There’s no reason to let your garden area lie dormant in the winter. There are plenty of cool weather crops and herbs that can be planted in cooler fall and winter months of the year providing for an abundant garden year round.
Cool weather crops, by definitions, are crops that mature at temperatures at least 15 degrees lower than warm weather crops. Ideally, cool weather crops should be planted one to two months before the first killing frost. But if a frost comes earlier than you anticipate, you can stop its damaging effects by covering your crops at night or making mini-greenhouses, called cloches, out of empty, clear soda or water bottles.
There are no set rules on when to plant a winter garden, but seeds are generally planted in late summer and seedlings can be planted in the early fall.
Common winter vegetables include: arugula, beets, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, chives, cilantro, cauliflower, fava beans, fennel, garlic, kale, leeks, lettuce, parsley, peas, radish, snow peas, spinach, swiss chard, and turnips.
Even gardeners with small spaces can plant a winter garden. Greens are usually the star of the winter garden, and even a tiny plot of ground or a large plant can be planted with a “salad garden.” Loose leaf lettuces take up less space than head lettuces, such as romaine, so they are generally the best choices for small space gardens. A single cabbage plant in a flower pot also makes an unusual and striking plant to use as decoration.
Winter gardens benefit from mulch. Mulch replenishes the garden and adds an extra inch of root protection, increasing the cold hardiness of the plant. Mulch should be applied in late October or early November.
Since winter gardens usually take up a fraction of the space that a summer garden takes, a cover crop can be planted on the remaining garden space. A cover crop can be turned into the soil in the spring as a “green” fertilizer.
Compared to summer gardens, winter gardens are very low maintenance. Once the winter rains begin, there is less need to water the garden. Also, since weeds grow slower in the winter, less time needs to be devoted to weeding duties.
Some maintenance issues in the winter garden remain the same. Like a summer garden, a winter garden needs fertilizer. Harvesting, is the same effort, but has the same rewards as a summer garden.