What can I grow in my garden during the winter months?
Real Mom Problem
“What do you plant during the winter? I don't have a garden, but I'm hoping to get my neighbor to help me build one soon.”
- 1. Research which plants and vegetables grow best in your region during winter
- 2. Consider covering the ground with a sheet, or building a cold frame to keep soil warmer
- 3. Try growing herbs and vegetables indoors when it's too cold outside
- 4. Understand that winter might not yield a lot of produce, so try to enjoy whatever you are able to harvest
Real Mom Solutions
Did you know you can still provide your family with homegrown veggies even after the temperatures drop? Get great winter gardening tips from the moms of CafeMom!
Our Expert Mom Says...
The end of the summer doesn't have to mean the end of your garden. Shorter daylight hours and cold temperatures mean your garden will not grow as quickly as it does in the summer, but you can still have fresh produce. If you think of your winter garden efforts as a sort of experiment, you will enjoy your success and not be disappointed by any plants that don't do as well.
In colder zones, where frost is an issue, gardens need protection from the elements. There are some plants that taste better after a hard frost, and these include carrots, turnips, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc. They can all take some cold, even a dusting of snow. These crops are planted in late summer and early fall, and then harvested right out of the ground all through the colder months.
Other plants can withstand cool temperatures, but not a freeze, and you'll need a small greenhouse or cold frame. Leafy greens like kale and chard are perfect for this. They can be harvested numerous times, while growing new leaves all winter.
Tender plants like tomatoes and peppers need to grown in hot temperatures, so save these for your summer garden, and focus on the hardier plants.
Gardening in the winter takes a little extra planning, but it is well worth the effort, when your family is enjoying the fresh food you are growing.
Amy Jeanroy is a Master Gardener and community herbalist living in Northern Maine. She grows her own food, flowers, and herbs as much as possible and loves to share her knowledge. Keep up with Amy and her garden adventures at thefarmingwife.com.
The Moms of CafeMom Say...
I live in upstate NY and we get plenty of snow. Winter is a great time to grow an indoor garden. The most important thing to remember when growing indoors in the winter is bottom heat, like warm summer soil. You can go to any garden center or online and get a grow mat. I love my grow mat, it sits right in the bay window and works great.
I am in GA and I do plants that grow well in cooler weather. We have a pretty cool fall and early winter, so I do cabbage, Bibb lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower.
I can't imagine anything surviving a PA winter. I do however do a small indoor garden. It's mostly just staples: Tomatoes, cucumbers, various herbs, carrots, and garlic.
I'm in NC. We grow buttercrunch lettuce and collards in the winter.
I'll have tomatoes until the first freeze. My herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme, and parsley) should live through the winter. I cover them with a sheet when it freezes, but they survived a foot of snow (a record for us), uncovered last winter. My strawberries live through the winter, but they probably won't produce fruit until spring. Last year, I planted carrots and lettuce.
It depends on your zone. Here, winter temps rarely get below 40F, and winter is the time to grow cool season crops like lettuce and peas; also flowers like pansies, and herbs like cilantro. If you have a sunny window, you could grow herbs, and bulb flowers inside. If you're in a warm climate, you can grow bigger items in large pots on a balcony or patio. Contact your local agriculture department to see what grows in your area.
The ground freezes in our area, but I'd sure have a winter garden if we lived in a better climate. Salad greens, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions, maybe green peas -- they're cool weather crops. How you do it depends on where you live. If you have quite a bit of snow, you'd probably be best to try growing some herbs in pots in a sunny windowsill. Salad greens, radishes, even green onions can be grown in a window box inside the house. If you're serious about winter gardening, you can build a cold frame. The cold frame has an insulated glass cover (usually an old window) that lets sunlight and heat in to help keep the soil from freezing. Even then, you're really limited to what will grow: carrots, parsnips, maybe peas or strawberries if you can keep the temp inside the cold frame from getting below freezing.
I'm in Idaho and I grow a few things inside like lavender and squash. If you want to transplant in the spring, I'd wait until February/March to start your plants. They need to be inside at least six weeks before starting to transplant them outside.
I would try getting a decorative plant stand or two. Plant some herbs like basil, parsley, chives, spearmint... you can also plant cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes as a house plant. I am going to try peppers this year. They take a long time to come to harvest and they don't get too awfully tall. Fresh herbs are always wonderful to have at your fingertips.