Alicia DeVore

Winter Gardening Ideas & Planning

Winter is a time for dreaming new ideas, planning, and continuing to enjoy your fall garden. It’s a time to slow down our hearts and listen to what really needs to be our focus for the coming year as we reflect on the past.

Same thing with a garden. This is the ideal time to reflect on your past year, evaluate what went well, what you wished had happened, and see if you still have those same goals in mind for this coming year. In this post, I will be sharing 11 helpful gardening and planning tips for growing through the winter and beyond.

gardening in winter

Gardening can be a Mix of Successes and Failures

A few years ago, I planted over 60 tomato plants. I was determined to have enough tomatoes to preserve and last for the whole year. I had never grown that many tomatoes before.

At the end of that season, I accomplished my goals to grow & preserve a lot of tomato sauce, salsas, and stewed tomatoes. The negative was that I worked so hard keeping up with the harvest that by the end of the summer, I was done with gardening.

During winter gardening season, I took a look at my heart at the end of the summer season & realized that I didn’t want to burn myself out at the end of summer. If I burn out after one gardening season, I will have a hard time enjoying gardening the rest of the year. And I would be too tired to grow a fall and winter garden to then enjoy.

Evaluating what was worth doing and what I need to change during the winter months helped me to keep growing through the winter and planning with anticipation for the next year.

What can you evaluate from your past gardens so that you can build a garden that will carry you through the winter weather months?

Two Things About Winter Gardening

Winter gardening doesn’t mean we must stay inside and not come out because of the cold. There are two things that happen during winter:

  1. The winter cold slows down the growth of a garden. Plant out your fall garden and it will still keep producing all winter if protected from the elements. Even through the cold, you could be harvesting and enjoying with little effort.
  2. Winter is the perfect time to evaluate your past year of gardening and plan for your next year.
winter snow covering trees

What is Winter Gardening?

Winter gardening means a cool-weather crop that likes the temperatures between 35-75 degrees but protected when colder than 35 degrees can be enjoyed during the winter months.

Certain crops are often planted late in the year(at the end of the summer season) and allowed to mature it’s root systems before the first frost arrives.

What plants work well in the winter? Check out this post to know what to plant in containers.

Winter gardening is not meant to grow plants during the winter or prune the flowers when the frosts have covered them. Winter gardening is a time of enjoying what you have already planted.

Winter gardening is simple. Keep things protected from the elements and the rest will take care of itself. No major watering needed if in cold climate and insects are not a threat.

How Can I Get More Out of My Garden in Winter?

Having a structure of hoops in place when the winter temperatures are low is essential in keeping your winter garden growing. You may need to test out what frames or hoops will withstand the weather pressures of your area.

I have tested out some hoops that have no support or fall over easily when a strong wind or rainstorm comes through my garden. Many do not stand up to the test and I have to then come up with other ways to make sure that the plants inside stay protected and have a chance to keep growing.

Understanding plants needs in winter gardening is also essential. You don’t want to plant tomatoes or eggplants in the cold. Their cells can not handle the freezing temperatures and when the cells of the plant start to warm up they explode because there are filled with water.

Other plants that are cool-seasoned plants can handle the colder temperatures but still need to be protected when the frost hits in the cold months. There is still room available for winter planting. It is simply a case of understanding winter plant needs.

Winter Gardening Crops to Grow Under Cover

In winter gardening, these 11 tips are helpful in growing your winter garden.

1. Protect Winter Garden

Using Plant Cloth or Floating Row Cover to Extend the Season

Plant cloth is a great way to help extend your winter season when the first light frost comes. The cloth is placed directly over the plants and provides additional protection from the elements. I use clips to make sure that the cloth is secured and does not let in the cold but instead insulates the area inside the garden that is covered.

When in Snow Add Plastic

Plant Frost Covers

When snow falls and there are hard frosts, many gardeners find that plastic covers help protect the plants from frost. Many of these covers will come in various sizes, giving you the chance to cover plants of all sizes. Make sure to clip the plastic to the hoops to ensure that all stays warmer inside.

Cold Frame

A cold frame is a great way to protect your garden from the cold. They work by trapping heat and providing shelter for your plants. A cold frame can also be moved around, allowing you to adjust the environment of your plants as needed.

Love the flexibility that a cold frame provides in cold temperatures. Cold frames can keep plants warm in colder climates.

Adding Mulch As Protection

To insulate the plants to keeper warmer, you can add a layer of mulch like straw mulch, shredded leaves, or compost. This will help growing plants and help when the ground freezes.

2. Build a Grow light System in the House or Greenhouse

Create a Microclimate

In addition to plant cloth and plastic covers, it is important to create a microclimate, or an area where the temperature is kept at an ideal level like a cold frame can provide.

One way to do this is to set up a greenhouse structure. This will give the plants an extra layer of protection against cold weather in winter gardening.

If you decide on using a greenhouse structure and it doesn’t come with an overhead window for those sunny days, you should use a grow light to make sure that your plants are getting enough light during the winter. A greenhouse can provide more seeding space and can even be planted for lettuce & greens when the weather’s cold.

3. Do a Little Maintenance

Late fall and winter gardening seasons are a great time to do maintenance jobs that you just cannot find time for when the temperatures are too hot. Use the time to get your garden tools, pathways, raised beds, and necessary parts of your garden in order for spring planting.

Overwintered crops allows you to save herbs and bring inside in containers or add a light to the garage and keep them growing. When the temperatures are just too cold, overwintering is a great way to keep your herb garden going.

4. Plant Container Gardens

Gardening in winter can be difficult growing in frozen ground. Use potting soil for the plants to have the nutrients and space needed to build roots. That’s why using potted plants or plants in containers to grow and placing them close to the house as a shield from the cold can be one way to keep your garden growing through the cold.

Place garden container on your porch or backyard to be able to still keep growing through the cold. Add plant cloth, a cold frame, or plastic over the containers when the temperatures drop below 35 degrees to keep the plants growing through the winter.

5. Add Seeds to Your Plan for the Next Year

When to plant seeds for winter gardening

Planting seeds for winter gardens happens in the fall when the seeds can sprout and grow strong roots. As the vegetables grow into the colder weather, they are able to withstand and continue growing just at a slower pace.

Check out seed catalogs

Seed catalogs or seed websites are some of my favorite things to look at and plan as I dream about my garden and what to grow for the coming year.

Take the time to start thinking of your planting plans for your next seasons and start planning. Set a date on when you need to start spring, summer, and fall plants and get the seeds now for what you want to grow. Be prepared for the year.

6. Read some gardening books

23 best gardening books

When it feels cold and grim, you can curl up by a fire and read about gardening. Get yourself some gardening books in winter for a great start to the new season of gardening.

7. What to Grow in Winter Gardening Tips

Winter Crops to Grow

Here is a list of veggies that you can start to grow in the fall before the first frost and then harvest throughout the winter months. Grow crops you can even overwinter like garlic and carrots all winter long. Plant growth will be less in the cold, but these plants will still grow if protected.

Garlic

garlic being planted in garden

Garlic is a winter plant that is easy to Plant and forget. It can be planted in late summer or fall and will provide a harvest throughout the continue to grow. Harvest the garlic, depending on your area in the beginning of the summer months.

Lettuce or Salad Greens

red and green lettuce in garden

Lettuce is a cool season plant that is easy to grow and does well in cool weather. It can be planted in late summer or fall and will provide a harvest throughout the months. Harvest the lettuce a few leaves at a time in a cut and come again method or harvest the entire head of lettuce at once. This grows well under a cold frame.

Spinach

spinach being picked in garden

Spinach loves the cooler weather. It can be planted in late summer or fall and will provide a harvest throughout the winter. Harvest the spinach a few leaves at a time in a cut and come again method or harvest the entire head of lettuce at once.

Carrots

carrot in garden

Carrots, are root vegetables that are worth growing. They can be planted in early fall and will provide a harvest throughout winter Harvest the carrots when they reach the size you want, either full-sized or baby carrots.

Greens

greens growing in garden

Greens are an excellent winter vegetable to grow, as they are packed with nutrients and can be harvested. Growing greens, including mustard greens, during winter is easy, as they can be planted in late summer or early fall. A cold frame is easy to use with greens.

Beets and Radishes

beets growing in garden

Beets and radishes are low maintenance root crops that can easily provide gardeners with a healthy winter harvest from their vegetable garden. Beets contain numerous vitamins and minerals that work together to boost overall health.

Chard

chard in the garden bed

Chard is easy to grow Once it is established in the vegetable garden. it grows for many seasons and can be harvested in a cut and come again method.

Kale

kale being planted in garden

Kale is easy to grow and will continue growing for 2-3 seasons. Once established, it is hardy enough to grow through the cold and the heat of summer. You can harvest the leaves for many months.

Celery

celery growing in garden

Celery is also another plant that you can start in fall and then harvest the stalks as needed throughout winter. I have even had my celery grow well in containers for many seasons. It’s so nice to run out to the container with celery and clip a few stalks to use for soup during the cold winter. It’s like having a grocery store in my backyard.

Cover Crops

When I’m not using parts of my garden, I plant a cover crop a month before my first frost. I spread these seeds across the soil and then add more soil on top and water it daily until the rain or cooler temperatures bring the moisture needed to help the seeds to sprout.

Using a cover crop protects the soil and, in early spring, it can be chopped down and adds nutrients back into the soil. It’s a winter garden win for the early spring garden.

8. Order bare-root fruit bushes and trees

Winter is a great opportunity to add young trees of perennial fruits. You can get fruit, pear, currant berries and many other things at cheaper prices by purchasing them from home at bareroot stores.

They’ll arrive as dead sticks, but don’t fear, plants remain dormantes while building their roots once planted in the late winter cold.

fruit with bare trees in background

9. Things To Do in Late Winter to be Ready for Spring Garden

Make a Plan When It is Cold

Easier to make a plan when temperatures drop. You have the time to dream of what you can do.

Gather your materials needed for spring. Do you need new raised garden beds? What seeds do you need to order. Take the time to make a plan so that the busyness of spring doesn’t stop you from starting your garden for the next season.

Make starting a garden a priority. If you want more direction in making a spring garden happen, then check out the online short video course I created to help you plan a spring garden with success.

Build raised beds, paths, and other hardscaping

Winters can be very exciting when building gardens. Create raised gardens with walkways, gardens, and arbors. Build up the area where your spring garden is going to be if you have yet to create a garden. Or take this time to improve the garden that you do have.

Clean your Pots

I have about 50 plastic pots to clean from fall garden planting. Cleaning these now will make the next season of gardening easier.

I also check grow lights for seedlings and clean up areas that basically got trashed in the last planting of the garden.

I check to make sure that I have enough organic fertilizers and soil amendments.

Add Bird Baths and Bird Houses to your Garden

Most garden bird species depend heavily on us for help during the winter months and they can be fed immediately as well.

One job that I do is clean out the bird baths & hummingbird feeders to get ready for spring.

10. Prune shrubs and trees

In the cooler months it is possible to still go out and enjoy pruning fruit and a variety of ornamental plants and shrubs. And many fruit trees benefit from a second pruning in the dead of winter. It allows their roots to go deeper and get stronger.

11. My Solution to Keeping a Garden Going All Year with Energy?

Remember those 60 tomato plants? Now, I only plant a few varieties of tomatoes that my family loves to eat. I am planting a smaller crop and paying attention to what I can do to make the smaller number of tomatoes produce more and keep it easier to maintain.

I only want to spend 10-15 minutes a day in my garden, not hours. I want to actually want to go out and enjoy the time there. With making a smaller garden plan, a smaller starting point allows me to get more confident in growing the things I love to eat the most.

And this in turn means I won’t be burnt out with gardening into the next season of fall and then of course winter. Use these winter growing tips to keep your garden growing and to enjoy fresh veggies all year long. To get even more tips for growing in winter, check out this blog post.

bench in winter snow

FAQ on Winter Gardening Ideas

Can you garden during winter?

Yes, it is possible to garden during winter. Although winter can be a difficult growing season for gardening due to the colder weather, there are many winter plants that can be planted and harvested with success. To successfully grow a winter vegetable garden, careful planning must take place in order to ensure the winter months are taken into consideration.

When should I start my winter garden?

The best time to start winter gardening depends on what types of winter vegetables you’re looking to plant, as well as the climate in your region. Generally speaking, it’s best to start winter gardens in late summer or early autumn. This is because winter vegetables need time to mature and be harvested before the winter cold sets in.

What garden plants can survive the winter?

Certain winter garden plants, such as winter-hardy vegetables, winter greens, and root vegetables survive winter months. Winter-hardy vegetables such as kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, turnips, and collards. Other winter plants like leafy greens, winter herbs, need winter protection. Use the winter tips above to know what to do in cooler temperatures during the cold season.

Can you have a garden in cold weather and snow?

It is possible to have a winter garden and grow vegetables even in snowy winter conditions. With the right winter garden care and preparation, you can extend your growing season.

Other Helpful Links to Gardening in Winter:

Gardening in February with 10 Minutes a Day

10 Minute Gardening Tips

Plan a Spring Garden in Winter Mini-Course

Must Have Gardening Tools

Read Other Posts

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About the Author

Alicia has been teaching her whole life from elementary teacher to workshops for beginning gardeners.  Go HERE to read Alicia's story into gardening from plant killer to pro grower and garden coach.  If you want to send Alicia a quick message, then use her contact page HERE.

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