In the thick of summer, the last thing we want to think about is winter, but sowing seeds now can feed us through those colder months
Gardening through the fall and winter brings some much-needed activity to those dreary days—and it can be much easier than summer gardening. Most common pests are less active come winter, and many veggies actually prefer the cooler weather.
Overwintering veggies in your garden isn’t just beneficial for you, but for your soil too. Even if you’re not interested in harvesting through the fall and winter, a cover crop is a great way to keep nurturing your soil. It will help keep your soil intact, prevent wind erosion, feed the soil microbes, and leave limited space for weeds come spring.
Overall, fall and winter gardening is underrated, and if you live somewhere with a short spring or very hot summer, late season gardening may be for you—and it’ll save you the snowy trip to the grocery store.
What to plant now for the fall and winter
Photo by Shelley Pauls on UnsplashEach planting date is different depending on your plant hardiness zone and your average frost dates. You can check here to see what the frost dates are throughout Canada. Cold-hardy veggies, when planted at the right time, with the right protection can (and will) grow successfully during the “off season.”
- Arugula: A peppery green that tolerates frost or moderate freezing with a bit of protection from the harsher cold. Row cover or an unheated greenhouse is a great option.
- Beets: Nothing beats roasted beets or beet soup to warm up the winter soul. Sow directly in late summer outside with mulch, or later in a greenhouse or hoop house, and enjoy into early winter.
- Broccoli: This is one of those veggies that bolts as soon as it’s too hot out. Planting it for fall will eliminate this worry, but don’t forget to plant with mesh netting or floating cover to prevent cabbage moths (at least until it cools down).
- Brussels Sprouts: These little guys are great for winter gardening as they are uber productive well into the snowy months. Harvest sprouts from the bottom up and don’t forget to cover them.
- Carrots: Our favourite root vegetable prefers the cold weather, but don’t leave them in too long or they’ll get munched up by ground critters. Make sure to give carrots deep soil, full sun and lots of mulch.
- Collard Greens: Another great winter crop that can go into the greenhouse or hoop house and can be enjoyed all year long in soups or stews. They need lots of space, so be sure to plant them 18-inches apart.
- Garlic: The famous overwinter crop. Plant the bulbs 2 to 4 inches deep within the soil, and make sure the pointed end faces upwards and that the plants are in full sun and well-draining soil. The bulbs can be planted in mid-October for a harvest the following July—yes, it’s a long one, but garlic is worth the wait.
- Kale: Great for outdoor planting in a well-mulched area around midsummer. Don’t forget to harvest it frequently early on so that it produces more in the winter months.
- Leeks: You can absolutely overwinter leeks with heavy mulch or with a row cover on top. Make sure to plant the white part of the leek at least 5-inches deep to achieve those stunning stalks.
- Mustard Greens: Another fun winter garden veggie that will spice up your winter salads or warm meals. They do well in a cold frame or greenhouse if sown in warm weather and then kept cool for harvests throughout the year.
- Onions: You can plant onions in the fall, and they’ll grow throughout the winter with very little maintenance. Pick some early varieties and they’ll be ready just in time for spring (and will likely be your year’s first harvest).
- Pak Choi (Bok Choy): Delicious in stir-fries, pak choi matures quickly so it can be sown in late summer and then transplanted in the fall with a cover, cold frame, or into the greenhouse.
- Peas: This spring staple is also great to plant for the fall. Peas don’t mind a little frost, but make sure they’re big enough to handle it. You can always cover them to ensure you’ll have a longer yield, and for them to dry off on the vine for dried storage peas.
- Potatoes: Depending on the variety, potatoes can be sown in the autumn and winter as long as they have protection (mulch) from the heavy frost and drastic cold.
- Spinach: Sow your spinach in late summer/early fall for a late autumn harvest. You’ll get one harvest in the autumn, and then it won’t grow back until spring—but then you’ll have some early spring spinach.
- Swiss Chard: It doesn’t mind the heat, nor the cold—Swiss Chard is the perfect vegetable. Start from seed or transplant in late summer and cover it before hard snow.