Had an abundance of turkey from Thanksgiving and plenty of veggies in my winter garden so figured a nice healthy omelet for dinner might help out the recovery from the nutrient lacking foods I ate the day before.
Specifically I used Kale, spinach, green onions, and bok choy. You can see the recipe I used for this veggie and turkey omelet here.
Why let your gardening season end, with a little creativity there are many vegetables that can continue growing right through winter. I find this fun as wells of a rewarding challenge bringing in some great produce from my garden all year round.
Choosing your winter vegetables
First we need to determine what vegetables to grow, given temperature and lack of light will be a reality we will have to go with the colder tolerate spring/fall options. below are some of my favorites and their typical hardy temperatures.
Arugula: Hardy up to 15F (-9C). Not only is this the most profitable vegetable to grow per square foot it is a tasty and nutritious addition to your garden salads a very good source of vitamin A/C/K, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and manganese.
Beets: Hardy up to 20F (-7C). With beets you have a couple of options, eat the roots which are an excellent source of folate, potassium and manganese. The other option is to eats the beet greens which are an excellent source of vitamin A/C/E/K/B6, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and manganese
Bok choy: Hardy up to 24F (-4C). Bok choy is a great source of vitamin A/C/K/B6, riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and manganese.
Broccoli: Hardy up to 10F (-12C). So many options here and great eat fresh and if you get too much at once it is easy to freeze your excess crops while being a great source of Vitamin A/C/K/B6, folate, potassium and manganese.
Brussels Sprouts: Hardy up to 0F (-16C). If the thought of Brussels sprouts sicken you, don’t give up on these until you try some fresh from your garden. As an added bonus this is a great source of vitamin A/C/K/B6, thiamin, folate, potassium and manganese.
Cabbage (Winter): Hardy up to 5F (-14C). Use for raw for coleslaws or cooked in stews or soups to add some vitamin C, folate, potassium and manganese to your next meal.
Carrots: Hardy up to 15F (-9C). Great in salads, stir-fry, or raw as a quick snack and is also a great source of Vitamin A/C/K and potassium
Collards: Hardy up to 24F (-4C). Great sautÃ©ed with a little oil with salt and pepper and a great source of vitamin A/C/E/K/B6, riboflavin, folate, calcium and manganese.
Endive: Hardy up to 5F (-15C). Great addition to salads as well as making or a great addition to sounds. Endive is high in vitamin A/C/K, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese.
Kale: Hardy up to 8F (-13C). SautÃ© as a great side or even bake to make some delicious Kale chips and is high in vitamin A/C/K/B6, calcium, potassium, copper and manganese.
Kohlrabi: Hardy up to 15F (-9C). The taste and texture of kohlrabi are similar to those of a broccoli stem or cabbage heart, but milder and sweeter, with a higher ratio of flesh to skin. The young stem in particular can be as crisp and juicy as an apple, although much less sweet1. Kohlrabi is a great source of vitamin C/B6, potassium, copper and manganese
Garlic: Hardy up to 8F (-13C). One of the most useful aromatics to use in your kitchen and high in vitamin C/B6 and Manganese.
Leeks: Hardy up to 8F (-13C). Great additions/bases for many soups and stocks. Has flavor of onion though not quite as overpowering. It is also a great source of vitamin A/C/K, folate and manganese.
Lettuce: Hardy up to 24F (-4C). Staple for a quick winter salad. Choose varieties with darker leaves for more nutritious goodness of vitamin A/C/K, thiamin, folate, iron, potassium and manganese.
Onions (Bulb): Hardy up to 0F (-18C). Plant these out this fall/winter for some nice large bulbs next spring summer. These provide a great deal of versatility and vitamin B6, folate, potassium and manganese, and a very good source of Vitamin C.
Onions (Bunching): Hardy up to 10F (-12C). Plant a bunch of these and your garden and they will continue to spread and provide additional produce to your kitchen. With just a little bit of protection you can have onions all winter.
Peas: Hardy up to 35F (2C). Can be shelled and cooked and eaten as is or added to some nice soups in the wintertime or kept in the shells and eat raw or a great addition to a nice stir-fry. Peas also provide vitamin A/C/K, thiamin, folate, iron and manganese.
Spinach: Hardy up to 8F (-13C). Just recently got turned back to eating spinach, previously just used in an occasional salad but now I add to omelets every morning for some great taste but are also packed with nutritional potency being a very good source of protein, vitamin A/C/E/K/B6, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese.
Swiss Chard: Hardy up to 20F (-7C). Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.
When can you actually grow these vegetables
Now that found the vegetables you want to grow now is a good time to check those hardy temperatures of the vegetables you have chosen compared to your average winter temperatures. If your average low for the day is going to fall at or below that limit you may want to consider skipping that one or invest in a little protection.
Using a site like WeatherSpark, you can determine what your average low is for your area and then determine what vegetables you can grow during the winter. As you can see above on average in my area the average low is 36F which allows me to grow most of the cold season vegetables mentioned above. Though it is possible to get an occasional cold streak which cold mean death to my vegetables over the winter.
By using some row covers you can provide a little extra temperature (5-10F) depending on the thickness of the plastic and the volume of air you are attempting to keep warm. The thicker the plastic the better the temperature retention though allows less light to get through. For my area I am going with 2.5mm which should provide some decent protection while still allowing needed light in. When things really go bad you can also supplement with a light blanket at night and/or a couple strings of regular old Christmas lights (no LEDs for this application) to provide a few more degrees.
How to start your vegetables
Though your plants may grow well in the low temperatures germination can be incredibly slow at lower temperatures even for cold weather plants. For this reason you should start your vegetables indoors and bring them outdoors with some minimal hardening off.
As a general rule here are the plants you should be able to start as seeds in the ground now (September):
- Onions (sets for green onions, seeds for spring onions)
Other plants should be started indoors and planted out as starts. These can be brought out right now so check you local grocery store…this time of year I have found 4-packs of winter vegetable starts as low as $0.25 as the stores are making room for the Halloween pumpkins coming in. Since you will want a continuous harvest you can also start seeds now and every few weeks for a constant supply of winter vegetables all winter long.
Summing things up
By taking maturing and harvest time into account and creating continual planting you should supply yourself with delicious and nutritious selection of vegetables all winter long. I was going to go into what I am growing this year…but this post is already getting long so will write about that later…
I made the same mistake I did with the broccoli, by purchasing more spinach (2.5 lbs) than I could eat within a week or two at most before it goes bad. To not be wasteful I decided to to freeze some of the extra.
Start bringing a large pot of water to a hard rolling boil, add as much spinach as you can fit and cover with lid and cook for 2 minutes. Strain into colander and spray with cold water for one minute to stop cooking process.
Allow water to draining out for a few minutes then squeeze out excess with your hands and lay out on some paper towels. Place another paper towel on top and press firmly to remove all additional liquid.
Separate spinach into easily consumable portions (I went with two 5 oz servings) and place into a Ziploc sandwich bag and place these bags into a one gallon Ziploc freezer bag and place into your freezer
As far as cost savings go I can buy chopped or leaf spinach for $1.49 for a 10 oz. package (same amount I made myself) This works out to $2.39 per pound, I can buy a 2.5 lb. bag for $3.00 ($1.20 per pound) or roughly half the price for a pretty simple process.
Every time I have a discussion with a beginner gardener, this is the most common question. Typically the answer involves figuring out your last frost date then doing some backwards math when to start your seeds or purchase your plants from your local nursery. The problem with this is there is an assumption of the rate at which temperatures will increase after this no frost date. It doesn’t really matter how many weeks after the last frost when you bring out your tomatoes but the fact that it is over 65° F
This is good for estimation but ultimately it comes down to what temperatures various vegetables can survive and thrive at. This is ultimately when you should decide to start bringing those fragile plants outside. For reference the table below shows these temperatures for various vegetables.
eggplants, sweet potatoes, peppers, watermelons, okra, tomatoes
|70° F – 85° F
21° C – 30° C
|65° F – 90° F
18° C – 32° C
beans, black-eyed peas, cucumbers, melons, sweet corn, squashes
|65° F – 75° F
18° C – 24° C
|50° F – 90° F
10° C – 32° C
artichokes, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, collards, endives, fava beans, fennel, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, turnips
|60° F – 65° F
16° C – 18° C
|40° F – 75° F
4° C – 24° C
garlic, leeks, onions, shallots
|55° F – 75° F
13° C – 24° C
|45° F — 85° F
7° C – 30° C
Now that you know what temperatures your veggies grow best in, unless you can find a news station with a 2-3 month forecast this doesn’t help you too much. Fortunately we have been saving weather data for some time now and with some simple statistics you can make a more logical prediction of when this may occur (compared to last freeze date)
One site that makes this very easy is WeatherSpark, it uses historical data with great visuals to easily determine when the best probability of picking the right date to plan on your veggies going out into the great unknown.
As you can see in my area we rarely stay in the thriving temperature zone during a 24 hour period which is the reason why I personally keep my tomatoes and peppers in my automated grow box as long as I can.
Hopefully WeatherSpark can give you some incites about predicting the best times to bring those veggies out for a successful crop this year.
Whether it is to preserve your harvest from your garden or to help extend the life of the expensive produce you purchased from your local grocery store or farmers market, a little knowledge can help keep your veggies tasty and even stretch out a couple of extra days before becoming compost.
The basic idea is pretty simple, think about where your produce is stored in the grocery store and then do the same thing at home. For example they store carrots in a refrigerated display case…so you should store yours in your refrigerator. They store their onions at room temperature so you would think it would be best to do the same…reality is they are best to be stored between 55-65 degrees. During the winter time my room temperature is probably in the top part of that range but majority time my indoor temperatures will be much higher. Depending on the age of your house, you may have a root cellar which helps to create these ideal conditions for that pesky produce that is too cold in the refrigerator but too warm in a heated house. For the rest of us find a nice cool location in your house such as garage or spot next to a window (at least during the wintertime) otherwise you may be reducing the quality and viability of your produce.
Below is a list of the recommended storing temperatures for fruits and vegetables:
I either forgot to harvest a couple bulbs of garlic, or the mild winter we had in the Northwest may have allowed the garlic I planted last fall to slowly develop some bulbs. Thinking the first option is more likely, but did present me with a problem of some very tightly grouped garlic.
Fortunately the solution to this problem was very simple. I pulled up the garlic bunches and gently separated the individual garlic plants. Finally I carefully replanted at much better spacing and followed up with a little watering. The unfortunate side effect is now I have 75% of my cold weather plot growing garlic. On the positively side with proper preparation garlic stores well and I can definitely feel less guilty harvesting some of my garlic before they start developing bulbs.
Also provided that garlic does not require a lot of root space I should be able to plant some random veggies between them.