The end of summer doesn’t have to mean the end of fresh vegetables and flowers from your garden. Many plants will tolerate and even thrive in cooler weather. Planting a winter garden allows you to enjoy crops that won’t stand up to summer’s heat and adds variety to your cold-weather diet. With proper care and a little luck, you can enjoy fresh produce even when last summer’s tomatoes are nothing more than a fond memory.
Choose cold-tolerant vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, collard greens, turnips, carrots, onions, spinach, radishes and lettuce. All of these vegetables will tolerate a light frost. Some varieties, such as collard greens, even improve in flavor after a frost.
Select flowers to beautify your winter garden. Chrysanthemums, asters and pansies are cold-tolerant flowers that will continue to bloom until the first hard frost.
Choose a sheltered area for your winter garden. South-facing beds near the foundation of a building such as a garage or house often retain more heat than a bed in a shaded depression. Even a few degrees of heat can protect plants from severe frosts and extend the life of your winter garden.
Plant your seeds in time for plants to be up and flourishing before the first hard frost. Check with your county’s agricultural extension agency for the usual date of the first frost and count back six to eight weeks. In some locations, this could mean planting in July or August. Plant the seeds at normal depth and water and fertilize as you would if planting in the spring.
Mulch mature plants to conserve water and to keep the soil warm.
Provide a wind break from freezing breezes by stacking hay bales or erecting a trellis along the side of the garden toward which prevailing winds will blow.