What to plant and harvest in the winter vegetable garden
You might be ready for a break from your flower beds once winter arrives, but why not grow some delicious edibles while the rest of your garden is snoring? It doesn’t take much work or much space, it’s a lot more interesting than pruning roses, and the rewards are great. Chances are pretty good that you have room in your garden to tuck in a few Swiss chard starts or leafy braising greens. These types of edibles remind us that in our gentle climate we can have beauty – and food – in our gardens year round.
There are plenty of edibles that you can plant in winter vegetable gardens, including garlic, leeks, onions, radishes, lettuce, peas, potatoes, chard, spinach, rhubarb, and other leafy greens such as bok choy and kale. If you’ve already planted these yummy treats, then you can harvest them straight through winter. If you’re looking do a little wintertime planting, here are some tips.
Garlic – Set out nursery-purchased bulbs (separated but unpeeled) four inches apart. Don’t water them in. It’s best to wait until shoots poke up before watering for the first time. Better yet, let the rain water them for you. Garlic takes up very little room and needs little attention.
Leeks – Nursery starts are inexpensive and plentiful. They can be harvested throughout the year and are unfazed by our mild winters.
Onions – This is where your well-amended soil is important. Onions love rich soil – not too sandy or clayey. And they like regular water. You can sow onion seeds, but it’s easier to buy bulbs (called “sets”) from a nursery or online source. Don’t try to plant grocery store onions because it’s unlikely to work. The best time to plant onion sets is January and February. (For green onions, or scallions, pull up the plants when they are about six weeks old.)
Radishes – Forget about those starchy red rocks called radishes at the grocery store. Search online to discover a long list of gorgeous radish seeds including French Breakfast, White Icicle and Pink Beauties. Easter Eggs is a particularly beautiful variety that produces radishes of varying purples, pinks and whites. Radishes grow easily and quickly, with some small-rooted varieties ready in a month or less from the day of seeding.
Lettuce – Like onions, lettuce appreciates fertile soil and regular water. Some are more suitable for warmer months, some for cooler. There are dozens of varieties, including heirloom and redleaf. Mesclun – a combination of several lettuces such as arugula, chervil, chicory and cress – grows beautifully in our climate. Sow seeds in January or February or check your local nursery for starts.
Peas – November and February are the best months to plant peas. Poke shelling or snap pea seeds an inch or two deep directly into rich soil and give them something tall to climb up and wind their tendrils around. Pea shoots are delicacies for birds, so you may need to cover your sprouts with a floating row cover or anything that keeps birds at bay but that lets sunshine and rain in.
Potatoes – Like peas, a good time to plant potatoes is in February, with the satisfying potato harvest around three months later. Potatoes are a joy to harvest for adults and kids alike. Depending on the variety, potatoes are usually grown from pieces of tubers that have at least one eye or from whole small tubers.
Swiss chard and other greens – Swiss chard is like an exclamation point in the winter vegetable garden, lighting up beds with bright pink, yellow and red stalks. It’s one of the easiest greens to grow either from seed or from starts, and it grows all year. Other greens, such as spinach, kale and bok choy, are also easy. These greens can be used for salads or can be braised in stir-fries or thrown into soups. Most greens relish cool temperatures and go to seed in warm weather. Give them rich soil, keep them cool and you’ll be rewarded with fresh salad greens throughout the year.
By Marie Narlock
|Create a container garden Container gardening is one of the easiest ways to enjoy the growing season. It is the practice of growing plants in containers instead of in the ground. This is really the perfect way to have a garden when your space is limited. Container gardening is a great way to show off your green thumb. Gardens can be entirely in containers or just have a few carefully placed planters. They add interest and can really give a stamp of originality to your garden. This is a great way to express your creativity and can make a truly one of a kind and special gift too.Container gardens are the perfect place to experiment and have fun. . Use whatever plants you like. Mix in perennials, shrubs, houseplants, vegetables and herbs. Container plants also add versatility to gardens large and small. They can lend instant color and character along with providing a focal point in the garden. It is an easy way to tie in the architecture of the home to the garden. There is no need to spend a lot of money on containers. This is the time to be creative. Look around your house or go to Flea Markets or even your local thrift store to find interesting items that will make a unique statement in your yard. Containers are fun to choose, to have that creative look in your yard. Hanging baskets, old boots, wagons, wheelbarrows, old galvanized tubs, pans all make for an imaginative container garden. To give your space an even more dramatic look, add plant stands of different materials for your containers to sit on.
Below are a few ideas of what you can plant to make attractive container gardens
Herbs make for great plants for containers.
Suggestions for an Herb Pot:
Select your herbs. When making an herb pot, it is essential to have a good variety of herbs and companion plants that will assist your culinary pursuits. Some good choices include:
Sweet Marjoram, Lemon Balm, Sage, Common Basil, Mint, thyme, Oregano, Hot Pepper
Planting theme containers are a fun idea: For example if Italian Food is your preference, try planting Chives, Oregano and Sweet Basil.
Herbs that go well with Potatoes such as dill, Chives, Rosemary and Parsley.
A Salsa garden is always a fun and creative container to plant, peppers, onions, garlic and cilantro.
All these items can be planted in the same container.
Suggestions of plants that work well together and some to avoid:
Combinations to Avoid
For the most part, pots that are bigger are better especially for plants like tomatoes. Some vegetables need more depth than width to grow. Keep that in mind when choosing containers to plant vegetables such as carrots or radishes.
Pots made out of clay dry out faster than pots made of plastic or wood so watering will be more frequent.
You don’t need much to get started with container gardening, but there are a few essentials that will give you a better chance of success:
Keep in mind when starting to put together a container garden.
Soil – Good soil is essential for all container-grown plants. Fill the container with quality potting soil up to an inch from the rim – any more soil will wash out when you water. Expect some settling of soil over time.
Water – More frequent watering is necessary for container plants. Water when the soil feels dry to the touch. Continue watering until liquid runs from the bottom of the container. In the hot days of summer, containers may require daily watering. If you are combining plant varieties in a container, make sure the moisture requirements are the same.
Food – Use diluted plant food. Because water drains out more quickly, so will the fertilizer. You may fertilize your container garden with either a slow-release fertilizer or a water-soluble, quick release fertilizer such as 20-20-20.
Light – Provide light requirements as dictated by the variety. If you are combining plant varieties in a container, make sure the light requirements are the same. Remember to turn the containers occasionally to maximize light exposure on all sides.
Planting – Space vegetable, herb, and flower transplants about 1/3 closer than in the garden. This guarantees a full container with a great appearance. A tree or shrub root ball should be only slightly smaller than the container. Repot as needed when growth dictates. It’s a good idea to repot every 3-4 years to replace soil which has experienced salt build-up.
Temperature – Container plants require extra care to prevent overheating or freezing. Either can cause drying out.
Grooming – Prune, deadhead and pinch back as needed. Check container plants often to keep hem from getting leggy. Watch for disease and pests. Remove dead foliage and flowers to prevent fungal diseases. Because container plants are closer together, the opportunity for disease is greater.
Steps in preparing a container garden
Prepare the pot.
Make sure that your pot has holes in the bottom for good drainage.
Take your gravel or grit, and pour this into the container to about a quarter of the pot’s depth.
Fill. Once the gravel is in place, start to fill the pot with a multi-purpose, or soil-based compost. This should fill approximately three quarters of the pot’s remaining depth.Place the herb plants into the pot, with
about 15cm between each stem. Squeeze each herb gently from its temporary pot, and tease the roots from the root ball; this will encourage them to spread out.
Place the taller plants in the center of the display and the trailing ones near the edge. This will help to ensure the best growth. The display may look messy at first but will fill out and look lush within a few weeks
Fill in around the planted herbs. Once you are happy with the positions, start to fill the gaps between the plants with compost.
Firmly, push the compost into the gaps by pushing your fingers deep into the soil that you has just added, being careful not to damage any roots.
Fertilize Obtain a controlled release fertilizer.
WaterWater thoroughly, until the water starts to drain out of the bottom of the pot. The compost needs to absorb a lot on first watering, Continue to water over the coming months, at least every few days, or when the soil seems dry. Herbs like to dry out betweenwater.