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 Can I Plant In September?

What Can I Plant In September?

Although the gardening season is winding down, you might be wondering “what can I plant in September?”

 

As long as you have a south-facing cold frame set up (or a hot bed would be better), you have options for crops you can grow through the winter.

 

(For directions to build a cold frame and a hot bed, check out my bestselling book, Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening)

 

Without a cold frame, unless you live in a warm area (zones 8-11), you’ll not have much success. Even in our area, we can over winter spinach without a cold frame, but not much else.

 

In this article, I’m going to show you 11 crops you can still grow in September, even though the days are getting shorter and cooler!

 

Lettuce

Direct sow your lettuce when temperatures inside your cold frame are between 45 F and 65 F. You can sow either individual seeds in rows or broadcast. After sowing, cover the seeds lightly with ¼ inch of soil.

 

When seedlings are 4” tall, thin to 4 – 16 inches apart depending on the lettuce you’re planting. It’s best to avoid firm headed lettuces and shoot for leaf types.

 

Radishes

We love growing radishes because they’re as close as you can get to instant gratification in a garden. They’re ready to harvest in about 30 days.

 

Direct sow radishes by planting seeds ½ inch deep and 1 inch apart. Rows should be 12 inches apart and in full sun.

 

A week after seedlings emerge, thin radishes to about an inch apart. When crowded, radishes will sprawl and not form round roots. They will be woody and bitter.

 

Plant consecutively every two weeks for a continuous harvest of radishes.

 

Beets

Beets are perfect to grow in a cold frame because they can survive frost and temperatures down to 32 degrees (although soil temp needs to be at least 50 degrees for the seeds to germinate).

 

Before planting, select a sunny site, and incorporate compost into the soil. Test the soil because a pH higher than 6 and lower than 5 makes it difficult for the seeds to sprout.

 

Soak the seeds for 24 hours before direct sowing them to speed up germination.

 

Plant seeds ½ inch deep and thin to 2 inches apart when the seedlings are 4 inches tall. Snip the seedlings you’re removing (instead of pulling them out of the soil) so you don’t disturb the soil.

 

Cabbages

Cabbage prefers to only grow in cold temperatures, and as soon as heat hits our farm, cabbage season is as good as over.

 

Kale

Kale is an incredibly resilient plant and thrives in colder temperatures, and the funny thing about kale, is it tastes better if it’s been through a frost!  

 

We broadcast kale seeds because they’re so tiny, and the plants thrive well in close quarters as long as you fertilize and water regularly. Cover lightly with dirt and mist regularly. In 3-4 weeks, you should see seedlings.

 

Be sure to harvest the outer leaves of kale before they get too big to ensure they’re still tender and not bitter.

 

Leeks

These green treats resemble giant scallions, and are excellent for sub-freezing temperatures – they have proven to be cold-hardy down to approximately 5° Fahrenheit!

 

Spinach

Spinach needs 6 weeks of cool weather to grow to harvest size properly, so as soon as the soil is workable, sow spinach in a cold frame. Soil temperature should not exceed 70 degrees to ensure your spinach germinates.

 

Sow spinach ½ inch deep. We broadcast our spinach seeds since they’re so small. To ensure a consistent harvest, plant spinach successively every 2-3 weeks.

 

Onions

This robust crop can easily withstand freezes and frosts, making them perfect for a cold frame. You can grow onions from seeds or sets; starting with sets is a bit easier.

 

When planting onions, it’s important to remember that they need full sun in order to grow healthy, so make sure your cold frame is in a sunny location.  

 

Plant in rows 12 inches apart, and about 1 inch deep for sets

 

Swiss Chard

This crop is quite cold-hardy. Plant seeds ½ inch deep. It’s simplest to broadcast the seeds, then cover lightly with dirt. Succession plant seeds every 2 weeks for a continued harvest.

 

Cover crops

Cover crops such as clover. This time of year is a good time to think about direct sowing cover crops – they’ll prevent your topsoil from getting blown away and lower the amount of weeds come spring. They’ll also fix nitrogen so your spring crops will get a kickstart thanks to all the nutrients in the soil.

 

Garlic

Don’t forget to plant your garlic bulbs! You’ll want to plant them now for a summer harvest next June. Start before it gets too cold, and be sure to cover with straw if frost threatens.

 

Oven Baked Eggs With Leeks & Blue Cheese! [Printable Recipe]

Oven Baked Eggs With Leeks & Blue Cheese! [Printable Recipe]

From time to time, I try to give my readers recipes so you can use up all those eggs your hens lay.

 

Alas, I am not a chef – not even close!

 

So I invited my friends, Alix and Hugo of A Hedgehog in the Kitchen to share one of their favorite recipes with us – and if your family isn’t impressed with this delicious recipe of Oven Baked Eggs with Leeks & Blue Cheese, I would be really surprised!

 

What I love best is that Alix and Hugo use farm-fresh ingredients to create this dish – and they can ALL be grown in your backyard!

 

This recipe also has a French twist with the Herbs de Provence, and it’s simply to die for (and it also happens to be super simple to make!)

 

Please enjoy this recipe Alix & Hugo developed especially for FrugalChicken readers!

Oven Baked Eggs With Leeks & Blue Cheese

 

Oven Baked Eggs With Leeks & Blue Cheese

 

These oven baked eggs with leeks and blue cheese are one of our coziest Winter meals. It’s very cold outside and this dish is welcome, healthy comfort food.

 

We love cooking with eggs, they are an absolute staple of our diet. Here in Paris, we spend Sunday mornings at our local organic farmers’ market.

 

We are lucky to have easy access to fresh, organic eggs. Our local organic market has inspired some of our best healthy, wholesome, real food recipes.

 

We love this oven baked eggs with leeks and blue cheese recipe for several reasons:

 

  • The combination is really tasty.
  • The eggs and blue cheese are filled with nutrients which makes this a high-energy meal.
  • You can quickly throw these ingredients together and pop them in the oven to bake – quick and easy !
  • The combination and presentation are unique which makes this a fun dish to serve when you have dinner guests.
  • This is real, healthy, wholesome, homemade food at its finest.
  • We think leeks are really having a moment – at least in our home.

 

We have really enjoyed adding these delicious veggies to several of our recent recipes. They taste wonderful with eggs.

 

Eggs are one of our favorite ingredients because they are really versatile. They can be used in starters, main courses, side dishes and desserts.

 

Locally sourced, organic ingredients are the perfect components of a wide variety  of delicious meals. With some basic ingredients, you can create wonderful meals and experience food from other cultures as well.

 

We created these little bowls of perfection using mini cocottes (little pots made of ceramic that you can place directly in the oven to bake).

 

To make this recipe, prepare your leek and onion base. We used a small cast iron Dutchoven for this first step, but you can also use a small pot.

 

Add some dry white wine and blue cheese to the mix. You can add a little bit of cream if you’re worried about the blue cheese flavor being too strong. If you love blue cheese like us, you can skip this step.

 

Once you have preheated your oven to 390°F, line your mini cocottes with the leek, onion, wine and blue cheese mixture and prepare a small space for the egg on top.

 

Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, depending on how well-cooked you would like your eggs to be. And voilà, your meal is ready !

 

If you are raising chickens and collecting eggs at home, this is an easy way to use them in a tasty dish with a little French flair. Eating a balanced diet with organic food is one of our priorities and I know it is one of yours too.

 

Oven Baked Eggs With Leeks & Blue Cheese

 

Oven Baked Eggs With Leeks & Blue Cheese

Recipe

For 2 people / preparation time: 10 minutes / Cook time : 35 minutes

 

Ingredients

2 small leeks
1 little onion (sliced)
2 eggs
1/2 cup of blue cheese
3 tablespoons of white wine
3 tablespoons of liquid cream 
1 tsp of Herbs of Provence 
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

 

Instructions

  1. Wash the leeks and cut them into julienne.
  2. Heat olive oil in a pan on medium heat.
  3. Add leeks, onion, a pinch of salt, pepper and herbs and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Pour the wine into the mixture and cook until the wine has been absorbed.
  5. Add the blue cheese and cook until it melts.
  6. Taste and add the cream if the blue cheese flavor is too strong for you.
  7. Preheat oven to 390°F (200°C).
  8. Pour the mixture into 2 mini cocottes.
  9. Create an indentation to pour the egg into.
  10. Pour the eggs in.
  11. Put the cocottes in the oven for 10 and 12 minutes (depending on how well-cooked you would like your eggs to be).

 

If you enjoyed this recipe, please sign up to have our real food recipes with a French twist sent to you by email.

 

As an added bonus, we are currently offering a virtual tour of our Paris. When you sign up for our recipe emails, you will also receive 1 email per day for 5 days with photos of our favorite spots in Paris + a related recipe for each day. Sign up here

 

About Alix & Hugo :

Alix and Hugo develop their healthy, wholesome recipes with a French flair in their Parisian home. They share their creations on their food blog, A Hedgehog in the Kitchen. Sign up to receive recipes in your inbox here. Stay in touch on Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

 

 

 

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What Seedlings Can You Start In February? [Planting Guide]

What Seedlings Can You Start In February? [Planting Guide]

February is usually a dreary month, but it’s also a great month to get started on your garden (I have!). I’m sure you’re wondering “What seedlings can you start in February?,” and you might even think I’m a little bit crazy (I probably am).

 

February is a rather ambitious time of year to start seedlings, since in most northern states, the freezing temperatures can make it rather difficult to support thriving young plants.

 

This article is an excerpt from my best selling gardening book, Organic By Choice. It has everything you need to grow a garden that delivers you a full harvest.

Click here to buy the paperback version and get the digital version for FREE.

On the other hand, in many southern states, the climate can be too unpredictable to determine if outdoor planting will actually be worth the effort.

 

With that being said, to answer the question “What seedlings can you start in February?,” there are particular plants that flourish well even during the icy months.  

 

Before we get started with what seedlings you can start in February, there’s some general tips you should consider, since they’re the difference between success and a seedling flop:

 

  • The approximate planting date you can set young plants to harden off. You need to pick a date after the last frost of the spring that you’ll actually start planting in your outdoor garden, then count backwards 10 weeks. This is the date you should start your seedlings.
  • After placing each seedling, if you plan to use lights, set the lights about 2-3” above the tops of the plants, or pots (for seedlings that haven’t sprouted yet).
  • You need to first ensure that you have a hoop house or cold frame available to transplant the seedlings in.

 

So, now let’s answer the question “What seedlings can you start in February?” Here’s some answers:

 

Onions

This robust crop can easily withstand freezes and frosts.  Start them out in warm zones (between 5-7), and transplant them after a good 8-10 weeks.

 

Microgreens

Although microgreens are not exactly what you think of when you imagine seedlings growing in your greenhouse, they STILL are something you can grow in February.

 

Spinach, flax, and bean sprouts are examples. When starting your microgreens, they must be sprayed consistently, and harvested at the micro stage.  These goodies are perfect for salads and sandwich toppings!

 

 

Leeks

These green treats resemble giant scallions, and are excellent for sub-freezing temperatures – they have proven to be cold-hardy down to approximately 5° Fahrenheit!

 

Broccoli

Broccoli seedlings do best the best when soil temperatures are between 60°-70°F, but can germinate as low as 40°F.  

 

Start growing broccoli seedlings indoors about 6 weeks before the last spring frost.  Set out the hardened-off seedlings when they are approximately 4 weeks old, and set the transplants 2-3 weeks before the last spring frost.

 

Cabbage

Cabbage prefers to only grow in cold temperatures (crazy, I know).  Begin growing this leafy plant indoors approximately 6-8 weeks before the last spring frost.  

 

Harden off the plants over a 7 day period, and transplant outdoors 2-3 weeks before the last spring frost.

 

Herbs

Herbs are rather simple to plant and tend to, and the nice thing about herbs is they’re pretty portable throughout most stages of growing (so if you need to pull them inside because of a surprise cold-snap, no worries!).  

 

Start planting herbs about eight to ten weeks before the last frost of the season, then transplant them into pots.  Should another unexpected frost occur, the pots can simply be brought inside.  

 

The best herbs to start growing at this time are basil, oregano, thyme, chives, and parsley. We love basil (yay pesto!), so that’s big on my list this year!

 

Lettuce

Sprout lettuce seedlings in a large 4” pot.  Lettuce grows rapidly, so the larger pot means that it’s easier to accommodate it as it grows.  

 

Use a cold frame to protect your baby lettuce if you plan to put the seedlings out in March before the weather has turned warm.

 

Spinach

Spinach should be planted indoors in to prepare it for transplant in March.  

 

Like with lettuce, spinach must be planted in a large 4” pot, however, this is more so due it the large size of its taproot rather than its rate of growth.  

 

Because of its long taproot, spinach seedlings do not transplant easily (I honestly start spinach outside, directly sowing it into the soil to make things easy on myself, BUT you can start seedlings in February if you’re committed).

 

When you do transplant the seedlings, make sure you leave a lot of soil around the spinach roots.

 

Swiss Chard

This crop is quite cold-hardy and can be transplanted in March in a cold frame. Personally, I don’t like swiss chard so I grow it for Dahlia and the rabbits, who have a more appreciative taste for it.

 

Kale

Kale is an incredibly resilient plant and thrives in colder temperatures, and the funny thing about kale, is it tastes better if it’s been through a frost!  

 

For a sweeter-tasting yield, start seedlings in February, and transplant to the garden in mid-March.

 

What are some other things you can do in February to get started for spring? Here’s what else we got going on:

 

  • Pruning apple and pear trees.
  • Pruning currants and gooseberries.
  • Pruning raspberry bushes

I’d like to hear from you!

 

Did you wonder “What seedlings can you start in February?” Which will you start? Leave a comment below!