There’s nothing like the taste of fresh greens in your favorite salad but, unfortunately, with winter here, you may be thinking that access to fresh garden vegetables during the winter is limited.
One of the best-kept secrets is that you can grow vegetables year-round, even in colder climates. That includes greens such as spinach, broccoli, kale, collards, lettuce, and more. All it takes is some knowledge, including what to plant and how to protect what you plant. Let’s start with what you can plant.
Hearty winter vegetables
While the plant's leaves may die in winter, the plant itself can survive and will grow new leaves in spring. It won’t look as “healthy” as it does during peak growing season, but you’ll lose nothing in taste. Keep it covered by mulch or cold frames.
One rule of thumb says that young lettuce plants tolerate cold weather better than mature plants. Lettuce can survive in temperatures as low as 10 degrees – but keep the plants protected by cold frames or other methods.
Kale & Collards
Flavorful additions to any salad, or on their own, kale and collards are also grown in winter. Collards tend to tolerate the winter better than kale, but hardy types of kale – such as Red and White Russian Kale - do well in the winter when kept covered.
Chard is particularly tolerant of cold weather and doesn’t need protection from the elements until temperatures dip as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Green or white varieties are considered to be the best.
There are other vegetables you can grow in the winter, including leeks, parsnips, turnips, and cabbage, that will enable you to enjoy garden-fresh dishes throughout the year.
Planting and caring for winter vegetables
If you live in colder climates, it’s best to plant winter vegetables in August. Doing so will enable your plants’ root systems to develop before cold weather and freezing temps. The most important thing to remember is that you should never allow your winter vegetables to freeze, so taking proper preventive methods will enable you to keep plants healthy.
That said, plants should be guarded and insulated with cold frames, mulch, loose straw and leaves, tunnels, hoops, or by other methods.
A cold frame provides a highly-effective method for protecting plants from colder weather. The frame shelters plants from ice, cold winds, snow, and warms the soil whenever the sun is shining. In fact, the soil inside a cold frame warms up much faster than the ground. Once they begin to grow inside a cold frame, the plants are surprisingly cold-resistant. But make sure that your cold frame has proper ventilation; plants won’t thrive if they’re allowed to overheat.