When it comes to vegetables, fresh is best. Most of us have an outdoor space that can be utilized for growing herbs and vegetables at home. However, many of us will have to deal with long winters and frigid temperatures that can make year-round growing a challenge. If you want to be able to harvest your produce well into the winter months, you’ll need to plant crops that can withstand colder conditions.
When to Start Planting Crops for a Winter Harvest
Although many vegetable crops can thrive during the winter months, you must know exactly the right time to plan them. Generally speaking, most winter vegetables should be planted during the height of summer. However, other vegetables can be planed as late as autumn.
If you’re fairly new to gardening and home growing, you’ll need to investigate every crop you’re looking to plant carefully. Every gardener should think about investing in a seed catalog. These in-depth guides will provide you with a comprehensive insight into the best crops to grow during the winters. You’ll also find useful information on cold tolerance. If you’re eager to enjoy your leafy greens well into winter, you’ll want to be growing varieties that can cope with plummeting temperatures.
Growing Winter Vegetables Outdoors
If you want to enjoy the largest and most flavourful produce, it makes sense to grow your vegetables outdoors. More delicate crops will require you to invest in cold frames and other protective structures, although some varieties can thrive without much intervention.
Leafy greens boast some impressive health benefits, so it makes sense to have a ready supply growing in your garden. Cabbage is one of the hardiest leafy greens around, with many delicious varieties available. Most varieties will need to be planted by the end of summer, although the most robust overwintering varieties can be planted later in the year. If you are growing cabbage through the winter months, keep an eye on the growth rate. If your crops aren’t progressing, you may need to replenish your vegetable patch with fresh compost.
If you’re looking for nutritious produce to add to your favorite green smoothie recipes, kale is another crop that can cope well with wintery conditions. If you want to harvest crops during the winter, make sure you’re planting your kale by the end of August. Kale is particularly resilient and able to cope with freezing. However, you’ll need to ensure your kale crop is planted in alkaline soil for optimum growth.
Root vegetables are the perfect addition to hearty roasts and winter stews. They’re also incredibly easy to grow and do well in colder temperatures. Beets are one of the most maintenance-free crops around and can be planted very late in the year. Just make sure they’re in the ground a month or two before the first frosts start settling in. Beets will yield consumable crops very quickly. You can harvest them as immature greens very early on, or leave them to grow in size and take on flavor for a later harvest.
Carrots are another vegetable that does well in winter weather. Provided you’ve planted them by late August, they’ll continue to provide you with a ready supply of fresh produce well into the winter. Just bear in mind that once the colder weather hits, the growth rate of carrots will taper out.
Garlic and Onions
These versatile vegetables are staples of many recipes, so it makes sense to grow these crops at home. Garlic is fairly easy to grow and copes well with winter temperatures. You’ll need to ensure your garlic is planted by the end of the autumn months if you want to be able to harvest it the following summer. If you want to grow garlic outside through the winter, make sure you’ve bedded your plants in with plenty of mulch and compost.
Onions can also be left largely unattended throughout the winter, although you’ll need to ensure you’ve selected a hardy variety. Ideally, you should grow seedlings in a greenhouse or covered environment, before transplanting these to your garden by the end of summer. They grow particularly well throughout the winter months, with considerable growth occurring in December and January.
Covered Crops You Can Grow in Winter
A greenhouse is worthwhile for anyone looking to savor fresh produce throughout the year. However, inexpensive covers can also provide your more delicate crops with protection during cold snaps. Below, we explore some crops that will do well outdoors until the first frosts set in. At which point, you’ll need to bring them undercover to keep growing until harvesting.
Fresh salads aren’t just for summer. If you have a greenhouse, you can grow delicious lettuce at home. When choosing seeds, always opt for winter lettuce varieties and plant them in summer to encourage seedling growth. When the cold weather rolls in, cover your infant crops with fabric or transplant them to a greenhouse.
Unlike many other leafy crops, spinach thrives in colder weather. This nutritious vegetable also does well in low-light conditions, making it the perfect fit for winter growing. Because it’s not adverse to lower temperatures, you can continue sowing seed well into autumn. It can also be left uncovered until frosty weather begins to settle in.
Herbs and Garnishes
Fresh herbs can be expensive when bought from the store, but your crop can yield mouth-watering garnishes throughout the year. Parsley is a good choice for those looking for something that will endure wintry weather. Make sure you sow your parsley seed by the end of summer if you want to harvest leaves during the winter. The deep root system of the parsley plant makes it especially resilient to the cold, although you’ll want to keep your plants covered to extend your harvesting season.
Start Planting for a Winter Harvest
Although many of us in the Northern Hemisphere writes of winter harvests because of frigid temperatures, there are many cold-hardy crops you can introduce into your garden. As long as you plant seeds at the right time, you can enjoy fresh produce well into the winter months and beyond. However, always consult a seed catalog to ensure you’re picking winter varieties that will cope well with limited light and lower temperatures. If you want to grow more delicate crops like salad leaves and garnishes, you may also want to invest in a small greenhouse or cold frame.
John Keohane is the owner of JK Services, an electrical contractor in Cork, Ireland. John and his team install solar panels and EV chargers for homeowners and businesses throughout the country. In his spare time, he enjoys growing all sorts of vegetables in his garden.