13 Best Winter Vegetables To Grow: Ultimate Guide

13 Best Winter Vegetables To Grow: Ultimate Guide

What are the best winter vegetables to grow?

 

This year, we purchased a 10 foot by 12 foot greenhouse just so we can grow more vegetables in the colder months here in Southeast Missouri.

Just because the days are getting shorter and the temperatures are dropping, it doesn’t mean that you have to set your gardening gloves aside. Winter isn’t just a time to dream wistfully of the bountiful harvests of summer – it’s also a great time to plan for the year ahead, as well as to jumpstart your garden for next year. 

There are plenty of winter vegetables to grow, particularly if you live in an area that experiences mild winters. Even if you live in an area with more severe weather, there are plenty of ways to keep your garden growing throughout the coldest months of winter. 

The 13 Best Winter Vegetables to Grow 

1. Onions

Onions are easy to plant and you won’t have to do anything all winter. In most areas, onions have a long growing season and won’t be ready for harvest until next summer anyway. Just make sure you plan carefully because they will still be in the ground when it’s time to begin planting crops in the spring. 

2. Garlic

Garlic is an easy vegetable to grow and there are plenty of varieties to choose from. Even if you experience harsh winters, garlic can survive – you will just need to mulch it heavily to protect it from the heavy freeze. Consider growing options like Chesnok Red and Wight Cristo for a variety of culinary applications. You can learn how to grow garlic here and how to store garlic here.

3. Spinach

Spinach is a cold-hardy crop that can grow throughout much of the winter months in many areas. For the best results, choose perpetual spinach varieties, which will yield you multiple cuttings throughout the season. Sow in the early autumn and you’ll have a crop well into early summer. 

4. Peas

You may not be able to grow peas if you get a heavy snowfall, but in most cases, peas are quite cold hardy. Sow rounded variants in the fall for a headstart next spring. You can also learn how to preserve peas here.

5. Asparagus

Asparagus is a perennial and takes several years to establish. It can survive even the roughest winters in colder growing zones, and fall is the best time to plant it. Choose a variety meant to be planted in the fall, like Pacific Purple. Once you get it established, asparagus will produce up to 25 spears per year – for up to 25 years. You will need to be patient, but you will get a serious return on your investment. 

6. Parsley

One of the hardiest herbs you’ll find, parsley can sometimes survive up to zone 5 in the winter. It will yield bushy greens in the spring before going to spring. Curly parsley tends to be more frost-resistant than flat-leaf parsley.

7. Carrots

Carrots can be grown outside well into the winter months in many areas. Plant them directly in beds and mulch heavily. Carrots that are hit with a frost are often sweeter, so it may actually be to your benefit to keep growing them throughout the colder months. 

8. Leeks

Leeks are inexpensive and produce a bountiful harvest. You can harvest them throughout the year and as long as you have a mild winter, you don’t have to worry about them dying. 

9. Turnips

Turnips grow great during the winter months. As long as temperatures remain just above freezing, you should be able to harvest both the roots and the tops during the winter months. 

10. Leafy Greens

Kale, along with other cold-hardy leafy greens such as chard, lettuce, and bok choy, usually do just fine in the cold temperatures of the winter. You can usually harvest them straight through the winter months (and they’re great for chickens). 

In fact, most greens perform better in the winter. In the summer, these plants often go right to seed. Just don’t forget to water and fertilize when growing greens during the winter – even though they won’t need as much water, the drying air of winter can still sometimes be a problem. 

11. Potatoes

Depending on where you live, you might be able to grow potatoes all throughout the winter months. Although it’s not the best winter vegetables to grow, the potato is still a great option if you experience minimal snowfall. Learn more about growing potatoes in containers here and curing potatoes here.

12. Radishes 

Radishes mature quickly, with some varieties ready in just a month from when you have seeded them. They also don’t need a lot of heat – too much heat damages the texture and flavor of delicate radishes – so they’re perfect candidates for winter growing. 

13. Broad Beans

A sturdier variety of green beans, broad beans can often be planted in fall gardens because they are heartier and more rugged than their narrower cousins. These plants can be grown directly in the winter garden in many areas with mild winters, or they can be grown in an unheated greenhouse. 

Tips for Growing Vegetables in the Winter Months 

Use a Hoop House or Greenhouse

Growing winter vegetables outdoors might be possible in areas that don’t experience hard freezes or heavy snowfall, but if you live in a colder climate, that might not be an option. However, if you have a greenhouse or hoop house (a greenhouse covered in plastic instead of glass, you can easily grow some plants throughout the entire season. Here are some plants to consider:

  • Salad mixes (mustard, lettuce, land cress, etc)
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Oregano
  • Thyme 
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes

You can even grow many flowers and fruits in your greenhouse, too!

If you have a greenhouse, you can choose to leave it heated or unheated. Some warm-weather plants, like tomatoes, peppers, and squash can even be grown during the winter months, too. As long as you heat the greenhouse and transfer these plants to pots, you may be able to get them well into the next growing season. 

Consider a Cold Frame 

Cold frames are a great way to extend your growing season, even if you live in a colder growing zone like 3 or 4. Essentially miniature greenhouse over your plants, cold frames can be purchased dor built inexpensively from scrap lumber and glass. 

Just be sure to vent your cold frames, as too much heat can become an enemy to plants in the winter even more quickly than too much cold can. Trapping too much hot air inside can not only dry your plants out but it can also conversely lead to fungal issues should too much moisture also get in there. 

Don’t have the time or resources to buy or build your own cold frame? Don’t worry. You can easily construct a DIY version by positioning hay bales on all sides of a planting bed and then covering the area between with old windows. 

Don’t Forget About Dormant Plants

Some plants might not actually grow during the winter months, but they won’t die back, either. They will simply remain dormant until the temperatures rise and growth can resume. Consider planting a winter vegetable garden in the late summer or early fall so that the vegetables have time to get established before they go dormant.

Mulch 

Mulching can help protect your crops from becoming too dry or frozen. It will also keep the soil warmer when temperatures plummet. Consider using mulch materials like straw or dried leaves, which will help nourish the soil as they break down, too. 

Do a Deep Clean

Even if you have a long list of winter vegetables to grow, that doesn’t mean you can neglect your normal fall planting chores. Cut away any dead foliage and make sure you throw out any diseased or damaged plants. This will prevent rot and also stop pest eggs from proliferating. 

Know Which Plants to Bring Inside

Indoor gardening is a great option for many gardeners who can’t keep things going during the winter months, either due to extreme temperatures and precipitation or because they simply don’t want to garden outside during the winter. 

Many plants can be grown inside in containers. Cold-sensitive plants like tomatoes and peppers are great candidates for this, as are many herbs. 

Protect from Frost and Wind

You can’t control when a frost might strike, but you can take steps to protect your plants. Cover frost-sensitive varieties up with blankets, sheets, or row covers that are draped over stakes. This will help get them through brief cold snaps at the very least. You can also consider heating your greenhouse.

Select Ideal Varieties

Try a variety of crops to see what works best for you, keeping your growing zone and gardening preference in mind. You might also want to experiment a bit with timing to see what planting schedule and rhythms work. Put in new crops whenever you see an empty space and save seeds when you find varieties that perform exceptionally well in your area. 

Why You Should Consider the Best Winter Vegetables to Grow

Winter gardening is a great way to keep the garden going all year long. Not only will it help satisfy your green thumb urges during the colder months of the year, but it will also provide you with plenty of healthy vegetables at a time when they are normally scarce on your dinner plate. 

Plus, growing vegetables in the winter is surprisingly easy. They will naturally grow a bit slower, but you’ll have fewer weeds to contend with. You may not even need to water much between mid-November and mid-February! 

You can start with this list of best vegetables to grow in winter. Try lots of crops to see what works best for you – perhaps start with just one this year and add more varieties as you gain experience. Stay warm!

3 Square Foot Gardening Layouts That Are Genius Time Savers

3 Square Foot Gardening Layouts That Are Genius Time Savers

Longing for the days when people used to grow their own vegetables through traditional sweat and dirt…..but don’t have the time? Well, it’s time to get off your butt. Consider this your call to action: a beginner’s guide to square foot gardening layouts.

 

(This article is an excerpt from my best selling gardening book, Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide to Backyard Gardening. You can get the entire book including more layouts on Amazon or directly from me, which will save you 10% and includes shipping.

Click here to get it from me and save 20% plus get free shipping

Click here to get it on Amazon)

 

Say hello to a newer and easier type of gardening.

 

In case you’ve never heard about or aren’t sure what square foot gardening is, this technique (some say it’s a way of life) lets you harvest more veggies in a smaller space while decreasing your workload.

 

If you’ve never tried it, then you’ll want to print out this article and grab my book above, which is a step-by-step guide to implementing these layouts.

 

The square foot gardening layouts I’ll show you make adopting this style of growing really easy.

 

So easy, you’ll write me love letters (well….maybe a like letter. I’m married….and don’t want the drama from receiving random love letters. Although an argument might spice up a Friday night here in the country where nothing ever happens.)

 

The bottom line is that cultivating plants in square foot boxes optimizes the use of your garden space and minimizes your effort while maximizing production – pretty nifty stuff.

 

square foot gardening plant spacing

 Here's 3 genius square foot gardening layouts that are perfect for raised beds. Square foot gardening for beginners just got easier!

Planning your square foot gardening layouts

Like any other growing technique out there, success with square foot gardening layouts requires a bit of planning so you can get a great harvest.

 

You can grow what you like – but you’ll do better making sure all your plants “play” well together. Layouts like the ones in this article will make it super easy for you.

 

A square foot gardening planting guide (like my companion planting guide you can download right here) also will help you be successful with any layouts you design yourself, especially since not all vegetable plants play well together.

 

square foot gardening plant spacing

Three square foot gardening layout guides you can use this spring

Three square foot gardening layouts I personally love are a salsa garden, a greens garden, and an all-tomato garden. Because who doesn’t love tomatoes?

 

(Well, I know a few people….but they’re not friends. Friends don’t let friends be friends with people who don’t like tomatoes. ← Gardening haiku)

 

These are three square foot gardening layouts I use every year (and I start them indoors in my warm greenhouse), and some of my tried-and-true hacks you can use to have a great harvest!

 

square foot gardening plant spacing

Salsa Garden

This one is probably my favorite square foot gardening layouts because….well….salsa.

 

Salsa garden layouts can be fancy or simple. This one includes just a few veggies and herbs: tomatoes, scallions, peppers, and herbs such as parsley, oregano, basil, and cilantro.

 

Here's 3 genius square foot gardening layouts that are perfect for raised beds. Square foot gardening for beginners just got easier!

 

(Salsa generally includes onions, but they take up a LOT of room and have a long growing season – your better layouts include more tomatoes or herbs. You can buy your onions or plant them elsewhere on your yard.)

 

How you arrange the plants in your raised bed will depend on certain factors such as growing size.

 

For example. tomato plants need an entire square, and it’s best to plant them one or two feet away from each other.

 

You CAN plant herbs near tomatoes, however, and they’re supposed to improve the flavor of the our red fruity friends.

 

A pepper plant needs as much nutrients and sunlight as a tomato plant, but consumes less space. You can place pepper plants 12 inches away from another.

 

For the most part, these vegetables and herbs mature at the same time, particularly if you grow indeterminate tomatoes. If your herbs start flowering, pinch them off to extend their life.

 

square foot gardening plant spacing

Greens Garden

If you are a fan of fresh salads (or have a lot of rabbits), a square foot gardening planting guide for a greens garden is gonna be your jam.

 

Like the other square foot gardening layouts in this article, you need to be conscious of the space between each plant, but you’re totally free to grow any type of greens your healthy heart desires.

 

Here's 3 genius square foot gardening layouts that are perfect for raised beds. Square foot gardening for beginners just got easier!

 

Some of my favorite layouts include spicy mustard greens, kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, and arugula (I grow the arugula for my rabbits though – personally, I can’t stand the stuff).

 

Mustard greens and kale must be planted three inches away from each other. Spinach, on the other hand, should have at least 14-inch spacing. Green lettuce and arugula need 4 inches.

 

square foot gardening plant spacing

All Tomato Garden

Now, I know when you think about vegetable gardens, you’re dreaming of tomatoes. Since tomatoes are my specialty, I love using all tomato square foot gardening layouts.

 

This plan will show you how to grow an near-unlimited supply of tender tomatoes in the summer (as long as you grow indeterminate varieties).

 

An all-tomato layout can have as many varieties of tomatoes as you would like to plant – try some heirloom varieties for fuller flavor.

 

You can get husky red cherry tomatoes or golden jubilees to name a few. Although different, they still have the same needs, like an adequate amount of sunlight and enough space between each other.

 

The bottom line, regardless of the types of vegetables you grow, is that planning your square foot garden is the key to a healthy harvest.

 

Factors such as distance, amount of sunlight, moisture, nutrient amount, and maturity length must also be considered when planning your layout.

 

If you want very detailed gardening advice, then get Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening, and refer to it as you plan out your own garden.

 

Do have favorite square foot gardening layouts? Send them to me, and I might feature them in an upcoming article!

 

square foot gardening plant spacing

Want Gourmet Ingredients Right At Your Fingertips? Grow These 10 Easy But Oh-So-Delicious Herbs!

Want Gourmet Ingredients Right At Your Fingertips? Grow These 10 Easy But Oh-So-Delicious Herbs!

Have you ever moved to a new home and realized you didn’t quite know what you were getting into?

 

That’s what happened when we moved to our farm. We were very used to easy sources for herbs, creme fraiche, and other yummy ingredients.

 

(Want more great down-home gardening advice? Grab your copy of my new book Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening available now on Amazon!)

 

Buuuuttt…good luck finding them in a 50 mile radius in this rural town.

 

In fact, part of the reason we started our homestead was so we could have access to fresh, organic ingredients that otherwise we would have zero access to (or at least ingredients that hadn’t been sprayed with a ton of Round-up or shipped from questionable sources overseas) – herbs included.

 

If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, or just want to bring the garden indoors, here’s 10 easy, versatile, and gourmet herbs we’ve had success with!

 

You can grow them in your own kitchen, and they’ll have your friends convinced you’re either a green-thumb savant and/or Gordon Ramsay himself.

 

Enjoy!

 

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

You can grow basil as an annual herb. For classic and aromatic flavor; you can try Genovese Basil. Grow Lemon Basil for a citrus flavor and Spicy Globe if you’ll like a Basil herb that grows compactly (8 to 10 inches tall). Spicy Globe basil looks great in pots. Plant in at least a 6-inch pot, keep watered, and fertilize with compost once a month. Ready to harvest when the plant is 6-inches tall, well established, and consistently growing leaves. Easy pesto anyone?

 

Bay (Laurus nobilis)

Although this initially grows very slowly, with enough patience, it will eventually form a bush or small tree which you can easily train into a wide array of shapes, or even a topiary. To make it easy start, you can purchase a young, organic, 1- to 2-foot plant and begin nurturing it. Perfect for soups and stews.

 

Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium)

Also known as French parsley, this annual herb shares a striking similarity to delicate overtones of anise in terms of appearance and taste. Water regularly, and feed compost every other month. To harvest Chervil, all you need to do is snip the outer leaves and stems.

 

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

This is a grass-like herb with a mild onion flavor. Perfect on baked potatoes, or whenever you need a delicate, fresh, onion flavor. When harvesting, it is highly important to cut small bunches of leaves back into the soil level in order to keep new ones growing constantly.

 

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)

Plant in a deep pot because Cilantro has a long taproot, and needs room to grow. It’s best to plant is where you intend to keep it because it doesn’t do well with transplanting. Keep in a sunny area since it loves warmth, and water regularly.

 

Dill (Anethum graveolens)

Dill is an aromatic annual herb which is best known for its leaves when it is grown indoors. You can also grow it for its seeds – if you’re able to stop yourself from eating it! Add to soups and curries, or with fish. Fernleaf dill is a compact herb which is perfect for indoor growth.

 

Marjoram (Origanum spp.)

This herb originates from the Mediterranean and it is a member of the oregano family. However it stands out from other members of its botanical family in terms of flavor, which is distinctly sweeter and more delicate. Sweet marjoram can be grown in pots on a sunny kitchen window sill. Plant in a 6-inch pot, and water regularly.

 

Mints (Mentha spp.)

Peppermint and spearmint are both awesome choices for your kitchen. You can harvest it for tea or as flavoring in a salad. It’s hardy and easy to grow as long as it gets water regularly (if the soil is dry below the surface, it’s time to water.) If growing outdoors, you should ensure to put mint in its own personal container as it can easily outgrow and choke other herbs. When the plant is young but established, snip off new growth to encourage the plant to spread and develop more stems.

 

Oregano (Origanum vulgare ssp. hirtum)

There’s a few different types of oregano. For one that packs a lot of flavor, Greek oregano can grow up to about 12 inches in pots (plant in a 6 to 8-inch pot for best results). Ensure to harvest oregano leaves regularly in order to encourage the growth of new ones.

 

 

Parsley (Petroselinum spp.)

Both Italian flat-leaf and curly-leaf parsley grow effectively when put indoors. When harvesting, ensure that you cut off the outer leaves. Doing this will spur the growth of new leaves from its center and will keep it productive for a long period of time, possibly several months.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Do you have a favorite herb to grow in your kitchen? Leave a comment below!

Essential Oil Coop Sprays for Healthier Backyard Chickens [Podcast]

Essential Oil Coop Sprays for Healthier Backyard Chickens [Podcast]

Using store-bought chemical cleaners in your coop is a recipe for disaster.

 

On our homestead, we try to stick with all-natural cleaners – who wants an egg full of toxins, right?

 

I’ve found that essential oils are a great natural alternative that promote a healthier living environment and might even help your chickens lay better!

 

(A lot of you ask which oils I personally use in my coop. Here’s everything you need to know!)

 

In this episode, you’ll learn about essential oils you can use to make 5 different sprays to help your chickens live healthier lives.

 

You’ll also learn the dos and don’ts of essential oils, how they are a cost-effective alternative to store-bought cleaners, and how to buy them wholesale. 

 

You’ll learn:

  • The 5 ways essential oils can help you create a healthy coop for your hens
  • How to make your own coop sprays with oils
  • Why I don’t currently recommend using oils for medicinal purposes on your flock (and what to do instead)

 

Links we discuss:

Manna Pro

Where to buy Poultry Protector

The essential oils I use

 

(Ready to grab some essential oils so you can get bugs out of your life for good? Here’s everything you need to know!)