If you’re new to growing your own food or vegetable gardening in winter, this can be a good time to start. Here is a checklist to get started on successful winter gardens.
1. Keep accurate records.
Keep a journal when planting. Record plant varieties; which varieties were successful and which were not.
2. Know the important frost dates for winter gardens.
Use Google search or Dave’s Garden for the first and last frost dates of your climate zone. My climate zone is 9 so the estimated 1st frost is the1st week in Dec and last frost early Feb. Yours will probably differ.
Each winter, on average, the risk of frost is from December 23 through January 21. It is almost guaranteed that there will not be frost from March 17 through November 19. In zone 9, which includes cities such as Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orlando, Phoenix, San Jose, Savannah, Tampa, and Tucson, the frost-free growing season is around 336 days. In warmer or colder climate zones your dates may differ.
3. Plant favorite vegetables.
Winter crop suggestions: beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, Chinese cabbage, collards, endive, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, onions, parsley, parsnips, peas, pumpkins, rutabagas, spinach, Swiss chard, winter tomatoes and turnips.
Here are several tips and considerations for deciding what to grow in winter.
Beet and Radishes can grow all year round.
Celery: cut the outer stalks for weekly harvests and the plants will continue to grow.
Cilantro grows fast and is a good winter crop. They grow seed to table about 6 weeks.
Fava beans make a good cover crop and help replace Nitrogen in the soil, plus they taste great with a little salty cheese.
Kale and Swiss chard are also good cut and grow crops for winter.
Lettuce: leafy “cut and grow” varieties work well but not iceberg lettuce. Lattuga Parella Rosa is a good choice also from Franchi. Also consider bokchoy, toy choy and carrots.
Franchi: cipolla onion, carota da foraggio, ravenello, bietola da orto (beet root), fagiolo rampicante (climbing French bean) are all good choices.
Maui onions are also a winter plant.
Sugar snap peas seeds need to germinate in water 2 to 4 days before planting. They work well as a nitrogen replacement for garden soil.
Radish greens make a good addition to salads. Both radishes and the greens are eatable.
Winter tomatoes: choose Polish, Czechoslovakia and Russian varieties.
4. Don’t plant everything at once.
Use succession planting every two weeks for a continual supply of fresh winter vegetables.
5. Fruit trees can be planted in winter.
Dave Wilson Nursery good source for fruit trees in climate zones 5-9. They also provide fruit cocktail trees. Pick nectarines, peaches, plums and apricots all from the same tree.
6. Growing from seeds
Plant only fresh seeds for your winter garden. Seed packs over 2 years old should be discarded.
Choose seeds that will grow in your climate zone. Read the back of the seed pack for guidelines.
7. Buy from reliable seed companies.
I tend to prefer heirloom varieties of vegetables. I like the repeatability of growing the same successful varieties from year to year. With hybrids I’m never quite certain what the next year will bring.
The following are seed companies with unusual varieties not available in nurseries. I’ve ordered seeds from them for years.
Franchi, Baker Creek, Burpee, Renee’s Garden, Peaceful Valley Farm Supply are a few of my trusted favorites.
Several more seed company web sites that are worth a visit: