For many people, the coming of winter means the end of the gardening season. Time to mulch the beds, cover them up, and get your garden ready for the winter months so they’ll be ready for the spring. But wait! It might not have to be that way. Depending on where you live and what you want to grow, winter doesn’t have to be the end of your garden, but rather the start of a new one.
Setting Up The Winter Garden
While everyone has a winter season, it is a very different experience depending on the climate. Setting up and growing a winter garden is very specific to your growing region.
If you live in zones 1, 2, or 3, you will have to do a lot more to prepare and take care of your plants than someone living in the warmer regions. So, while this is a general overview, dive into specifics for your location before you get growing.
In colder gardening zones, mulch and have some plants ready to go into the ground six to eight weeks before the first frost, allowing the roots to settle before the real cold hits.
Hoops, tunnels, and cold frames are also a great idea. A cold frame is a tiny greenhouse that protects against the snow as well as extreme weather. Anyone with a full-sized greenhouse is already ahead of the game. And obviously, a covering of some sort is pretty much a necessity if you live somewhere that sees substantial snowfall (one solid enough to hold the snow).
What Grows in the Winter
There are several excellent cold weather crop options. Again, your growing zone will determine which ones will work for you but don’t be afraid of a little trial and error either.
Kale and Carrots
These are two of the best crops to grow in a winter garden. Not only are they both tasty and very healthy veggies, but they are two relatively hardy crops that do well through the cold months. Both crops are said to emerge from the chilly autumn weather and first frosts tasting even better.
Spinach and Arugula
These are two more delicious and healthy greens that seem to dig the cold weather. There are multiple types of each crop, so it might require a little testing to see which ones do best in your region, but in general, these are both excellent autumn and winter garden crops.
Also known as corn salad and lambs lettuce, mache is an excellent winter garden option as it prefers cold weather. It won’t even germinate until the weather cools off a bit, so you can hold off planting this crop until later than most. Also, be aware that this plant self-sows very quickly, which means you will have it appearing all around your garden in the spring. If this is an issue for you, just remove and compost any leftover plants.
While you might think that winter fruit growing is only for those lucky folks in the much warmer regions, people in middle zones have some good fruit options for their winter planting.
For example, folks in Zones 4-7 can plant cherry trees. Sweet or sour will depend on your area, but you can plant them in the early fall and enjoy a yummy harvest the following summer.
What about persimmons? Most of us might not know one if we saw one in a grocery store, but the trees can handle temps as low as 25°F (-4°C).
When it comes to fruit, fall and winter are not the time for actual harvesting for colder regions. It is better to prepare the plant for the spring in these seasons.