Best Plants to Grow During Your Next Winter Gardening

Vegetable Cabbage garden

Every year, winter brings colder weather, grey days, and maybe snow in your USDA zone. During this time, your garden will go into a slumber. Green turns to brown, upright plants wilt, and blooms stop flourishing. 

Many home vegetable gardens might lay empty waiting for the spring planting season.

Unless you have a greenhouse, this means you are no longer self-sufficient, and instead of gardening, you will have to consume store-bought vegetables. 

This may be distressing for an organic food lover who relies on their garden for greens. 

If that’s you — when buying vegetables, you may have doubts and questions. 

Are there harmful chemicals being used? How is the food grown? Is it environmentally friendly? 

These questions are hard to answer unless you grow the plants yourself. 

So what do you do in winter? 

Luckily, we have compiled the top tips for gardening in the winter without a greenhouse.  

As a bonus: Many of these tips can be used to grow in spring or late fall, too!  

Read on to learn the best vegetables and scenic shrubs to beautify a dreary yard, totally greenhouse free! You’ll also learn how to prepare your winter garden!

Growing Vegetables in Your Winter Garden

There is no point in planting edibles, only for them to die in winter.  

Grow the below vegetables and you’ll be sure of a constant supply of fresh edibles. 

Leafy Greens

Range of healthy green vegetable on a white table

Crops like spinach, lettuce, arugula, and mache are leafy greens that are cold resistant.Varieties of lettuce such as ‘Winter Density’ grow well during cooler weather, and this gardener attests to that fact.

Customer review

Arugula is a favorite cold season crop. You can sow the fast-growing garden version – ‘Astro’ – in late summer for early winter harvesting. 

The wild version is slower growing, but also is more tolerant of cold and has a robust taste. 

Asian Greens

Asian greens in the garden

Pak choi is probably the best type of Asian green for winter gardening, and you can harvest new leaves for salads.

As it matures, the leaves of the plant stiffen, making it perfect for stir-fries. This is one of the best choices because it’s full of vitamins.

Other Asian greens are tatsoi and mizuna. 

Tatsoi is dubbed the ‘new spinach’ of veggie gardens and flourishes in low temperatures. Once you start to harvest, store it in a sealed plastic bag to keep it fresh.  

Mustard is another green related to tatsoi that can spend days under the snow.

 Even without covers, it emerges in perfect condition when the snow melts. 

This plant will produce new leaves all winter long, even up to late winter.

They are all quick-growing, so if you plant the seeds during the fall, you can harvest Asian greens all throughout the season. 

Root Crops

Radish Carrot & Turnip

Vegetables that grow underground can survive colder temperatures because of less exposure to the elements. They usually require less protection, especially if you live in a warmer USDA zone.

Some of these include winter carrots that get sweeter as temperatures drop. An insulating layer lets them survive temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Turnips are winter crops that become sweeter when exposed to the cold season. You can grow them both in the spring and fall. 

Once the seed is in the ground, it will germinate in a few day’s time.

More root crops include radishes that can survive hard freezes. 

Onion Family Plants

Onions and other bulbs

This family of plants can withstand the cold and includes leeks, shallots, and green onions (scallions).

Scallions, especially the ‘Evergreen Hardy White,’ are a popular onion that produces long green tops and tender white stalks. 

You can plant them in September, and harvest from mid-November onward — throughout the cold winter.

Leeks are related to onions and are highly tolerant of the cold.

Amazingly, they can survive at 0 degrees Fahrenheit! 

Brassica Crops

Kinds of vegetables

Brassica crops include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and collard greens. 

Kale is a common green found in many winter gardens and improves in taste as the temperatures drop. 

The Winterbor variety is hardy enough to survive freezing weather and grows up to two feet tall. 

These crops are resistant to frost, saving you the need for a greenhouse or a row cover.  

Garden Plants to Grow During Winter

Having some beautiful flowers bloom in your garden will bring some cheer into the winter gloom. 

It’s easy to find hardy blossoms that survive cold weather to liven up your home garden.

Look for evergreen plants that survive year-round. Some flowers that can bloom through all four seasons include:

  1. Winter aconite

    Winter Aconite Bulbs
    With its butter-cup like blooms, the frilly foliage rises through the snow in bright yellow shades.

  2. Ornamental cabbage and kale

    Ornamental Cabbage and Kale
    As seen above, these two veggies are hardy and tolerant of cold weather. So why not choose the ornamental version and place it in your flower garden? The frilly leaves come in shades of purple, cream, and rose.

    Amazingly, the colors increase in vibrancy as it gets colder.

  3. Winterberry

    Winter Berry
    These shrubs lose their foliage towards the end of the year, leaving behind bright red berries. They are the perfect way to reflect the jolly Christmas season. 

    Now you have chosen the perfect veggies and flowers, the next step is to prepare your garden and plant them!

How to Prepare a Winter Garden

Green metal garden shovel

For your garden to bloom in winter, you may need to do a lot of preparation to ensure seedlings sprout. 

Let’s look at some winter gardening tips for outdoor gardens.

10 Steps to Preparing Your Yard for Winter Gardening

  1. Collect all the remnants of your summer garden to remove pests and diseases.

    Put these remnants in a compost heap for later usage.

    Be sure to remove diseased plants because they will affect future vegetation.

    (Even better than using a heap, why not try a composter?)
  1. Aerate the soil by turning it with a spade up to 12 inches deep.

    This also helps break up the clods and remove any weeds!

  2. Mix organic manure into the soil using a garden fork. You can use homemade compost, chicken manure, seaweed, or kelp.

  3. Add one of the following organic fertilizers:

    – Blood meal for additional nitrogen.
    – Cottonseed meal for additional nitrogen.
    – Bone meal for additional phosphate.
    – Bagged organic vegetable food.

    Work the fertilizer into the top 6 inches of the soil.

  4. Shape slightly raised beds, sloped from the north, downwards towards the south. 

    You should raise them at least 3-4 inches high.

  5. Using a hoe, prepare furrows or mounds, taking special care in heavy soils.

    The furrows should run north to south to give the plants full exposure to the winter sun.

  6. Plant taller crops to the north, and shorter ones to the south. This will prevent short crops from being shaded by tall ones. 

  7. Winter vegetables need full sun, so make sure your planting beds receive plenty of sunlight. 

    Ideally, place your planting beds near south-facing walls, fences, or buildings. They absorb heat during the day, and they will transmit it back onto the ground at night.
  8. You will need to prepare plastic row covers for the different sections. Use these to cover crops for protection until late wintertime.

    You could also use a portable cold frame in the yard for when the first freeze or frost is forecast. 

    Arch PVC pipes over the beds and stake them into the ground. When the first outdoor freeze arrives, cover the arches with 4-6mm thick clear plastic to create a mini-greenhouse. 

  9. Pour gravel or straw chips on the ground between the garden paths to avoid stepping in mud after winter rains.

When Should You Start a Winter Garden

The most important step is to determine the planting date

In the United States, your time zone will influence when to plant your seeds.   

For example, people living in USD zones 3-7 should start planning their garden in July.

You should sow winter garden plants and shrubs between 6-8 weeks before the first frost

…But how will you know what the average first frost date is? 

The best way to find the correct time and date is to look online!

Once you have the average first frost date, count back 8 weeks from that date. 

You then have a 2-week window to start your gardening process. Any delay means produce will not be ready for a winter harvest. 

When you have your garden space ready, you are ready for planting. 

How Do You Make Sure You’re Prepared Winter Gardening? 

Now that you have all the best tips related to gardening in the winter, and know the wide varieties of vegetation you can still plant — you can enjoy the gloomy weather!

One unique way is to grow winter crops in a cold frame. 

Turn beautiful planters into cold frames by placing clear plastic on top. These will keep crops frost-free, but let them absorb sunshine.

Your garden is full of possibilities and with the correct tools, you can take full advantage of it and keep gardening all winter long.

For even more gardening tips, see our website! We offer the best tips and advice along with all the necessary equipment.

Featured image: Pixabay by congerdesign

chard and kale with text overlay winter gardening best plants to grow

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