Now is the time of year that the seed catalogs come rolling in. There’s time at the end of a busy day to curl up and dream your way through them. We imagine what our yards, flower beds and vegetable gardens could look like. We envision rows of beans ready to harvest, carrots peeking their heads out of the cool dark earth. We pick and choose, and pick and choose again, narrowing down our choices.
But winter doesn’t have to be a time of just dreaming and planning. There are some plants you can grow that will live through the winters. Of course some will need some cover or shelter. Some are best grown in a greenhouse or cold frame, but you can grow some food in the wintertime.
Plants to Grow Indoors
Most cold tolerant winter plants can cope well with the weather, however there are varieties that do tend to need some extra protection from the cold. These plants can be kept in pots, boxes or polybags indoors like in a conservatory, sunroom or in an unheated greenhouse to keep your garden thriving throughout the season.
Some plants may need more light than the winter sun can offer so consider the addition of grow lights as an option. Here are some of the vegetables that only need a small amount of room to grow and only require a minimal amount of light to give you a good harvest.
Carrots and Radishes
These kinds of veggies grow well in boxes, pans and pots when planted in a compost mixture of well-draining soil. Radishes do not need greater depth compared to other root crops. If planting carrots inside, in a box, make sure that the variety you chose is a shorter carrot such as the Chantenay (up to 6″) or the Short n Sweet (4″) .Make sure to provide 4-5 hours of sunlight or its grow light equivalent each day to allow roots to develop. Seeds can be sown from late winter until mid-fall, and can be harvested after 21 to 25 days.
Beans and Peas
Seeds of beans and peas can also be sown in pots. Provide something tall for them to climb and for their tendrils to wind around. If bush beans are available consider them as they don’t require support and as an added boon, they’re easy to harvest.
Growing mushrooms during the winter and even all year round is very easy. You can buy ready-made mushroom kits. Experienced growers can prepare their own bags or special compost beds and add mushroom spawn to it. Water the medium and kept in a cool, dark place. The ideal temperature for mushrooms is about 63-68F to fully develop and have an ideal harvest. Your unheated greenhouse may not be warm enough, but your basement might!
Potatoes are very filling and can even be grown indoors in sacks or large pots. Fill pots with good mixture of compost and plant the tubers. Provide potatoes 5-6 hours of sunlight a day or its equivalent in grow lights to have a successful yield.
Plants to Grow Outdoors
Growing plants outdoors during winter is a bit challenging and difficult but it’s possible. Choose the most hardy, cold-tolerant and resilient crops that could survive over freezing temperatures. Got a cold frame? You’ve the makings for growing some winter vegetables.
Onions are considered the most resilient type of vegetables because most varieties can withstand freezing up to about zero degrees F. I’ve some growing outside right now that I apparently missed harvesting last summer! (and garlic too!)
Lettuce and Salad Greens
A cool season crop loves to grow and only needs a little extra care to thrive during cold months. Some of these leafy veggies are endives, golden purslane, land cress, Swiss chard and ‘some’ greens. When the temperature in your place hovers much below freezing, it is best to cover the garden with frost covers OR grow in your cold frame (or greenhouse).
Chervil and Oregano
These herbs prefer cooler weather and can easily withstand winter frost. Chervil can be used as garnish for variety of salads while oregano is used in many a recipe.
Wondering an easy cheap way to construct a cold frame? Many folks use old windows over a frame of wood. Deconstruct a shipping pallet so that you have a ‘box’ the size of your window.
Know what else works as a cold frame? Old clear shower doors! Think outside the box!