Having vegetables year-round is something Southerners like me take for granted. However, we do occasionally get a colder-than-average winter. When it happens, it is necessary to make adjustments as to what we plant in the garden.
Here are the 14 vegetables that I recommend giving a try in the winter or during colder weather. I’ll also provide a planting schedule to help get you on the right track.
Broccoli is an edible green vegetable that is a member of the cabbage family. It has a large flowering head, a stalk, and small leaves, all of which can be eaten. Each plant generally produces one large head, but if the plant is left intact after the head is harvested, the plant will continue producing smaller broccoli heads that are equally tasty.
Growing Conditions: Broccoli needs full sun and well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 for maximum growth, and the young broccoli plants need 1 to 2 inches of water per week.
Seeds Or Seedlings: Broccoli can be grown from seeds or seedlings, and plants should be spaced 18 to 24 inches apart.
Growing Season: Even though broccoli is a cool-season crop, it can be planted in early spring for a late spring or early summer harvest and can also be planted in late summer for a fall harvest.
- For spring planting, there is a heat-resistant variety that matures 50 to 60 days from planting.
- Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date.
- Sow seeds outdoors 2-3 weeks before the last frost date.
- For fall planting, a variety with a longer growth cycle of 60 to 85 days will allow the heads to form in cooler weather, which will significantly improve the flavor.
- Sow seeds in the fall 85-100 days before the first frost date.
Harvesting: Broccoli that is harvested in the morning while the soil is still cool has a better flavor than that harvested later in the day. Simply use a knife or scissors to remove the stalk, but leave 2 to 3 inches of the stalk on the main plant. The smaller heads will continue to grow after the main head has been harvested.
Serving Options: Broccoli can be served raw as part of a salad or with dips, or it can be boiled, sauteed, roasted, or steamed. It is best when cooked just to the fork-tender stage and not overcooked. If overcooked, it becomes mushy and loses its flavor.
- Broccoli begins to age rapidly once harvested and can only be kept unrefrigerated for 1 to 2 days. The head begins to turn yellow within about 2 days.
- It will last 5 to 6 days if refrigerated.
- Broccoli can also be blanched and frozen for long-term use.
- Canning, however, is not an option when it comes to broccoli because heating the broccoli to the high temperature required to kill the bacteria would reduce broccoli to a tasteless mush.
2. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts are an edible green vegetable that is a member of the cabbage family. In fact, the Brussels sprout looks like a tiny version of the cabbage but with a flavor that is stronger than cabbage. The Brussels sprout is an interesting little vegetable that grows along a common stem or stalk, with a sprout growing just above the juncture called the axil, where each leaf grows from the stem.
The picture above is growing in a raised bed in my garden and is one of two plants that were my first experience with growing Brussels sprouts and are the first Brussels sprout plants that I have ever seen. These plants were a surprise and a definite learning experience for me.
Growing Conditions: Brussels Sprouts need full sun and rich, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 for maximum growth, and the young plants should be watered thoroughly once a week with at least 1 inch of water.
Seeds Or Seedlings: Brussels sprouts can be grown from seeds or seedlings, and plants should be spaced 18 inches apart.
Growing Season: Even though Brussels sprouts are a winter crop, they can also be planted in the early spring. However, the heads mature much better when the weather is cool and even frosty. Brussels sprouts have a long growing season taking 80 to 100 days from seed to maturity.
Harvesting: Harvesting Brussels sprouts is an interesting process. The heads grow all along the main stem from bottom to top.
- When the largest sprouts are an inch in diameter, cut off one or two inches from the top of the stem, which will encourage the sprouts at the top to grow larger.
- Once the outside temperatures are down into the 20s, cut the stems off at ground level and either hang the stems or stack them in a cool, dry area.
- You can harvest the sprouts as you need them over the next few weeks. Or, you can remove all the sprouts from the stem at once and store them in the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks.
Serving Options: Brussels sprouts can be boiled, sauteed, roasted, or steamed and served on their own as a side dish, or they can be added to soups or stews. It is best when cooked just to the fork-tender stage and not overcooked since Brussels sprouts become mushy when cooked too long. I like to add a few of the fresh sprouts to beef stew within the last 20 minutes or so of its cooking time for an added zip to an otherwise standard beef stew recipe.
Brussels Sprouts Storage
- Brussels sprouts can be kept on the stem for several weeks.
- They can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.
- They can also be blanched and frozen for up to 6 months. If spread on a baking sheet to freeze individually, they can be placed in a freezer bag or other freezer-safe container and removed for use in whatever quantity you need at a time.
- Brussels sprouts can be pickled for long-term storage.
Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable that is a member of the same family as kale and broccoli. It is chock full of nutrients and is very low in calories at 17 per half cup of cooked cabbage. Some varieties have smooth leaves, while others have a crinkled texture, and they range in color from green to red to purple. There are many varieties of cabbages, and they can grow almost anywhere and thrive in USDA growing zones 1 through 10, depending on the variety.
Growing Conditions: Cabbage needs full sun and well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5 to 6.8 for maximum growth, and the cabbage plants require regular, even watering.
Seeds Or Seedlings: Cabbage can be grown from seeds or seedlings, and plants should be spaced 18 to 24 inches apart to allow each head plenty of room for growth.
Growing Season: Even though cabbage is a cool-season crop, it can be planted in early spring for a late spring or early summer harvest and can also be planted in late summer for a fall harvest. Cabbage, when grown from seeds, mature in 80 to 180 days, depending on the variety; when grown from transplants, they mature in 65 to 105 days, again depending on the variety.
Harvesting: Cabbage should be harvested by using a sharp knife to remove the cabbage below the head, but by leaving most of the outer leaves, the plant will produce between 2 and 6 small heads for a tasty 2nd crop after the main head has been harvested.
Serving Options: Cabbage is another versatile vegetable that can be served raw as part of a salad or made into slaw, or it can be boiled, sauteed, roasted, or steamed. It can be added to soups and stews, and the leaves can be boiled and stuffed, and my favorite is to use it as an ingredient in a stir fry.
- Cabbage can be stored in a cool, dry area with conditions similar to a root cellar or unheated basement for months, as long as they are intact and have not been cut into. Even after the outer leaves turn dark and look moldy, just remove the outer leaves, and part of the inner head will still be good.
- Cabbage, when stored unwashed in a plastic vegetable bag in the refrigerator, will last up to 2 months.
- Cabbage can be blanched and stored in the freezer for up to 1 year and even longer but the quality will begin to degrade over time.
- Cabbages can also be pickled and made into sauerkraut and can be pressure canned for long-term storage.
4. Collard Greens
Collard greens are an edible green vegetable that is a member of the cabbage family. It can be identified by its large dark green leaves and thick, tough stems, which are discarded before cooking unless the leaves are harvested when they are young and tender. Collards are especially rich in vitamins A and C and are quite high in vitamin K, fiber, calcium, and iron.
A few years back, in my raised bed garden in Central Florida, I planted collards from seedlings in October, and they kept making until the following July. They were between 4 and 5 feet tall and had to be supported by a trellis. Once or twice a week, I would pick about 15 leaves and cook them, put a pint freezer box of them in the freezer, and we would eat the rest. We ate them boiled, stir-fried, in salads, as slaw, and in many pots of soup. Plus, I gave away all the neighbors would take. I’ve never seen collards grow like that before.
Growing Conditions: Collard green plants need full sun and well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 for maximum growth and must have an adequate water supply.
Seeds Or Seedlings: Collard greens can be grown from seeds or seedlings, and plants should be spaced 18 to 24 inches apart. If started from seeds, plant the seeds in rows 3 feet apart and thin to 18 inches apart to give plants the space they need to grow properly. The small plants that are being pulled when thinning can be added to salads or cooked if there is a sufficient amount of them.
Growing Season: Even though collards are a cool-season crop, it can be grown almost year-round as long as the weather doesn’t get too hot because hot weather causes collards to bolt or “go to seed,” at which time the plants are still edible but can have a bitter taste. They have the best flavor after they have been through a light frost. Collards mature 60 to 75 days from planting.
Harvesting: Collard greens can be harvested as soon as the leaves are large enough. The largest leaves can simply be cut or snapped off from the bottom of the stalk, and the plants will continue to produce new leaves.
Serving Options: Collard greens are delicious when boiled alone as a side dish or cooked with bacon or ham hocks as a seasoning. They are also good when added to soups and stews, stir-fried, made into slaw, or added to salad greens.
Collar Greens Storage
- Collard green leaves can be stored unwashed in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days.
- They can be blanched and stored in the freezer for at least 1 to 2 years.
- Collards can be pressure canned for long-term storage.
Kale is one of those green, leafy vegetables that are grown for their leaves. It is a member of the cruciferous family that also includes mustard. Kale, like all of the vegetables known as greens, are loaded with nutrients that provide health benefits for the entire body.
Growing Conditions: Kale grows best in areas that have the benefit of full sun in well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5 to 6.8. When growing kale, the best conditions include providing them 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week.
Seeds Or Seedlings: Kale can be planted from seeds or from seedlings and can be planted in rows that are 18 to 24 inches wide with plants spaced 18 to 24 inches apart. It can also be planted by broadcasting seeds, and the young plants thinned as it is harvested.
Growing Season: Plant kale in the spring, and it will grow until the weather becomes too hot. Kale planted in the fall can be harvested into the winter until the weather reaches 20℉. Kale seeds germinate in a matter of days and will be ready for harvest in 2 months.
Harvesting: Unless you are thinning young plants, kale should be harvested by removing several of the largest leaves from each plant and allowing the plant to continue growing. The entire kale plant should not be harvested until the end of the growing season.
Serving Options: Kale can be eaten raw in salads, cooked on its own as a side dish, or included in soups, quiches, and casseroles.
- Kale will begin wilting within a short time of harvest but will remain good for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
- Kale can be blanched and frozen and will remain good in the freezer for up to 2 years.
- Kale can also be stored for long-term use by pressure canning.
Kohlrabi is a member of the cabbage family that is one of the more odd-looking vegetables. It looks like a turnip root or beet growing on top of the ground rather than in the soil, with leaves spaced unevenly around the bulb instead of having a single outgrowth of leaves from the center of the top of the bulb like beets and turnips. In fact it tastes rather like a turnip, but is sweeter and milder in flavor. Kohlrabi is particularly high in vitamin C and fiber.
Growing Conditions: Kohlrabi grows best in full sun in well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5 to 6.8, and needs 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week.
Seeds Or Seedlings: Kohlrabi can be grown from seeds or from seedlings and plants should be spaced 9 to 12 inches apart.
Growing Season: Kohlrabi can be planted in spring or fall gardens and although they do not fare well in hot weather, the Kohlrabi plants will continue to produce in the winter after most of the other plants have been killed by the cold weather. It takes 55 days from seed for Kohlrabi to reach maturity.
Harvesting: Kohlrabi is best when harvested between 2.5 to 4 inches in diameter. Simply cut the bulbs from the base of the plant.
Serving Options: Kohlrabi bulbs and leaves can both be eaten. The bulbs can be sliced and eaten raw in salads or with dips, or they can be cooked like turnip roots. The leaves can be cooked until tender just like cabbages and other greens.
- Kohlrabi can be stored for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
- It can also be blanched and frozen, either whole or in chunks.
- And, Kohlrabi can be cut into chunks and pressure canned for long-term storage.
Leeks are a bulbous winter-hardy crop that belongs to the allium or onion family and are related to garlic, green onions, shallots, and chives. They look like green onions with white flesh and green tops, but leeks are the larger of the two. Leeks have a mild and sweet onion flavor.
Growing Conditions: The ideal growing conditions for leeks include a sunny spot that gets 8 hours of sun per day in well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Leeks have a shallow root system and should be watered often. They require at least 1 inch of water per week to thrive.
Seeds Or Seedlings: Leeks can be started from seeds or seedlings. Since the growing season is rather long, it is better to start leeks indoors from seeds and transplant the seedlings when they are 6 to 8 inches tall. The seedlings should be set 2 to 6 inches apart in the rows.
Growing Season: Leeks have a long growing season from 120 to 150 days and should be started indoors from seeds and transplanted when the seedlings are 10 to 15 weeks old. Most leek varieties are mature when the width of the stem is bigger than 1 inch, and the white shaft is 3 inches long, but there are some smaller varieties.
Harvesting: To harvest leeks, simply twist the plant to loosen the soil and pull the plant free, or use a spade or shovel to lift them from the soil.
Serving Options: Leeks can be eaten raw in a salad, but they can also be sauteed, braised, boiled, fried, or roasted.
- Leeks can be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, but because of their strong odor, they should not be trimmed or washed before storing. Just wrap them in plastic wrap or put them into a plastic bag before placing them in the refrigerator.
- Leeks do not freeze well unless you are simply going to use them in soups or stews. Just trim, wash, and cut into slices and freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet, then put them into a freezer bag or other freezer-proof container after they are frozen so that you can take a few out at the time to put into a pot of soup or stew.
Pro Tip: Leeks can be grown from leeks that you have already used. Simply trim the root end from the leek and place it into a jar of water, changing the water for fresh every day or two. When the roots begin sprouting, plant it in a pot filled with potting mix, and the leek roots will grow a new plant for you. Celery can also be regrown in this way.
Lettuce is an annual plant that is of the Asteraceae family, the same family that includes artichokes, chamomile, chicory, and dandelions. Lettuce is most often grown as a leaf vegetable, and there are four different categories that lettuce varieties fall under, butterhead, crisphead, loose leaf, and Romaine.
Growing Conditions: Lettuce should be planted in an area that has 5 to 6 hours of sun per day, and needs well-tilled, loose soil to germinate. Plant lettuce when soil temperatures are 45℉ to 65℉. The soil should be kept moist but not soggy.
Seeds Or Seedlings: Lettuce can be started from seeds or seedlings, but direct sowing is recommended. Rows should be 12 to 15 inches apart, and plants should be thinned depending on the variety. For example, loose-leaf lettuce should be thinned to 4 inches apart, while icebergs should be thinned to 16 inches apart.
Growing Season: Lettuce is a cold-weather crop that thrives at 60 to 65℉, and most varieties can survive at a low of 25℉. But, temperatures below 25℉ can damage the plants. Lettuce is one of the easiest plants to grow, but it will bolt or go to seed if the weather gets too warm. Lettuce matures in 65 to 100 days, depending on the variety.
Harvesting: Lettuce can be harvested by removing the outer leaves of loose-leaf lettuce as they mature, or the entire head of varieties like iceberg can be cut. The harvest of fresh lettuce can be extended by practicing succession planting, where lettuce is planted every 2 weeks during the growing season so that you can have a continual supply of fresh lettuce for an extended period of time.
Serving Options: Lettuce is mainly eaten as a salad, but is also quite popular in sandwiches and wraps.
The best way to store lettuce is by removing any outer leaves that are wilted or damaged, wrapping the head in paper towels, and store in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator. If stored properly, lettuce can last from 7 to 10 days in the refrigerator. Heading lettuce like iceberg lasts longer than the loose-leaf variety.
9. Mustard Greens
Mustard is another of those green, leafy vegetables that are grown for their leaves. It is a member of the cruciferous family that includes kale and broccoli and can be grown from seeds or seedlings. Mustard, like all of the vegetables known as greens, are loaded with nutrients that provide many health benefits.
Growing Conditions: Mustard grows best in areas that have full sun and need well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5 to 6.8. When growing mustard, the best conditions include providing them with a regular supply of 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week.
Seeds Or Seedlings: Mustard can be planted from seeds or from seedlings and can be planted in rows with plants spaced 12 to 18 inches apart. It can also be planted by broadcasting seeds, and the young plants thinned as it is harvested. Mustard can grow up to a foot and a half tall.
Growing Season: Plant mustard in the spring, and it makes until the weather becomes too hot. Mustard likes cooler weather and, when planted in the fall, can be harvested into the winter until the weather turns really cold. Mustard is not as cold hardy as collards but can withstand a light freeze. In fact, mustard tastes sweeter after it has been subjected to a light freeze. Mustard seeds germinate in a matter of days and will be ready for harvest in about 4 weeks.
Harvesting: Unless you are thinning young plants, mustard should be harvested by carefully removing several of the largest leaves from each plant without disturbing the roots and allowing the plant to continue growing.
Serving Options: Similar to other greens, mustard are delicious when boiled alone as a side dish or cooked with bacon or ham hocks as a seasoning. They are also good when added to soups and stews, stir-fried, made into slaw, or added to salad greens.
Mustard Greens Storage
- Mustard greens will begin wilting within a short time of harvest.
- But, it will remain good for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
- Mustard greens can be blanched and frozen for up to 2 years.
- Mustard can be pressure canned for long-term storage.
In this video, I show how to pressure can mustards:
Parsnips are root vegetables of the Apiaceae family that are closely related to carrots. The flesh and skin of the parsnip are cream-colored and they have a long tap root like the carrot. They are best when left in the garden to mature and become sweeter after the first winter frosts. Like the other cold-weather vegetables mentioned here, they are packed with nutrients, including potassium and vitamins B6 and C.
Growing Conditions: Parsnips require full sun and soil with a pH of 6.0 or higher that is well-tilled and loose to grow well. Like carrots, they do not grow well in rocky or compacted soil. The soil should be kept moist.
Seeds Or Seedlings: Parsnips should be planted from seeds directly into the garden. Sow the seeds 1 inch apart in rows that are 18 to 24 inches wide. Parsnip seeds are slow to germinate, so do not expect to see seedlings appear until 2 to 3 weeks after planting. Once the seedlings are 2 to 3 inches tall, thin the plants to 3 to 4 inches apart to allow plenty of room for growth.
Growing Season: Parsnips are ready for harvest approximately 16 weeks after planting, depending on the variety, and they are ready for harvest when the roots are about an inch in diameter. Planting time for parsnips should be coordinated so that they are exposed to near-freezing temperatures for the last 2 to 4 weeks of their growth, but they should be harvested before the ground freezes. Being exposed to near-freezing temperatures changes the starch in parsnips to sugar which produces a sweeter, more unique flavor.
Harvesting: Parsnips are ready for harvest when the foliage begins to die in late summer or early fall, but they can be left in the ground until you are ready to eat them. They should be lifted from the dirt with a clean digging or spading fork. Then, the foliage should be trimmed to 1 inch of the root. The cold temperatures improve their flavor, but they should be harvested before the first freeze.
Serving Options: Parsnips can be eaten raw as a snack or in a salad, but they can also be cooked in a variety of ways. They can be baked, sauteed, boiled, fried, steamed, or roasted. They can also be cooked and mashed or added to soups, stews, and casseroles.
- Parsnips can be stored at room temperature for 1 to 2 weeks.
- They can also be stored, unwashed, in a cool, moist area that has a temperature range of 32 to 40℉ with high humidity in the 90 to 95% range for up to 6 months. Simply brush off most of the dirt, remove the stem, and store in layers in sawdust or damp sand.
- If you do not have access to such an area, they can be stored in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Be sure they are not stored near vegetables like apples and bananas that emit ethylene gas which is harmless to humans but which causes other fruits and vegetables to ripen faster.
- Parsnips can be blanched and frozen for up to 1 year.
- They can be pressure canned for long-term storage.
Radishes are one of the edible root vegetables of the Brassicaceae family that includes cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and kale. They have a spicy, peppery taste, and the flesh of the different types of radishes is white, but the skin can be white, red, yellow, black, pink, or purple. The red radish is the one that is most often found in supermarkets and is more familiar to us. The entire plant, leaves, and roots, are edible cooked, and raw, and they are a good source of antioxidants and vitamin C.
Growing Conditions: Radishes require at least 6 hours of sun each day and soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 that is well-tilled and loose to grow well. Like carrots, they do not grow well in rocky or compacted soil. The soil should be kept moist but not wet. Consistent watering is the key to growing good radishes.
Seeds Or Seedlings: Seeds should be sown directly outdoors about 1 inch apart in rows that are 12 inches wide. Seeds should be watered thoroughly, and the soil kept moist. Once the seedlings are at least 2 inches tall, thin to 3 inches apart to allow the roots plenty of room to grow. Don’t discard those thinnings, however, because they are good to eat and will add a little zip to your salads.
Growing Season: Radishes grow quickly, and some varieties can be ready to eat in as little as 3 weeks. When they are ready for harvest, the greenery above the ground will be 6 to 8 inches tall, and the bulb 1 inch in diameter.
Harvesting: Even though they can be harvested when the bulbs are 1 inch in diameter and the greenery 6 to 8 inches tall, the fall crop of radishes can be left in the ground for a while longer, unlike a spring crop that will bolt and become tough and starchy if left unpicked after they mature. The winter crop can be enjoyed for a longer period of time, but should be harvested before the first frost.
Serving Options: Radishes are primarily used raw as a snack or in salads, but they can also be fermented into kimchi or grated and added to slaw. They can also be cooked, and the roots are best sauteed, and the greenery can be made into pesto.
- Radishes can be stored trimmed and unwashed and wrapped in damp paper towels, and placed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator’s crisper. They will last about 2 weeks when stored this way.
- Sliced radishes will only remain good when refrigerated for about 3 days.
- For long-term storage, radishes can be blanched and frozen.
- Radishes can be pickled either whole or sliced.
The rutabaga, which looks like a large, ugly turnip, is a hybrid vegetable that is a cross between a turnip and a wild cabbage. Turnips are of the species Brassica rapa, while the rutabaga is a Brassica napus. The rutabaga, however, has yellow flesh and is harder and denser than a turnip. Rutabagas are low in calories at only 66 calories per cup, and are loaded with fiber and vitamin C. As part of a low carbohydrate diet, they are a great substitute for potatoes.
Growing Conditions: Rutabagas grow best in areas that have full sun and need well-drained soil with a pH of 5.5 to 7.0. When growing rutabagas, the best conditions include providing them with a consistent supply of water. They require 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week and a constantly moist soil, moist but not wet. Avoid allowing the ground where the rutabagas are growing to dry out. A soaker hose is the best option for properly watering rutabagas..
Seeds Or Seedlings: Rutabagas can be planted from seeds or seedlings. Drop the seeds one to two inches apart in rows 12 to 18 inches apart. The seeds germinate in 4 to 7 days, and as the seedlings grow, start thinning to provide 8 inches between plants to allow the roots plenty of space in which to grow.
Growing Season: Rutabagas have a long growing season and should be planted in the early summer for a fall crop so that they can mature in the cool weather. The roots will become woody and fibrous if maturing in warm weather. Their growing season from seed to maturity is 80 to 100 days. The flavor of the rutabaga becomes sweeter after a light fall frost.
Harvesting: Rutabaga leaves can be used in the same way turnip leaves can, but be sure you do not remove more than a few leaves from each plant because they need their leaves for the roots to grow bigger. The plants should be harvested before the first freeze. Rutabagas can be harvested by pulling them up, but if the soil is compacted, lift the plants out of the soil by using a garden fork to avoid damaging the roots.
Serving Options: Rutabagas can be eaten raw, but are normally cooked and mashed like potatoes, baked or roasted, or used in soups, stews, or casseroles. My mother always just cut them in chunks, boiled them, and served either the chunks or mashed them like mashed potatoes as a vegetable to go along with the rest of our meal, and always with a fresh pone of cornbread to eat with it.
- Rutabagas, when harvested, should have the foliage removed about 1 inch from the top of the rutabaga and the dirt wiped off before storing. They can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 4 or 5 months.
- Or, they can be stored in a basement or other cool area in sawdust or moist sand for up to 4 months. Rutabagas can also be blanched and frozen for up to one year.
- Or, they can be cut into cubes and pressure canned for long-term storage.
Spinach is one of the green leafy vegetables of the Amaranthaceae family and is related to beets and Swiss chard and is extremely high in iron, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and K. Because of its high nutritional value, it is often considered a superfood, and is very low in calories at only 7 calories in a 1 cup serving.
Growing Conditions: Spinach grows best in areas that have full sun, but it can tolerate partial shade. It needs well-drained, loose soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7.0. When growing spinach, the best conditions include keeping the soil moist.
Seeds Or Seedlings: Spinach is better planted from seeds because it is one of those vegetables that do not transplant well. Sew seeds every 2 inches in rows 12 to 18 inches wide, or they can be broadcast. When the seedlings are about 2 inches tall, they should be thinned to 3 to 4 inches apart. The seedlings that are pulled up during the thinning process can be eaten.
Growing Season: Spinach seeds germinate in 1 to 2 weeks and are ready for harvest 6 to 10 weeks after planting. Spinach is cold hardy down to 15℉ and can survive a light frost.
Harvesting: As soon as the leaves are large enough, they can be harvested by just pinching off the larger leaves and allowing the plant to continue growing. But, as soon as the plants reach maturity, they should be harvested because they become bitter if left too long.
Serving Options: Spinach is excellent raw in a salad, but is also delicious boiled, sauteed, or stir-fried as a hot vegetable. But, spinach is quite versatile and can be added to soups, stews, casseroles, and quiches, and it is a popular addition to smoothies.
- Fresh spinach begins to wilt quickly after harvesting.
- But, it will remain good in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- Spinach can be blanched and frozen for up to a year.
- And, it can be pressure canned for long-term storage.
Turnips are one of those green, leafy vegetables that belong to the cruciferous family that includes cabbage, kale, and broccoli and can be grown from seeds or seedlings. But, unlike the other vegetables known as greens, turnips are also grown for their roots. Both the greens and the roots are edible, quite delicious, loaded with nutrients, and very low in calories. According to Medical News Today, “The high levels of nutrients in turnip greens can enhance health and prevent disease.”
Growing Conditions: Turnips grow best in areas that have full sun and need well-drained and slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5. When growing turnips, the best conditions include providing them with a regular supply of 1 inch of water per week. Lack of water can make turnip roots bitter and woody.
Seeds Or Seedlings: Turnips should be planted from seeds as they do not transplant well. Drop the seeds one to two inches apart in rows 18 to 30 inches apart. As the seedlings grow, start thinning to provide 3 to 6 inches between plants to allow the roots plenty of space in which to grow.
Growing Season: Plant turnips in the spring, and they make until the weather becomes too hot. Turnips like cooler weather and, when planted in the fall, can be harvested into the winter until the weather turns really cold. Fall turnips are sweeter and more tender than spring turnips. Turnips are not as cold hardy as collards, but can withstand a light freeze. Turnip seeds germinate in a matter of days, and the turnips will be ready for harvest in about 4 weeks. While turnips are actually biennials, we treat them as annuals. They naturally go to seed during the second year, but extremes in temperature or lack of water or nutrients can cause them to bolt.
Harvesting: Unless you are thinning young plants, turnips can be harvested for the greens by carefully removing several of the largest leaves from each plant without disturbing the roots and allowing the roots to continue growing. The entire plant should be harvested when the roots are 2 to 3 inches in diameter.
Serving Options: Turnip greens can be eaten raw in salads, cooked on its own as a side dish, or included in soups, quiches, and casseroles just like the other greens. The roots can also be eaten raw in salads or as a snack, cooked on its own or with the greens as a side dish, or included in soups and stews. I occasionally add turnip roots to stews instead of potatoes. In fact, a beef stew made with carrots, turnip roots, and Brussels sprouts is very tasty.
- Turnips can be cleaned and stored separately in the refrigerator, where the greens will remain good for up to 5 days and the roots for up to 2 weeks.
- Turnip greens and roots can be blanched and frozen for up to 1 year.
- Both can be pressure canned for long-term storage.
Since I plan for all these vegetables to be part of my fall garden next year, here is the planting guide I’ve created to allow maximum growth for my vegetables in my new colder climate. I’m also including the steps I took in creating this planting guide.
- Determine which USDA plant hardiness zone of the area in which you are located by using the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. I have determined that I am now in Zone 7b.
- Determine the average first and last frost dates in Zone 7b by using the Almanac website.
- Determine the growing season, or number of days from planting to harvest, of the plants you will be growing in your garden.
- Use the information from all these sources to schedule the planting dates for your selected vegetables.
FALL PLANTING SCHEDULE
Last Spring Frost: April 18
First Fall Frost: October 24
|Vegetable||Days to Maturity||Fall Seed Planting|
|Cabbage||80-180 (Per variety)||April-July (Per variety)|
|Lettuce||65-100 (Per variety)||June-August (Per variety)|
This is a very simple schedule based solely on using the number of days from seed to maturity and scheduling planting roughly that number of days prior to the average first frost date. There are many planting calculators available that can help you with making your schedule. Here is an example on the Urban Farmer website.
General Tips To Successfully Grow These Winter Vegetables
- Select a garden spot that has the most hours of sunshine each day.
- Have your garden soil tested so that you can amend the soil to provide the nutrients that each vegetable needs.
- Read the directions on the seed packet and take into consideration each vegetable’s growing season from seed to harvest so that you can calculate the correct planting time to allow these cold-weather plants the benefit of maturing in cold weather but that will allow them time to mature before the first frost or freeze, depending on when each vegetable should be harvested.
- Water consistently, as early in the day as possible, and water from the bottom.
- Mulch these cold-weather vegetables to retain moisture in the soil and to control weeds.
- Weed the delicate plants by hand.
- Always practice crop rotation.
I have not mentioned herbicides and pesticides because I prefer to use natural and even homemade versions when necessary. But, if you are using chemicals on your vegetable garden, please be sure before using them to read all directions thoroughly and follow the manufacturer’s directions precisely because they can be extremely dangerous when misused.
I hope this guide has been helpful. Thanks for stoppin’ by!
For more, don’t miss Garden Vegetables Planting and Harvest Times (With Charts).
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