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!

What To Do In Your Garden In April [Planting Guide]

What To Do In Your Garden In April [Planting Guide]

It’s April, and that means in most USDA gardening zones, there’s lots of work to be done!

 

Want the exact organic, non-GMO heirloom seeds we use on our homestead? We love Seeds Now!

 

We’re in Zone 7, so we’ve already set out our cool weather crops, and by the first week of April, we’ll be ready to start harvesting our first veggies of the season!

 

This article is broken down by zones to make it easier for you to know exactly what you should be doing in April in your garden.

 

If you’re not sure what zone you live in, you can check that here.

 

Here’s what you can do in your garden right now!

 

Zone 3

 

Zone 4

 

Zone 5

  • When the weather is mild and soil warm enough, transplant early tomatoes outdoors, inside hoop houses
  • Sow a second planting of lettuce, radishes, and spinach outdoors.
  • Continue to grow squash, melons, tomatoes, peppers cucumbers, and corn indoors and under lights.
  • Plant fruit trees.
  • Start herbs such as basil, thyme, and mint

 

Zone 6

 

Zone 7

  • Thin greens and radishes as needed.
  • Plant fruit trees.
  • If purchasing transplants, choose compact plants that have not begun to flower.
  • Remove row covers from peas as long as the weather is mild.
  • Transplant broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower
  • Mulch around cool-season crops to retain moisture and keep roots cool as weather warms.
  • Start cucumber, cantaloupe, summer squash, and watermelon indoors and under lights.
  • Now is the time to start luffa.
  • Set out transplants of tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and sweet potatoes.
  • Set out culinary herbs
  • Prune peach trees.

 

Zone 8

 

Zone 9

  • Plant heat-loving pumpkins, squash, melons, peppers, sweet potatoes, and eggplants
  • Every 2 weeks, succession plant bush beans and corn.
  • Continue to plant cool weather crops until the end of the month
  • Transplant tomatoes and peppers.
  • Continue to plant culinary herbs

 

Zone 10

  • Harvest spinach, lettuce, and broccoli.
  • Plant heat-loving pumpkins, squash, melons, peppers, sweet potatoes, and eggplants
  • Be sure to add lots of compost to your soil if it’s sandy and lacking nutrients

 

I’d like to hear from you!

What do you think you’ll plant in April? Leave a comment below!

How to Make Corn Syrup That’s Homemade & Healthy

How to Make Corn Syrup That’s Homemade & Healthy

I never really cared about how to make corn syrup until we started looking at all the processed foods we eat and eliminating them one by one from our diet.

 

Corn syrup is definitely one of those overly-processed foods that has ingredients I can’t pronounce, so it had to go.

 

And since most corn grown in the U.S. is a GMO (genetically modified organism) crop, you can bet store-bought corn syrup is cut from the same cloth.

However, there are recipes where corn syrup is necessary, particularly if you like to make candy, so knowing how to make a light corn syrup substitute at home is a good idea.

 

You should note that because this is a homemade corn syrup, it’s not the same as what you buy in the store, so it’s really an ingredient to use in place of corn syrup.

 

But it works well, and luckily, it’s really so simple to learn how to make a corn syrup substitute, and even a kitchen klutz like me can do it.

 

And while a homemade corn syrup version is still full of sugar, it’s still much healthier than what you’ll find on the grocery aisle.

 

(Even if you use GMO corn, this recipe will work. But if you want to avoid GMOs altogether, then learning how to make corn syrup at home is critical).

And believe me when I tell you, it tastes a hell of a lot better.

 

Think salty and sweet meets “fire-grilled on a warm summer eve” corn on the cob.

 

Honestly, that description doesn’t even cover it, but believe me, try this recipe once, and you won’t go back, especially since you can knock it out in about 30 minutes and have about 1 cup of corn syrup to cook with.

 

So without further rambling, here’s how to make corn syrup with sugar and water right in your own kitchen.

 

 

How to Make Corn Syrup from Scratch

 

So, for this recipe (printable recipe at the bottom of this page), you’re going to need ingredients you likely already have on your kitchen shelf.

 

Grab:

 

1 cup sugar

4 cups boiling water to dissolve sugar

2 additional cups lukewarm water

2 cups of soft corn kernels or 3 leftover corn cobs

 

If you have extra corn left over from dinner, or corn still on the cob that your kids took two bites out of, then this is a good way to use them up.

 

I prefer using loose kernels to make corn syrup, but if you have them, the cobs do make it easier to strain.

 

Dissolve the sugar in the boiling water by stirring water into sugar.

 

If you need more boiling water, then use it. What matters is the sugar is totally dissolved.

 

Pour into non-reactive pot once all the sugar is dissolved.

 

Add remaining 2 cups of water into the pot. (Make sure the pot is large enough to accommodate everything easily; the last thing you want is sugar water boiling over and making a sticky mess.)

 

Slowly heat, stirring to make sure the sugar stays dissolved. This is particularly important as the temperature rises, because the sugar can easily crystallize. Once everything starts to boil, I stir continuously.

 

Once boiling, add the corn kernels or cobs.

 

how to make corn syrup

 

At this point keep stirring. The water will start steaming. Effectively what you’re doing is heating the sugar so it melts, and boiling off the excess water.

 

As the mixture boils, the corn will heat, imparting it’s flavor into the syrup.

 

Keep stirring as the mixture boils. Eventually, the mixture will reduce to about half it’s size. Once the corn syrup starts to look yellow and get thick, you know you’re almost there.

 

Your homemade corn syrup is ready to remove from the heat when the top starts to bubble consistently over the entire surface of the corn syrup.

 

Remove from heat and immediately pour into a mason jar lined with a strainer to catch the corn kernels. It will be slightly runny, but that’s because it’s hot.

 

Allow to cool, placing something over the mouth of the mason jar to keep out bugs and curious children (it will be very hot) but that will still allow steam out.

 

Once cool, the corn syrup should be even thicker. You can store in your fridge, and it will keep for quite a while.

 

This looks like a lot of steps, but really, learning how to make corn syrup at home is very simple once you get started.

 

Learning how to make corn syrup is just a simple matter of using ingredients you already have on hand – and it’s not really that difficult is it?


Kiss your store-bought corn syrup good bye!

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Do you have a better idea of how to make corn syrup? Do you think you’ll try this? Leave a comment below!

More Kitchen Basics Tips:


You’ve heard apple cider vinegar is healthy for both humans and chickens…but do you know how to make it? If you’ve been dying to try and want expert guidance, you’ll love this 15-minute video.


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4 Ingredient Chamomile & Black Soldier Fly Larvae “Granola”

4 Ingredient Chamomile & Black Soldier Fly Larvae “Granola”

Who doesn’t love chamomile? I do, you do, and I guarantee your chickens do!

 

And chamomile is the star of Chamomile & Black Soldier Fly Larvae “Granola.”

 

And I tell you, hens LOVE this treat! My hens love digging in and testing each bit!

 

German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) is wonderful for hens because, as you probably know, it has qualities that help hens relax.

 

And since relaxation and a sense of security is important to getting the best eggs possible out of your hens, you can imagine how important chamomile is to your herbal medicine chest!

Chamomile & Black Soldier Fly Larvae “Granola” backyard chicken treat

 

 

This treat is a great go-to recipe if your chickens are nervous (if a hawk was flying above or the neighbors dog came over for a “visit”), and you want them to come out of their hiding places, relax, and feel safe again.

 

You can find chamomile to buy in the shop right here, and it’s the exact same herbs that I used in this recipe.

 

Corn is also a big part of this treat, and my hens have a ball poking around and trying to find every last kernel!

 

You can use dried ground, chopped, or whole corn kernels. If you do use whole kernels (which chickens love, by the way), the recipe adjusts slightly.

 

 

 

Although I haven’t tried, if you add egg and water, you can probably make this into “cornmeal muffins” your hens will adore.

 

This recipe also features our old friend, dried black soldier fly larvae, which hens also love! (As if I had to remind you!)

 

If you don’t have black soldier fly larvae on hand, mealworms or any other dried insect are a great substitute. Mine go bonkers for both.

 

I’ve included kale in Chamomile & Black Soldier Fly Larvae “Granola” because kale has lots of great vitamins and minerals for chickens.

 

Plus, hens love greens! You can use either fresh or freeze dried kale. We usually go for freeze dried kale because the nutrient content is still high AND it’s shelf stable.

 

A treat like this is perfect before bedtime if it’s winter in your area or as a mid-day treat when the days aren’t too hot – so perfect for spring.

 

All you need to do is put out a bowl with the “granola” in it and let your chickens have at it.

 

I hope your hens enjoy this as much as mine do!

 

Chamomile & Black Soldier Fly Larvae “Granola” for chickens

How To Make Chamomile & Black Soldier Fly Larvae “Granola.”

 

Ingredients (per chicken):

¼ c dried, Non-GMO Corn (ground, chopped) — use ½ cup if whole corn kernels

Chamomile – 2 tbsp (Buy in my store here)

Black Soldier Fly Larvae – ¼ cup (Buy in my store here)

Kale – ¼  cup  — use freeze dried or fresh kale

 

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a chicken-safe dish. You can scatter the “granola” to make sure each hen gets a bite. Smaller flocks can eat out of the bowl together.

 

This isn’t a replacement for their regular feed, and should be part of a complete diet.

 

It’s a hit!

It’s June…Here’s 17 Vegetables You Can Still Plant For a Full Fall Harvest!

It’s June…Here’s 17 Vegetables You Can Still Plant For a Full Fall Harvest!

It maybe June (can you believe we’re halfway through the year?), but there’s still plenty you can plant for a late summer/fall harvest!

 

(This is an excerpt from my #1 Amazon Bestselling book Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening. If you want a great resource to help you grow everything listed below, grab it on Amazon right here!)

 

Believe me when I say that there’s veggies on this list I’ll be planting myself – I just cleaned out the greenhouses, spread rabbit manure to add nutrients to the soil, and I’ll be planting some beans, beets, and greens I hope to overwinter!

 

Even if you haven’t started your garden, don’t despair – there’s still plenty of time!

 

Here’s 17 plants you can still start this month!

 

Beans

Lots of varieties love the warmer weather! You can harvest some varieties in as little as 45 days. In hotter areas, stick with bush varieties to conserve water. Direct sow every two weeks for a continued harvest well into fall. Plant 10-15 plants per person in your family.

 

Beets

You can grow beets for either the roots or the greens. Direct sow in the soil now, and they’ll be ready to harvest in 45-60 days. Pickle them to preserve them!

 

Bok Choy

I love bok choy because it’s mild (aka not bitter), you can harvest it when it’s still young for a super nutritious addition to any sandwich or salad.

 

Broccoli

While you might not connect broccoli with something you should grow in June, especially in climates with a shorter growing season, you can start it now so it’s ready to harvest when the nights start to dip below 50 degrees.

 

Cabbage

If you plant cabbage now, you can harvest well into cooler weather (cabbage loves lower temperatures!) It takes a bit of time to grow big enough for harvest, so make sure it has a dedicated space you won’t need for anything else.

 

Calendula (C. officinalis)

This medicinal herb/flower can be used for so many purposes, from giving chickens golden egg yolks to creating healing salves for your family. Direct sow, and seeds will germinate in about 2 weeks.

 

Carrots

If you start your carrots now, you can still get an early fall crop – and they can hang out in the garden well into late fall.

 

Corn

Corn grows fairly quickly, but it needs full sun and lots of water. You can harvest it in as little as 70 days if you choose a fast-maturing variety. If you want to harvest enough for your whole family, plan on 12 – 15 ears per person.

 

Cucumbers

Consider bush cucumbers to save space and water. You can harvest them when they’re small for sweet pickles.

 

Eggplant

Eggplant loves heat, and you can see purple eggplants starting to form in as little as 60 days. Choose a fast-growing variety. If your family loves eggplant, you should plan on 3 plants per person.

 

Herbs

There’s plenty of herbs you can start right now, including:

 

  • Basil (grow several plants for a winter full of pesto)
  • Oregano (Greek oregano has great, large leaves)
  • Thyme
  • Sage (grow 7-10 plants for smudge sticks)
  • Dill (grow 3-4 plants for leaves, 10 or more for dill seed for pickling)
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Lavender

 

You can plant herbs outside or in pots so you can bring them in at the end of season. Remember you will need time to dry them – so don’t plant too many and get overwhelmed.

 

Melons

Now is a great time to start watermelons and cantaloupe! Plan on 3 – 4 plants per person in your family.

 

Peas

Count on 20 plants per person.

 

Squash

Squash loves heat, and will grow quickly in the higher temperatures. Yellow summer squash is a great variety, as are gourd varieties.

 

Sunflowers

You can let them go to seed for a healthy snack or harvest them for cut flowers.

 

Swiss Chard

Perfect if you have a shady spot in your garden, which will help the leaves from bolting and becoming bitter.

 

Turnips

Plant for greens and/or the roots. You will be able to harvest them long into the fall.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

What are you planting right now? Leave a comment below!