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!

Control Pests In Your Garden Organically With Essential Oils

Control Pests In Your Garden Organically With Essential Oils

If you use essential oils in your home, you can also use them to rid your garden of unwanted pests that will try to steal your harvest.

 

At least, that’s what we do.

 

Nothing is more frustrating than to spend lots of time and energy trying to grow cabbages than to go out to your garden….only to find leaves full of holes and sprinkled with tiny green cabbage looper eggs. Grrr…..

 

Oils are great to use in your garden because they’re organic, all-natural, and they WORK.

 

Particularly if you make a homemade insecticidal soap, you only need a drop or two – so they’re also economical.

 

Most basic essential oils cost $0.08 a drop, so you can spend a lot of money on commercial organic pest control….or you can save a few bucks and make them yourself.

 

In this article, I’m going to show you how to use essential oils to deter and get rid of bugs, freeloading insects, and vegetable munchers in your garden.

 

A Word About Purity

Before we get started, let’s talk about purity for a minute. Everyone has their own favorite brand of oils – so we won’t cover particular brands in this article.

 

However, I advise buying from the manufacturer directly, and not from a 3rd party source like Amazon. It’s very, very easy to pop the top off oils and replace them with an inferior essential oil – or something that doesn’t even resemble an oil, but smells like the real deal.

 

The last thing you want is to spend a lot of time and effort growing your garden, only to dump a bunch of toxins on them unwittingly.

 

Bottom line: Buy from a trusted source, just be sure the oil is pure, and the oil in the bottle is as advertised.

 

Ok, moving on….

 

How Do You Know Which Essential Oil To Use?

If you’re new to oils, or aren’t sure which one will most benefit your garden, determine which pests are bothering your garden.

 

Then, using the chart below, figure out which oil will best repel them.

 

If more than one pest threatens your plant, or in insect AND a fungus are causing trouble, then it’s perfectly fine to add more than one oil to water, to a rag, or to a container.

 

 

What Are The Go-to Oils?

There are a few essential oils that are go-to oils that will work against MOST garden pests. They interfere with your pesky visitor’s biological systems (each oil effects a different part of the insect’s body), causing them to leave the scene to save their lives.

 

Orange essential oil

If you want a go-to oil for killing insects, then orange is a good choice, since it works to destroy the exoskeletons of bugs.

 

Cedarwood essential oil

A second option is cedarwood, which is believed to interfere with their neurological capabilities.

 

Peppermint Essential Oil

If you don’t yet have pests in your garden or just want to deter them, then peppermint oil is a good option. It’s strong smelling, and garden pests will turn around and find an easier target for a snack.

 

Pest Repelled By
Ants Peppermint, Spearmint, Wild Orange, Cedarwood
Aphids Peppermint, Spearmint, Cedarwood, Wild Orange
Beetles Peppermint, Thyme, Wild Orange, Cedarwood
Caterpillars Rosemary, Cedarwood
Cutworms Thyme, Clary Sage, Cedarwood
Fleas Lavender, Lemongrass, Peppermint, Wild Orange, Rosemary, Cedarwood
Fungus (e.g. Powdery Mildew) Melaleuca, Wild Orange
Lice Peppermint, Spearmint, Cedarwood
Rabbits, Mice Peppermint
Slugs/Snails Cedarwood, Douglas Fir, Peppermint
Squash Bugs Peppermint, Wild Orange, Cedarwood

 

 

Insecticidal Soap

Commercial insecticidal soaps work by dissolving the hard external bodies of insects, and you can make your own at home with liquid castile soap and orange essential oil.

 

These soaps are effective against aphids, thrips, mites, immature leafhoppers, and whiteflies.  Just remember that insecticidal soap is only effective if they come in contact with the insects while the soap is still liquid; it won’t work after it dries on the plants.

 

To make your own, combine 5 tablespoons of pure castile liquid soap to 2 quarts of water. Add 5-6 drops of orange and cedarwood essential oils. Combine thoroughly and use immediately.

 

9 Essential Oils To Repel Insects Naturally (And Get Your Yard Back)

9 Essential Oils To Repel Insects Naturally (And Get Your Yard Back)

It’s summer…and it’s buggy. This time of year, the heat and humidity are bad enough, and I break out my go-to essential oils to repel insects when we’re outside.

 

(This article is based on my new book Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening. Grab it on Amazon here!)

 

I have another recipe where you can use herbs, but I’ve found oils work better because they’re concentrated plants in a bottle – so much more powerful than just the herbs themselves when it comes to insects.

 

Because they’re weaker than oils, if you spray yourself with an herbal solution, it will dissipate faster – so you’ll need to spray yourself again and again. With oils, I found we only need to do it once or twice while outside.

 

In this article, we’re going to talk about recipes you can make at home that you can use on yourself and your family to keep bugs at bay.

 

The bugs we’ll discuss are:

 

  • Ants
  • Flies
  • Wasps/Hornets
  • Mosquitoes
  • Ticks

The Go-To Essential Oil For Killing Insects

Yes, there is a single one you can depend on (although there’s more you’ll want to use). Orange essential oil kills insects because it destroys their exoskeletons. In any recipe you make yourself, be sure it includes orange essential oils.

 

A word of note: Citrus essential oils, in large quantities, can harm your cats because it interferes with their liver. (It’s fine with other animals.) If your kitties hang out outside a lot, then don’t spray orange unless you can be sure your kitties will not be outside for 24-48 hours. Use any of the other alternative oils we talk about in this article, and just make sure there’s good circulation.

 

Ants

I hate these buggers. They’re arrogant insects, thinking they can get into whatever sugar I leave on the counter and invading my home whenever suits them….but there is hope.

 

The BEST I’ve found to repel ants is cinnamon oil.

 

Because it’s so strong, it interferes with their neuroreceptors and they can’t send signals (by pheromones) back to their nest to come grab whatever goody they’ve happened upon. It unnerves them, and they leave the scene rapidly.

 

It’s satisfying to watch the insects scurry away.

 

You can apply cinnamon directly to the area you want the ants to leave, without dilution, or you can dilute 10 drops in 8 oz of water or rubbing alcohol. Shake before use, and spray away.

 

If you plan to spray it directly ON the ants, also mix 10 drops of orange essential oil into the spray bottle. (If you’re allergic to cinnamon oil, you can use any of the oils listed above as an alternative).

 

If you plan to spray it on yourself, dilute it with carrier oils like coconut or sweet almond, or dilute with water or alcohol. Cinnamon is a “hot” oil, meaning on people with sensitive skin or children, it can cause skin irritation. Be safe.

 

Flies

I hate flies even more than ants. They’re just as annoying insects, except they ACTIVELY try to get in your face.

 

I have a great article with my favorite recipe to get rid of flies with essential oils here. It’s the best recipe I’ve found, and it actually works. It includes lemongrass and eucalyptus (which have many more uses than fly spray, by the way).

 

Wasps/Hornets

 

  • Mint
  • Eucalyptus
  • Citronella

Mix 8 drops of any of the above oils with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or any other oil you love. Rub it on your body to keep the suckers away.

 

In this article, I show you how to eliminate wasp nests with liquid castile soap – You can also add the above oils along with orange to the castile soap mixture to kill ‘em dead.

 

Word of warning: You don’t want to use the orange essential oils on your body to repel wasps  – it will ATTRACT them since it smells sweet (wasps are attracted to sweet smells), and it can trigger photosensitivity (potentially causing some nasty burns) if you plan to remain outdoors.

 

(Orange is otherwise VERY safe to use – just avoid it on areas that will be uncovered if you plan to be out in the sun for a while.)

 

Mosquitoes

Summertime is mosquito time on our farm. With all the poop we have, the rotten insects LOVE to build nests and breed….and freeload off our livestock.

 

Whenever we go outside, I grab my purple spray bottle containing the following oils (in equal parts, mixed with 8 oz of water). As a bonus, we all smell better.

 

Citronella : Everyone knows that citronella repels mosquitoes, and it’s my go-to oil to repel ‘em. You can mix it (in a roller bottle) with any of the oils we discuss below for a more powerful solution that’s convenient to put on.

 

Eucalyptus: Eucalyptus oil has been used since the 1940s to repel mosquitoes, and is approved by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an effective ingredient in mosquito repellent.

 

Lavender: Lavender essential oil is great for relaxing and smelling good, but did you also know it can repel mosquitoes? Lavender can also be used to support healthy skin!

 

Ticks

Ahh…ticks. The lovely buggers that gave me lyme disease about 10 years ago. That was not fun…lots of yogurt, since I couldn’t eat anything else while I recovered.

 

These days, our chickens do a pretty good job of keeping the population down (yet another bonus to keeping a backyard flock), but if you plan to go camping or take a walk in the woods, here’s some essential oils you can put in a roller bottle or a spray bottle (along with water or alcohol – rubbing alcohol stays on longer) to repel the dirty insects.

 

You can mix and match 8 drops of oil with 8 oz of water or alcohol:

 

  • Rosemary
  • Lemongrass
  • Cedar (cedarwood oils)
  • Peppermint
  • Thyme
  • Eucalyptus

 

The CDC has even said that the above are safe essential oils to repel insects (specifically ticks!)

Leafy Greens For Healthy Hens! [Podcast]

Leafy Greens For Healthy Hens! [Podcast]

Leafy greens are some of the healthiest “treats” you can give your backyard chickens.

 

And now is the perfect time to start them!

 

(Want my favorite leafy green seed package for chickens? Click here to grab the exact one I use!)

 

 

While I don’t personally like leafy greens too much, my hens gobble them up whenever we throw some bunches into the coop. 

 

Greens are also easy to grow, and an easy way to save a bit of money.

 

In this episode, we discuss several varieties of leafy greens that are perfect for your hens.

You’ll learn:

    • How to grow spinach, lettuce, kale, and more!
    • When to transplant them
    • Just why they’re so great for your fluffy butts

 

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.

 

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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!