On my way to work today, the car’s thermometer read 29 degrees. Just below freezing. Guess that explains why when I walked out to the garden this morning everything looked a little sad. Okay. Things looked a little dead. It’s hard for me to imagine gardening at this time of year without cover rows; I won’t start my greenhouse seedlings for another month. So I daydreamed a little and checked the temperature in a couple other places across the country that I knew would be warmer.
Houston, for instance, is the lovely 70s right now. Okay, it’s forecasted to be much gloomier later this week for a day or two…but think about what you could be planting there! I dipped my toes in the forecasts of a few other cities down South, and imagined for a moment digging in warm soil to plant tomatoes and peppers. Harvesting big heirloom tomatoes in August (which I expect!) isn’t always a possibility in those hotter areas.
What can you plant and harvest in these months?
A Winter Garden for Colder Areas
In the bitterly cold areas, you might be a little at a loss for what you can harvest right now unless you have a well-suited greenhouse and/or cover rows. If you’re a bit prepared with these though, consider some cold-weather crops!
Spinach is a fairly hardy cold weather crop. Attempting to grow it in the heat and longer day-length causes it to bolt. With a cover row, you can easily harvest spinach well into the time you’re ready to plant your warmer crops! Like spinach, arugula and kale are top choices for winter gardens as well. Just last night, in 25 degree weather, I harvested a bunch of parsley to chop up for Spaghetti and Meatballs. The parsley is thriving more now than it was in November.
The other great thing about a winter garden? Less irrigation! Typically these are wetter months for the majority of the US.
There’s about a zillion radish seeds you can plant! They are likelier to bulb out into the traditional radish-shape in cooler weather. They don’t love being frozen, so if you’re in the 40s and 50s, you’re safe!
A Winter Garden in Warmer Areas
If you’re lucky enough to be able to take advantage of the heat though, this is an ideal time to grow those crops that just can’t stand the 100-degree weather.
Deteminate Tomatoes and hot or sweet peppers can be planted in 5 or 10 gallon pots, so that if you do get a bit of cold weather, you can haul them inside for the evening. Similarly, eggplantwon’t like any temperature over 90 degrees – but it loves 70 and 80 degree days. (Just like me!)
Also consider growing vegetables that tend to bolt when your hot weather rolls around, like brocolli or cauliflower.
Happy winter gardening!