Winter vegetables include squash varieties such as butternut, pumpkin, and acorn. Root crops like carrots, potatoes and turnips are winter vegetables, as are brassicas such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts. Winter vegetables take longer to mature than other vegetables--usually from 70 to 90 days.
Starting the Seeds
Start winter vegetable seeds indoors in tabletop greenhouses, which are available in garden supply shops and some hardware stores. Soak large seeds, such as pumpkins, in warm water for an hour before planting them in individual cells. Plant smaller seeds like broccoli a few to a cell. Keep the seeds moist and warm. Winter vegetable seeds are not any hardier than other seeds, so treat them with the same care.
Root vegetable seeds must be sewn directly into the ground in the spring, after the chance of any frost is past.
Transplant winter vegetables into the ground when the weather is warm and there is no chance of frost. As with any transplanted seeds, winter vegetable seeds need to be protected from the shock of being outdoors. Cover them at night with grow tunnels, or use lightweight blankets or sheets. Plastic mulch is not recommended because, while it will keep the soil warm, any part of the plant that touches the plastic mulch will get cold.
Winter vegetable seeds need to be big and strong before transplanting. Plants should have true leaves before being put in the ground. The true leaf of a seedling is the third leaf that appears. It is better to wait to put young plants in the ground than to do so too early; winter vegetable plants will die if they are transplanted too early or exposed to the cold while young.
Root vegetables take the longest to mature. Pull them out of the ground starting in the fall. All root vegetables must be pulled out before the ground freezes, or you will lose that part of the crop.
The winter vegetables started in the spring will also produce food in the fall. Winter vegetables such as squash varieties and root vegetables may be picked and stored in a root cellar. Refrigerators are moist environments, and root vegetables stored in them will not last as long. Picked brassicas such as broccoli and cabbage are less likely to last, and should be enjoyed when freshly picked.