Spring, summer and fall are typically the busiest vegetable growing seasons, but some vegetables can successfully be grown during the winter as well. Planting a winter vegetable garden rewards gardeners with fresh produce during those bleak and typically barren months in the garden and allows you to continue gardening even after plummeting temperatures become the norm.
Broccoli is a hardy, cool season vegetable that does well in partial shade. Seeds should be planted 18 to 24 inches apart and 1/2 deep with three feet to each row. Broccoli typically reaches about 2 1/2 feet tall. Harvest the broccoli head once it becomes fully developed, cutting 5 to 6 inches of stem before the flowers open. Broccoli does best in well-draining soils. Broccoli can also be grown during the spring and fall seasons. When growing it in the winter months, cover broccoli when temperatures drop below 20 degrees F. Plant in an area of the garden that receives full winter sun exposure for best results.
The leek is another hardy, cool season vegetable that can be grown in the winter. Leeks are related to the onion family, but rather than bulbs, leeks develop tall stems that measure around 1 inch thick and grow up to 8 inches long. They develop shallow root systems and should be planted in well-draining soils. For thinner stalks, plant seeds close together, 1/2 inch deep, in rows 12 to 14 inches apart. Leeks can tolerate exposure to temperatures below freezing, but cover leeks if temperatures drop below 20 degrees F. Plant leeks in a sunnier region of the garden to make the most of the winter daytime sun.
A wide variety of lettuces are available for the home gardener to grow. A hardy, cool season crop, there are five main cultivars of lettuce, including green leaf, romaine, crisphead, red leaf and stem lettuce. Color and texture vary greatly among the lettuce types and leaves range in shades of green and red. Sow lettuce seeds in rows 12 inches apart, 1/2 inch deep. Do not sow any more than 10 seeds for every 12 inches. Lettuce requires frequent, light watering to thrive and should be planted in well-draining soils. Harvest lettuce when leaves approach usable size. Protect foliage from temperatures below 20 degrees F by covering leaves with a sheet to help prevent frost burn.