A Surprising Variety
If you've always thought of gardening as being a three-season activity, you may be surprised by how many options you have for growing a winter garden.By choosing plants that do well in the cold and making a few adaptations, you can continue to enjoy your own fresh produce all year round.
As the rest of your garden is winding down, plant a few hardy or quick-maturing crops in a raised bed, cold frame or greenhouse. Many plants develop better flavor when touched by a bit of frost, and you can look forward to harvesting just when retail produce reaches its highest price.
The brassicas, or cruciferous vegetables, are among the first plants that come to mind when you think of growing a winter garden.Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale are all cold-hardy and actually tend to do best when grown in cooler temperatures.
Kale, an especially leafy member of the brassica family, is famous for retaining splendid taste and crispness even after a hard frost. Planted on a south-facing wall and covered for the coldest days, kale is an excellent choice for winter gardening.
Ruby chard is another leafy green that does well in cold climates, and is a great source of iron and vitamins A, E and K. The bright red color of this member of the beet family can provide a much-needed splash of color during the winter months.
Tender but Quick-Growing
As fun as they are, you needn't limit your winter garden choices to tough, hardy plants like beets and cabbages. Tender, quick-growing plants like lettuce and spinach are perfect options for a cold frame or greenhouse. Because these plants mature so quickly, you can plant them as you are harvesting the rest of your garden and expect a late fall harvest in just a matter of weeks.
Chives tolerate cold well and add depth of flavor to soups, stews and egg dishes. Other herbs, like thyme or parsley, are the perfect size for a cold frame or small indoor garden. Cooking with herbs is a lovely way to bring the freshness of summer into the winter months.
Roots vegetables like carrots, beets and parsnips grow well under cold conditions and will usually have a sweeter flavor compared to summer vegetables.
Cold frames, greenhouses and hot caps all help extend the growing season. Depending on your location and choice of vegetables, you might be able to get away with a light, temporary cover in your regular garden, or you might need to convert to a fully sheltered garden in the winter months.
Start Growing a Winter Garden
Getting started with winter gardening is easy. Choose a few appealing cold hardy plants and plant them in an empty row. Before you know it, you'll be putting on your snow boots to pick vegetables for dinner.