant allows you to skip a few weeks of growing time.
Use Cover Crops For Unused Beds
In addition to re-establishing soil nutrients, cover crops also manage weeds, erosion, and compaction. Consider planting a cover crop after harvesting a bed rather than leaving the soil naked until spring.
Protect Crops Against Wind, Rain, and Snow
Snow and frost have already been mentioned, but the wind is another wintertime threat to plants. Your plants can benefit from additional protection by planting in sheltered areas, utilizing polytunnels or row coverings for wind, or creating windbreaks.
Even if the days are shorter and colder, gardening is still possible during the winter and is ideal for many hardy plants. Start planting after consulting your neighborhood seed companies for kinds that would grow well there!
Want to read more about gardening? I recommend you check out our library full of resources!