Can I Plant Anything During the Winter?

When you see the term “winter crops,” what this refers to is actually crops that can be harvested, not sown, in the winter. I realize this terminology can be a bit misleading. If you were to google “winter crops” in hopes of finding some things that you can plant right now, your search would actually reveal a list of things that you probably should have planted 3 months ago.

Depending on where you live, there are some things that you can actually plant during the winter. Now if you live in Wyoming, obviously your ground is frozen rock hard right now and you’ll need to stay inside with some hot tea before you are able to get your hands dirty out in your garden. If you live in a cold climate and wish to grow food during the winter, you may want to explore indoor container gardening, or gardening in a greenhouse. A row of herbs in pots on a windowsill can grow well, even in the winter. But if you live in a warm climate, such as zone 9 or 10, you have a good variety of options.

Check out this graph at Digital Gardener, for example. It reveals that there are several different crops that can be planted in Southern California in December, such as beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, and turnips.

Now if you do not live in a warm climate, now is the time to let your garden hibernate, and perhaps focus on different activities within your garden other than sowing seeds. One that I particularly enjoy is filling all of my bird feeders and watching birds flock to my garden. For the winter I like to use nyjer seeds, which are high in calories and help birds to stay full during these times when food is scarce.

Winter is also the time when I concentrate on maintenance. I will take the time to make sure that all of my tools are clean and oiled. I will continue to check my garden for rotted plants and pests. I will also continue to add compost to my compost heap, and turn it regularly.

The first winter planting that I will do will be around February, and that will be when I plant lettuce. Now I now you are thinking, “didn’t you just plant lettuce in August?” Yes, I did. But that is the great thing about lettuce. Alth0ugh you cannot can or pickle it, it is a cool season crop. So if you plan it correctly, you can have fresh lettuce practically all year. Lettuce seedlings cannot handle a hard freeze, but they can handle a light frost. Ideally, high temps should be around 60 and low temps should be around 40 when you plant lettuce seeds. So depending on where you live, this could be as early as January or as late as March.

Regardless of the climate in which you live, December is a great time of year to start planning for spring planting. Take inventory of your seeds. Organize an heirloom seed swap with other local gardeners. Map out your spring garden, and decide what you want to plant where. Make lists of any new tools you will need to purchase before prime planting season begins, such as a rain barrel or a new hose. Start preparing to plant any bulbs you have that must go through a cold germination process. This way, you will be well prepared and ready to begin when prime planting season begins.

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