Preparing an organic vegetable garden for winter can help keep you with a supply of seasonal winter crops. Of course, spring and summer are the seasons when most veggies grow. But broccoli, garlic, cabbage, Swiss chard, and mustard are just some of the delicious vegetable varieties you can grow organically in a vegetable garden in winter.
Although vegetables grow slower in winter than in summer, there is no reason to shut down your veggie patch just because colder weather has arrived. Planning a winter vegetable garden requires growing cold-hardy produce that can survive some frost. When the temperature gets freezing, being prepared with mulch to provide ground cover can help protect your winter vegetables.
How can you grow organic vegetables in winter? What do you need to do to prepare your vegetable patch for winter? You will find the answer to those questions and more in this organic gardening guide.
How to Prepare an Organic Vegetable Garden for Winter
Preparation is the key to successfully growing vegetables during winter. After you have harvested the last of the summer crops, there is probably cleaning up to be attended to. It’s crucial to remove old plants and get rid of any weeds. If invasive weeds took over parts of your garden, now’s the time to dig them up and destroy them.
If you are planning to grow vegetables in your organic garden, it’s a good idea to check the soil’s health. You should test for pH, levels of calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and sulfur. Make sure that there is plenty of organic matter in the soil.
Which Vegetables Grow During Winter
Some root vegetables and many cruciferous, green leafy vegetables are excellent choices for growing in winter. However, you will need to plan your winter vegetable garden well. Some types of winter crops such as carrots, beets, and kale should be planted in summer, ready for harvesting in winter. Other bulb vegetables such as garlic can be planted in winter, ready for picking in spring.
Here are some of the best vegetables to grow in your garden during winter:
- Broad beans
- Scallions (spring onions)
- Brussels sprouts
How to Protect an Organic Vegetable Patch During Winter
Providing protective ground cover is crucial if you plant vegetables to grow during winter. Putting a layer of organic material—wood chippings, grass trimmings, or fallen leaves—helps protect many plants from freezing temperatures. Mulching during winter months also helps lock in moisture.
In general, you should always be ready to cover your garden bed over winter if frost is due. Let’s look briefly at how to care for vegetables during challenging winter conditions:
Protection of Your Vegetables from Frost
- If you anticipate frost, water your garden thoroughly a few days beforehand. This prevents frost from damaging stressed plants that are lacking moisture.
- Spread a layer of mulch about 2 or 3 inches (2.5 – 4 cm) thick. If you have delicate plants, a layer of straw can provide excellent ground coverage without damaging growing vegetables.
- Put protective sheets, supported on stakes, over winter vegetables to protect them from frost.
- Cover individual plants with plastic bottles to offer frost protection.
Protecting Your Vegetables from Cold Winds
Many leafy green vegetables benefit from a light frost. However, cold, biting winds along with a hard freeze can kill the plants. The best protection is to cover plants with a plastic tunnel to give protection from the harsh elements.
Another way to protect your vegetables from winter winds is to build a fence. The fence doesn’t have to be too high, just enough to stop bitterly-cold winds from ripping through your growing vegetables.
Growing Vegetables in areas with limited sunlight
If your organic winter vegetable garden is in a shaded area, plants can suffer from a lack of sunshine. If that is the case, you’ll plant vegetables that grow with little sunlight. Some vegetables that grow well in winter with little sunlight are root vegetables—carrots, beets, radishes—as well as peas, beans, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Ways to Improve My Organic Soil Over Winter
Whether you decide to plant winter vegetables or not, late fall is the best time to dig in soil amendments. Digging in manure, bone meal, kelp, or organic compost that you have made, after the growing season helps enrich your soil, ready for next spring. You also have less work in spring to get started with planting your new crop of organic fruit and vegetables. Just remember to cover the amended soil with plastic sheeting to prevent rain from flushing the nutrients away from the growing zone.
Another way to improve soil condition during winter is to allow winter ground cover plants to grow. Plants such as legumes develop extensive root systems, and when you cut the plants back in spring, you’ve got a ton of rich organic matter in the soil. Just perfect for planting your new crop of organic vegetables.