Winter planting is a practice that produces delicious vegetables and also ensures prime upkeep of garden soil for the spring planting season. Coastal and lower elevation states such as Washington, Oregon and Northwestern California are perfect for planting delicious winter vegetables. For best results, consider experimenting with certain types of plants to enjoy fresh produce through the cold winter months.
Late maturing plants require 90 days to mature. They can be planted as early as mid July, or as late as November. Late maturing crops include beets, carrots, parsnips, cabbages, cauliflower and fava bean.
Mid-season crops mature in 60 days. They can be planted as late as December, so they are excellent for a faster turn-around in the garden. Examples of mid-season crops include early carrots, leeks, turnip, perennial herbs and Swiss chard.
Early maturing crops grow very quickly and reach maturity in 30 days. In warmer winter climates, these crops can be planted as late as January and still produce an excellent crop. Examples of early maturing crops include chives, onions, broccoli, leaf lettuces, spinach and mustard.
In many places, the cold weather can sometimes restrict growth of cold weather plants. In areas with strong winter winds such as the coastal states, consider planting beds along walls that naturally block the wind. If a wall is not available, then create a wind break for the bed. This can add an additional 10 to 15 degrees of warmth to the garden.
To keep the bed frost free, consider building a cold frame out of an old window sash. Be sure to have the frame facing south to offer the greatest winter sun exposure. If the ground still seems cold, add a foot and a half of decomposing manure under the bed. Then the cold frame becomes a traditional hot bed.
To increase warmth by eight to twelve degrees, consider creating a raised by stapling four pieces of untreated wood into a box. Simply fill the box with planting soil and plant the seeds. Raised beds are also useful for gardeners who cannot bend completely to the ground.
Mulching and Rotation
When planning a winter garden, it is essential to replenish the soil and prepare the area for planting. Mulch should be applied to the soil in late October or early November. Mulch will provide the winter plants with an added inch of soil protection over their roots, ensuring some added heartiness.
To avoid over-stripping the soil, avoid planting the same winter crop two seasons in a row. Consider, for example, planting spinach one year and then carrots the next. If it must be the same crop each year, consider having multiple beds and simply rotating the location yearly.