What can be done with a winter vegetable garden? Naturally, this depends upon where you live. In southern climates, gardeners may be able to grow a vegetable garden over winter. Another option (and usually the only one open to gardeners in northern states) is to prepare the garden for next year’s growing season by providing winter maintenance for veggie gardens.
Below is a breakdown of vegetable gardening in winter for both northern and southern gardeners.
Southern Vegetable Gardening in Winter
If you are lucky enough to live in an area where hardy plants can survive winter temperatures, growing a winter vegetable garden is one alternative. Hardy vegetables which can be planted in fall for a winter or early spring harvest include the following:
- Bok Choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Mustard greens
- Swiss Chard
Winter Maintenance for Veggie Gardens
If you decide not to vegetable garden over winter or if you live in a northern climate, winter maintenance for veggie gardens helps prepare the garden for the spring planting season. Here’s what you can do now as an investment in your garden’s future:
- Limit tilling – While it’s common for gardeners to till or cultivate the garden soil at the end of the growing season, this practice disturbs the soil fungi. The microscopic threads of the fungal hyphae break down hard-to-digest organic matter and helps bind soil particles together. To preserve this natural system, limit tilling to small areas where you wish to plant early spring crops.
- Apply mulch – Keep winter vegetable garden weeds at bay and prevent erosion by spreading organic material on the garden after clearing off plant residue in the fall. Shredded leaves, grass clippings, straw, and wood chips will begin decomposing during the winter and finish once they are tilled into the garden in spring.
- Plant a cover crop – In lieu of mulch, plant a fall cover crop in your vegetable garden. Over winter, this crop will grow and protect the garden from erosion. Then in spring, till in this “green” manure to enrich the soil. Choose from winter rye, wheatgrass, or go with a legume cover crop of alfalfa or hairy vetch to up the nitrogen content.
- Empty the compost bin – Late fall is the perfect time to empty out the compost bin and spread this black gold on the garden. Like mulch or a cover crop, compost prevents erosion and enriches the soil. This task is best completed before the compost pile freezes for the winter.