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cold weather crops

But Why Gardening?

After successful spring and summer growing seasons I find myself re-energized and geared up for round two of gardening and enjoying some cold weather crops! 

For me, gardening is something I love.  Not just for its therapeudic effects, but also because it’s a way to be self-reliant while nourishing and caring for my family. It’s also a fantastic way to connect with the Earth on a deeper level; something I am passionate about.

It seems that I’m not the only one enjoying the rewards of gardening lately.  In the past few years, gardening has seen quite an increase in popularity as people have become worried about food shortages. In fact, there’s been a surge of people gardening in the past year or two who never gave it a try before. 

People are finding gardening to be an excellent pastime and useful skill as they become more interested in self-sufficiency and wanting to know exactly where their food is coming from.  They are deciding to get back to basics by taking up gardening. Our uncertain times made food insecurity a reality for many, so as in days past, people have started victory gardens and have started gardening as a means to pass the time. 

As people become more environmentally and health conscience they are also looking for ways to live organically and reduce their waste, so they invest significant time and effort into growing their own fruits and vegetables. Doing so allows them access to fresh vegetables while also being environmentally responsible. 

fall gardening

Fall and Winter Gardening

But did you know that there are a bunch of cold weather crops that actually do better in cooler weather? Many people think that the only time to garden is in the spring and summer, but the opposite is actually true. For many plants such as spinach, kale, arugala, and beets, their preference is cool weather and will actually do better if planted in late summer for fall and winter harvest. In many instances, these vegetables can even tolerate a light frost.  In fact, the frost helps these cold weather crops to release stored sugar, making them sweeter and more delicious!  

To get started you first need to determine the plant hardiness zone for which you live. Once you’ve done that, deciding what to plant and when will be a breeze!

Gardening can be quite tricky for people who live in states that see frosty winters. So, if you’re looking for cold weather crops for fall gardening, we’ve got just the thing for you. Let’s dive in!

spinach

Hardy Cold Weather Crops

Now that you know your plant hardiness zone, you can begin to calculate the best time to  plant for your fall and winter garden. Timing for all planting is based on first and last frost dates. For example, if planting in hardiness zone 5, the last frost date is generally between April 1st – April 15th, and the first frost date typically falls between October 16th – October 31st. These dates will in part dictate when the best time to plant is. 

For me in zone 6a, the first frost date is October 6th.  So if I want to plant spinach for example that takes 37-50 days to harvest, the latest I would want to plant would be the end of August. This can be calculated by simply counting back from your first frost date the number of days it takes a particular plant to be harvest ready. 

Here’s a handy list of cold weather crops to consider for growing in the fall and winter. 

Arugula30-40 days to harvest
Beet50-65 days to harvest
Broccoli60-70 days to harvest
Cabbage50-65 days to harvest
Carrots
55-75 days to harvest
Cauliflower65-75 days to harvest
Cilantro60-75 days to harvest
Collards
55-60 days to harvest
Garlicin the spring
Kale45-60 days to harvest
Kohlrabi55-65 days to harvest
Lettuce45-60 days to harvest
Leek85-105 in ground all winter
Mustard30-50 days to harvest
Green bunching onion55-60 days to harvest
Snap Peas55-60 days to harvest
Radish25-40 days to harvest
Spinach37-50 days to harvest
Swiss Chard50-60 days to harvest
Turnip45-60 days to harvest
cold frame

More Ideas for Extending the Growing Season

The growing season is the time in which most plant growth occurs. As soon as the warm growing season ends, cooler temperatures hits many parts of the country so that you can only grow hardy cold weather crops for the rest of the year. How can we extend the growing season even more? Let’s find out.

Below are some ways in which you can extend the growing season so you can grow your plants for longer.

Build A Cold Frame

If you live in zones 5-7, you will need cold frames to extend the growing season indefinitely. But what are cold frames, and what is their purpose?

Cold frames are built by creating a hollow wooden structure with a glass lid on top. You place these cold frames on top of the plants to protect them from the cold while also allowing them access to direct sunlight. The glass traps sunlight and creates quite a warm atmosphere inside the cold frame. Doing this will warm the soil and extend the growing season for the plant.

All in all, cold frames work just like a mini greenhouse!

Use Mulch

Mulching is great for the garden for so many reasons. It keeps the plants battle weeds, keeps moisture in the soil, prevents erosion, and builds soil. Mulching also works to keep soil temperatures warmer. Simply adding a thick layer of mulch such as straw, hay, or other material can go a long way in keeping soil temperatures warmer for much longer. 

Mulching also helps the plants to battle weeds while also retaining the moisture that it needs to survive. 

Build A Fence

Most of the time, the end of the growing season brings with it harsh winds that threaten to tear down your saplings and smaller plants. If you want to avoid that, you can build a temporary or permanent fence to ensure that your plants are saved from the harsher winds that accompany the frost.

Install Row Covers Or Cloches

While cloches are more time-consuming because you need to cover each plant with them, row covers only need a little effort to install. These covers will protect the plants from the cold that comes with the end of the growing season and helps them grow better by extending the growing season.

The row covers and cloches trap heat to make sure that the plant’s soil is warm. Almost like the growing season never ended!

swiss chard

Conclusion

Your plants grow best when you sow and harvest them at appropriate times. You should always make sure that the plants you are sowing are suitable for your particular climate. If you were looking for fall gardening ideas, we hope this guide to cold weather crops for fall and winter gardening provided you with lots of inspiration.  Share your ideas in the comments!

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