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!

Bee Healthy Backyard Chicken Treat!

Bee Healthy Backyard Chicken Treat!

I’m so excited about this week’s treat for backyard chickens because it contains one of my favorite superfoods: BEE POLLEN!

 

Yep, you can feed bee pollen to chickens, and as I discuss below, it’s very healthy for your hens.

 

One of my favorite ways to share this treat with my hens is by offering it in the spring, when my flock starts to consistently lay again.

 

The ground is muddy (yuck), which means the amount of parasites and bad bacteria that flourish in wet environments SKYROCKETS.

 

As your chickens hunt and peck (and poop), they’re going to naturally pick up parasites. (They need to invent chicken shoes.)

 

It’s gross, and even grosser when you look at it under a microscope.

 

Who wants a mouthful of eggs teeming with salmonella and who knows what? Not me!

 

That’s why I included bee pollen in this week’s treat for backyard chickens. You’ll be surprised how healthy it is!

Bee Pollen for Backyard Chickens

We’re just starting to recognize the health benefits of bee pollen for humans, but believe it or not, it’s been pretty well studied for chickens.

 

In case you didn’t know, bee pollen is one of those “superfoods” that contains not just a ton of vitamins and minerals, but also more protein than meat!

 

Multiple studies have been done to examine the health impacts of feeding bee pollen to chickens.

And the results are pretty interesting (if you want to fast version: it’s really healthy.)

 

As a feed additive, bee pollen shows signs of being a powerful way to prevent parasites and bad bacteria while increasing the overall health of the chicken.

 

In one study, chickens fed 35 grams of bee pollen per 1 kilo of feed showed more beneficial bacteria in their guts – which means a healthier bird overall.

 

This same study also showed that bee pollen reduced the amount of bad bacteria – meaning that bee pollen showed antibacterial properties.

 

In particular, bee pollen was shown to reduce the amount of K. oxytoca, a bacterium that can cause sepsis and colitis in people.

Multiple studies have shown that chickens with higher amounts of beneficial bacteria not only GREW better (because they weren’t battling bad bacteria like campylobacter as much) but LAID healthier eggs (because the eggs were less likely to be transmitters of bad bacteria like salmonella).

 

In another study, bee pollen was shown to increase the length of villi in the digestive tracts of chickens.

 

In case you didn’t know, the villi in digestive tracts allow people and animals to absorb nutrients as we digest.

 

So, longer villi have more surface area, which can mean it’s easier for your chicken to absorb nutrients – which means she’ll be healthier.

 

It’s a small difference, but a crucial one.

 

It helps that chickens LOVE to peck at the tiny bits of bee pollen!

 

Peppermint, Rose, and Parsley, Oh My!

I’ve also included peppermint in this treat for a similar reason: Peppermint has strong antibacterial qualities while also helping to settle tummies.

 

Rose, as well, is known for it’s soothing and skin-healing properties (that’s why you see it in so many lotions for people).

 

My chickens particularly love rose because it’s red — for some reason, red is a popular color with hens!

 

Parsley is one of my favorite “hidden gems” — it’s a humble herb we’ve relegated to garnish status, but it’s full of vitamins!

 

So, as your hens enjoy eating the bee pollen, they’ll also get lots of extra nutrients from the parsley.

 

Don’t Forget The Mealworms!

And, of course, mealworms! You might find that your hens go for the mealworms first, but rest assured, they’ll finish off the rest of the ingredients as well!

 

If you’re ready to make this treat, then grab the recipe below!

Bee Healthy Backyard Chicken Treat

Ingredients (per chicken):

½ tsp Bee pollen (buy in the store here)

1 tablespoon Peppermint (buy in the store here)

1 tablespoon Parsley (buy in the store here)

¼ cup Mealworms (buy in the store here)

1 tablespoon Rose buds (buy in the store here)

¼ cup Non-GMO Wheat Berries (buy in the store here)

 

Directions:

Combine ingredients in a bowl and offer immediately. Serve as part of a complete diet alongside grit.

 

Lavender Springtime Treat Mix For Chickens & Ducks

Lavender Springtime Treat Mix For Chickens & Ducks

It’s Tuesday treat time! Who doesn’t love lavender? I do, you do, and your hens sure do!

 

This week’s treat is bursting with herbs and protein (which is the best combination, don’t you think?) and you can make it for only a few dollars.

 

I thought I would change things up a bit this week with mealworms. My hens LOOOVEEE them – in fact, I timed them the other day, and it took them less than 60 seconds to devour a full cup of mealworms!

 

Spring can be a taxing time on your hens bodies because if they haven’t been laying, they’ll need more protein to get their little bodies into gear!

 

The lavender also helps to relax them so they’ll feel safe and comfy sitting for a while to get ‘er done and lay you some eggs!

 

If they laid all winter, supporting their bodies in the spring is still a good idea since they’ll likely be ramping up production naturally.

 

I love making these trail mix types of treats because it allows you to offer different types of nutrients, and hens love them because there’s a lot of different “flavors” to explore.

 

 

Particularly if your hens live in a coop and run full time, mixes like Lavender Springtime Treat Mix give them something new to cluck about AND environmental enrichment to keep their brains going!

 

And my flock loves picking at it while they poke around, exploring their new treat!

 

In a similar vein, the parsley is full of hidden vitamins. Although for human food, we tend to relegate parsley to a garnish, it’s a great source of necessary nutrients for your hens.

 

If you have a spare corner in your garden, you can grow parsley for your flock in a grazing box as well, which makes it easy to ensure they always have access to this “chicken superfood.”

 

The lavender, naturally, smells heavenly, and it wouldn’t surprise me if you made your own treat with it! (Have you checked out my recipe for lavender syrup?)

 

If you have any lavender leftovers, you can make yourself a relaxing herbal tea with it and add a bit of chamomile!

 

We have lavender for sale in the shop, but wherever you source it for your flock, please be sure it’s naturally grown and not been sprayed with chemicals or pesticides.

 

Here’s how to make Lavender Springtime Treat Mix for your hens!

 

Lavender Springtime Treat Mix

 

Ingredients (per backyard chicken):

1 tablespoon lavender flowers (dried or fresh)(buy naturally grown lavender here)

3 tablespoons unsalted, raw sunflower seeds (shelled is best, but with the shell on is ok)

3 tablespoons wheat berries (buy Non-GMO naturally grown wheat here)

2 tablespoons dried mealworms (buy USA raised & harvested mealworms here)

1 tablespoon parsley (dried or fresh) (buy naturally grown parsley here)

 

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and feed as part of a complete diet.

Build A Grazing Box For Healthier Backyard Chickens (Detailed Instructions!)

Build A Grazing Box For Healthier Backyard Chickens (Detailed Instructions!)

If you’re looking for a surefire way to keep your flock from getting the stuck-in-the-coop blues, build a grazing box for your chickens.

 

And the best part? Building a grazing box for your chickens (using chicken wire or hardware cloth) won’t cost you a ton of money!

 

You might already know your chickens need boredom busters so they don’t start fighting and picking at each other’s feathers.

 

Building your chickens a grazing box for herbs and healthy greens will help reduce unnecessary stress in your flock, and give them a healthy, constructive hobby – and you’ll get healthier eggs too!

 

The main benefit of a grazing box is that as the herbs and greens grow through the hardware cloth, your chickens can eat them, but can’t devastate them or scratch them up by the roots.

 

For just a few minutes of work on your part, your chickens will be rewarded with a healthy, fresh treat again and again.

 

Here’s how to build a grazing box for your flock for under $15!

 

Build a grazing box for your chickens

 

What you’ll need:

  • One 2x6x10 heat-treated board, cut into four 2’6” pieces
  • ½-inch or 1-inch hardware cloth (at least 2’6” by 2’6”)
  • Staples or finishing nails
  • Eight 4” wood screws
  • Hammer
  • Screwdriver
  • Stapler (if using staples)
  • Wire cutters
  • Seeds for herbs and greens, or starts if you have them
  • Good soil or composted manure


Our Costs (yours might vary):

  • Wood: $4.89
  • Hardware cloth: $5.97 for 36”x10’
  • Screws: Leftover from a previous project
  • Finishing nails: $0.99 from a dollar store

 

How To Build A Grazing Box For Your Chickens

 

This project easily scales, so if you have a lot of chickens and you want a larger box, you can easily make your design larger or smaller as needed.

 

For a flock of 5-10 chickens, the size of the box in this article works very well.

 

Cut the wood into four pieces, each 2’6” long and screw them together.

 

It’s important to use heat treated wood that hasn’t been exposed to chemicals so your chickens stay safe while snacking on their treats.

 

We purchased new wood for this project from a trusted source, costing us less than $5 at a local lumber yard.

 

Using a circular saw or a handsaw, cut the wood into four separate pieces, each 2’6” long.

 

Screw the pieces together to form the box. We used 4-inch wood screws for this project to make sure the pieces were secured together, and we could move it around without danger of it falling apart.

 

While it might be tempting to use a thinner piece of wood, the box won’t be as sturdy, so I recommend sticking with the 2x6s.

 

Add the hardware cloth

 

build a grazing box for your chickens

 

Decide whether you’ll use staples or nails to attach the hardware cloth to the box.

 

We used finishing nails because we already had them on the farm and they’re easy to bend, but staples work just as well. Just make sure the hardware cloth is secure to protect the growing herbs and greens.

 

Both finishing nails and staples withstand chickens well.

 

Cut the hardware cloth so there’s only a slight overhang. Be sure to tamp down the edges of the hardware cloth with the hammer so there’s no chance one of your chickens won’t get cut on a sharp edge.

 

Identify where you’ll place it in the coop

 

Ideally, you will choose where you’ll keep the grazing box in your coop before building, which will give you a good idea of how big to make it.

 

But if you’re like me, and tend to just make stuff before figuring out where to put it, then now is the time to measure out a 2’6” by 2’6” square in your coop so your chickens can easily access it.

 

Make sure you choose an area that drains well and doesn’t flood. It should also be near a water source, or otherwise be an easy place to water.

 

Before putting the grazing box in the coop, first amend the area where you plan to keep it to make sure you can actually grow greens or herbs there.

 

Add a good quality topsoil or composted manure to the area, then plant your seeds or starts. Top with the grazing box, making sure the hardware cloth is facing up.

 

It will take a few weeks before the greens are large enough to eat, but when they are, your hens will get a treat!

 

I recommend finding something to cover the grazing box with as the seeds sprout and grow.

 

As we all know, chickens like to poop…and they’ll poop all over your grazing box as the grass is growing. So, it’s necessary to protect it with a clear cover; a large piece of plastic is a good option.

 

I recommend keeping it away from your chicken feeder so poop doesn’t get over the feeder as well.

 

What to grow in your grazing box

 

Now that we’ve built the grazing box for your chickens, you might wonder what’s best to grow in it.

 

Here’s some options your chickens will love:

 

Alfalfa grass – high in protein

Oregano – supports a healthy environment

Sage – natural dewormer

Calendula – Flowers have lots of beta carotine, supports healthy yolks

Parsley – source of many essential vitamins

Garlic (for leaves/scapes) – supports a healthy immune system

Wheat grass – great source of protein, vitamins

Barley grass – great source of protein, vitamins

Kale/Mustard/Other greens – great source of protein, essential vitamins

 

Grab my free cheat sheet about 7 herbs you can start feeding your chickens today and in just 10 minutes, you’ll have healthier hens at TheFrugalChicken.com/ChickenHerbs

I’d like to hear from you!

Do you think you’ll build a grazing box for your chickens? Leave a comment below!

 

Best Eggs Ever! Backyard Chicken Treat

Best Eggs Ever! Backyard Chicken Treat

It’s spring, and yes, the hens are starting to lay again! Which means I get extra concerned about the quality of the eggs they lay.

 

Improving the egg quality a hen lays has been the subject of many studies.

 

The egg industry, after all, is concerned about getting as many eggs as possible, and researchers are concerned about the overall health of the eggs laid so people don’t eat contaminated food.

 

This week’s recipe includes some of the best herbs and other supplements you can give your hens to improve egg quality – and that’s why I’ve called it Best Eggs Ever!™.

 

Apple Cider Vinegar, Garlic, & Oregano For Healthier Eggs

You’ll notice something interesting in Best Eggs Ever!™, which is the Apple Cider Vinegar granules.

 

If you’ve never heard of ACV granules, it’s really neat stuff: It’s raw apple cider vinegar that has been dehydrated.

 

In studies, chickens fed apple cider vinegar, were healthier, grew better, and the eggs they laid had lower amounts of pathogens such as salmonella and campylobacter.

 

Similarly, when they used oregano around their chickens and in the feed, industrial egg farms found that the chickens were healthier and less likely to get sick.

 

Garlic is also included in Best Eggs Ever!™ because one of the chemical constituents in garlic – allicin – has been shown in studies to improve immune systems and can ward off mites in backyard chickens.

 

While fresh garlic is great to add to your flock’s water, granulated garlic is the perfect supplement to their regular feed because it can be mixed easier and the hens are more likely to eat it. Sometimes they miss fresh garlic if it’s not in their water.

Oyster Shells for Better Eggshells

If you want to make sure your girls lay nice, strong eggshells, then oyster shells are where it’s at!

 

All the calcium in them will give your hens the calcium they need so they lay healthy eggshells WITHOUT pulling the calcium from their own bones – which they might do if they aren’t getting enough calcium in their diet.

 

Oyster shells = better quality of life!

 

I’ve found that when the oyster shells are mixed with other yummy treats for my hens, they’re more likely to eat it.

 

Yes, they’ll eat it separately also, but they get wrapped up in the goodies, and down more of the calcium when it’s mixed.

 

If you don’t have oyster shells on hand, then feel free to substitute crushed eggshells.

 

Calendula for Better Yolks

You can see here the difference between a farm fresh egg from hens fed calendula and one from the store.

 

Calendula has a lot of beta carotene in it, which is super healthy for your hens AND will give you those golden yolks you’ve been dreaming of.

 

That’s why it’s a natural to be included in this recipe! (It also smells HEAVENLY which is an added bonus!)

 

Lavender & Chamomile for A Relaxed Hen

Hens that are relaxed lay easier and better – and they’re overall healthier than hens who are stressed (and they lay eggs with stronger, more regular shells, rather than wrinkled or abnormal eggs).

 

Hens also love to nibble on flowers & of course, they enjoy the scent! You can line your nesting boxes with lavender and chamomile, and they’re also great to include in their diet!

 

Are you ready to make Best Eggs Ever!™??? Here’s the recipe!

 

Best Eggs Ever!™

Ingredients

¼ c Calendula (buy in the store here)

¼ c Lavender (buy in the store here)

1/4 c Rose Buds (buy in the store here)

¼ c Alfalfa

¼ c Chamomile (buy in the store here)

¼ tsp granulated Garlic (buy in the store here)

¼ tsp Apple Cider Vinegar granules (buy in the store here)

1 tbsp Oregano (buy in the store here)

1 tbsp Parsley (buy in the store here)

1 tbsp Oyster Shells

 

Directions

Mix all ingredients together and serve as part of a complete diet. You can feed separately or with their regular layer feed. Feed Best Eggs Ever!™ to layers and adult roosters.