{Thrive} In the Garden: Fall and Winter Planting Tips

Basket of TurnipsIf you have a vegetable garden, I hope you’re enjoying the fruits of your labor! However, do not think that because the summer season is soon ending that your vegetable garden has to follow. There are still plenty of vegetables to plant for the fall and winter months.

Some of my cold weather favorites include:

  • Greens: Arugula, collards, endive, kale, lettuces, mustard, spinach and Swiss/rainbow chard
  • Brassicas: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbages
  • Other: Beets, carrots, radishes, leeks, fennel, turnips and green onions

Lettuces and greens will thrive with cooler nights and may even develop a slightly sweeter taste. Spinach, in particular, can survive in even the coolest areas with just a lightweight fabric placed over the plants.

When to start your winter planting?

To get an idea of when to plant your winter vegetables, plan backwards from the average first frost in your area. Then give yourself an extra 2 weeks for slower, cold weather growing.

ADDED TIP: Many plant varieties take about 40 days from seed to table.

If you don’t know when the first frost takes place in your area, the Old Farmer’s Almanac can help you learn about your specific area and when to start planting.

Winter garden prep?

Just like your summer garden, you want to choose a location that gets at least 6 hours of sun each day. Remove any weeds that may be growing through out the garden, as well as plants that have diseases or insect problems. Then add 1-2 inches of good rich compost and rototill the garden. If you don’t have a rototiller, you can simply use a shovel or garden fork to mix the layer of dirt and new compost. Once mixed, begin planting your cold weather veggies!

Cold Weather Protection

If you’re not planting winter vegetables, but plan on starting a garden again next spring, you’ll want to so some work now to help you reap tremendous benefits later!

Begin by pulling up old vines and vegetable plants. Then fertilize your garden with organic material, such as:

  • Compost
  • Leaves
  • Manure – no more than an inch or two
  • Old hay straw
  • Kitchen and garden clippings
  • Eggshells
  • Green manure – Also known as “cover crop.” Plants that grow well in the off-season and have deep roots to protect soil and keep it loose. These plants will ultimately be tilled into the soil in the spring and contribute enriching, organic matter. These include red clover, rye, soybeans, buckwheat and winter wheat.

If you’re planting a cover crop, no need to rototill in the fall. However, if not, consider fall tilling followed by covering your garden with a layer of mulch or hay to prevent massive winter weed growth.

What are your favorite winter vegetables to plant?

Erin DeMito, RD, LDN

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4 thoughts on “{Thrive} In the Garden: Fall and Winter Planting Tips

  1. I get my garden rototilled in the spring and fall. In the fall I spread compost, lawn clippings, and ashes before tilling. Where I live in Alberta Canada there’s nothing for winter weeds.

    In the spring we rototill it again so that it’s easier to work in.

    I till in the fall for 2 reasons. I don’t want the garden to attract pests and I think that if the waste is buried it will be less attractive to mice. And when I shovel out the compost digester it really stinks so tilling reduces that drastically.

  2. Hello! I totally agree that winter doesn’t necessarily spell the end of growing your own veg. You just need to be careful to give your plants extra care and of course ensure you only attempt to grow plants which can take winter weather.

  3. Last fall I spread out the contents from the digester, the lawn clippings, and ashes from the fire pit. The digester really stunk so I also added 2 square bales of organic barley straw. I got all of that rototilled into the garden before winter. My plan is to get it worked up again in the spring time to further break up the straw. I’ll see in the spring if that’s necessary.

    Bottom line is that I personally don’t think that rototilling is as bad as some make it out to be. In the city I have to think about looks, smell, pest control, material blowing around. These are all things that rototilling helps a great deal with.

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