Cold Weather Vegetable Gardening

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There are several good reasons for having a fall/winter garden. Produce that is harvested tend to have sweeter flavors and crisper textures. The elongated growing season better prepares the soil for spring crops. Personally, I enjoy being surrounded by green in New Mexico this time of year.

As we put together covered Mud Hub Greenhouses this time of year, a natural question from nearly everybody is what “can we grow in our vegetable garden?”

While it’s true that most crops prefer warmer weather, ideally above 50F, there are some that flourish when the air and soil temperature are cooler. If you don’t have a cold frame or covered greenhouse, you can compensate by covering planted areas with straw, fall leaves and mulch with frost proof blankets. We’ll go through a list of vegetables and herbs that will “overwinter” nicely, provide a harvest in the coming year and ones we’ve had luck with.

Garlic

This is one of my favorites and so easy and sustainable. Planted around this time of year with the pointed side of a clove up and an inch down into the soil, this herb will yield exponentially by mid-summer for consumption with prepared dishes or for replanting by breaking apart bulbs.

Swiss Chard:

A great leafy vegetable, chard will not only survive the winter but produce for a couple of years as it is a biennial plant. This is fantastic in soups.

Kale

Kale especially loves the cold to a point. Some early leaves will die off, but a second crop will come up more cold tolerant. What’s nice about it is it keeps coming back after some are harvested. This plant is especially prolific in late winter and early spring. Can’t make enough of those kale chips!

Spinach/Mustard Greens/Lettuces

These two are a must, at least for me. Mustard greens, especially, seems to flourish in the face of cold. By spring, you won’t know what to do with it all.

Carrots

Carrots and beets and other root vegetables such as parsnips and turnips, are favorites because they have “overwintered” for us into February, when we typically harvest. One caveat though, if you wait too long to seed, the growth will be slower because of the cooler weather, but they will not die.

Parsley

Crops I have not tried yet are cabbage, onions and peas, but that’s a matter of time. Though I haven’t planted them at this time of year, cilantro and parsley in some areas seem to survive the cold as well.

In general, don’t expect the rapid growth out of most of what you plant. They may go dormant but will overwinter.  Be patient. The rewards will come. Also, you don’t need to water as frequently as in the warmer weather when evaporation is greater. Gauge you soil. It should feel spongy. Enjoy!  

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