Some vegetable varieties thrive in the cool conditions of fall and early winter, and offered a bit of protection from extreme cold, they can be harvested right through until spring. Many varieties actually improve in flavour, texture, and sweetness once the cold weather arrives.
As you would start many vegetables in late winter and early spring for summer harvests, winter gardening requires sowing seeds in mid- to late summer. This allows the plants to gain a little growth before the days begin to get shorter and the sunlight becomes less intense. The secret is choosing the right vegetables and thinking ahead.
Varieties for winter harvest:
Sow from June to the end of August for harvests in fall, winter, and spring. High in Vitamin A and potassium, with a tangy, nutty flavour. Winter-grown arugula has a very different, milder flavour than the same plant grown in hot weather. Sow densely in rows 4 inches apart. Use crop protection for a longer harvest.
Sow beets every three weeks from early spring to the end of July. Late sown beets can be harvested as beetroot or leafy greens from fall to winter. All beets have cold-hardiness, but Red Ace and Winterkeeper are particularly suited to winter gardening. Use crop protection for a longer harvest.
Sow some indoors in midsummer to transplant out before the end of August, and harvest in fall and early winter. Raab varieties can be harvested quite late without protection.
Sow indoors in early June, and transplant seedlings outside in early August. These can be harvested over the winter and into spring. Frost adds to the sweetness of the edible buds.
Sow winter varieties in June and July to harvest in fall and winter – try Danish Ballhead, Embassy, January King, and Ermosa.
Sow every three weeks from early spring to around July 7 for mature winter carrots, and sow again in the first two weeks of August for winter harvests. Carrots become very sweet in the cold, and all varieties are suited to winter gardening, or – try Campestra, Bolero, and Scarlet Nantes for the best hardiness. Use crop protection for a longer harvest.
Sow this tangy herb every three weeks right up to the end of August, and harvest young plants in fall and winter. Cilantro grows best in cold weather, and tends to bolt in heat. Grown under cover, it should survive all winter.
Sow this under-exploited, cold-hardy, leafy vegetable to the middle of July, and harvest from fall to spring for steamed greens and stir-fries. Collards can grow without any protection.
Sometimes called Mâche, this is the hardiest winter salad green, and can be sown as late as mid-September for harvests right into spring. Use the leaves as you would lettuce – the mild, nutty taste makes a fine background for stronger flavours from arugula, scallions, and other winter vegetables. Use crop protection for a longer harvest.
Endive & Radicchio:
Sow from late June to early August, and add great texture and colour to salads from early fall right through winter. Endives can be sown as late as mid-September. Use crop protection for a longer harvest.
Sow this workhorse of a vegetable until mid-July for fall and winter harvests. All varieties grow sweeter after frost and can be grown without cover. Kale has the highest levels of beta-carotene of any vegetable and is also rich in Vitamin C and calcium.
Sow from late July to mid-August, and harvest in the fall and winter. The variety called Superschmeltz can be harvested right through until April. The swollen stems of kohlrabi contain high levels of Vitamin C, and grow sweeter after frost. No winter protection is required.
Sow the Dutch variety Bandit from March to the end of June to harvest as late as April the following spring. Harvest any time once the stems are over 1 inch thick – great in soups, stews, and gravies.
With protection, all lettuces can be grown over winter, but varieties like Continuity, Winter Density, Cimmaron, and Rouge d’Hiver are particularly hardy. Sow every three weeks from March to September, but provide frost protection beneath heavy row cover or a cloche greenhouse. Surprise your friends with fresh salads at holiday dinners!
Mibuna, Mizuna, & Komatsuna:
Sow these tasty Asian greens to the end of August or early September for harvests in fall to late winter. These are very hardy plants, and may survive without winter protection. Great in salads and stir-fries.
Sow to the end of July, and parsley will produce all winter with a bit of crop protection. It is rich in both Vitamin C and iron. The conventional curly variety, Forest Green, may do better than the flat leaf Italian over winter.