Gardening in the Winter: What I’ve Learned

This time next year (December, January, February, and beyond), I want to have fresh veggies in my backyard. I haven’t done it yet, but I am going to. The idea has always intrigued me. I feel like, to be truly self-sufficient, one would have to plant a winter garden. It’s what our great-great-grandparents would have done, after-all, right?

Why the post already, you might be wondering, when I haven’t even planted my own winter garden? Because I want to share my research with you so that you, too, can have an amazing winter garden. Ready to learn how? This is what I’ve learned:

Timing is Everything

I have wanted to grow a winter garden for a few years now, but I always think about it too late. Knowing your first frost date is important (just as important as knowing the last frost date for a Spring/Summer garden). From your first frost date, count backwards. You want your veggies to reach full maturity before the first frost, which can kill a tender, young plant. In my town, the first frost date is around November 1-10. I’ll assume for the worst, and give you an example of when I will need to plant particular plants.

From mid-July until around August 3rd (at least 90 days before the first frost date), I will be planting:

  • beets
  • brussels sprouts
  • cabbage
  • carrots
  • cauliflower
  • globe onions
  • parsnips
  • rutabagas

From mid-August to the first week of September (at least 60 days before the first frost date), I will be planting:

  • early cabbage
  • early carrots
  • winter cauliflower
  • collard
  • kohlrabi
  • leeks
  • turnips
  • swiss chard

From mid-September to the first week of October (at least 30 days before the first frost), I will be planting:

  • broccoli
  • chives
  • bunching onions
  • leaf lettuces
  • radishes
  • spinach

The Variety Matters

Not all seeds of the same “type” will grow the same. Some seeds are better fitted for winter gardening than others. Rather than “reinvent the wheel,” I’m going to send you to a site that I trust for this information: Victory Seeds. They have an entire page of seeds that are well-suited for a fall/winter garden. This is not an affiliate link. I am sharing this link with you, only because I trust this company and I have visited them. 🙂 When we lived on the farm (just down the road from Victory Seeds), they gave us 30+ free tomato plants one year. What an amazing blessing!! Victory Seeds is a small company, run by honest people–I recommend that you all support them! 🙂

Location, Location, Location

Choose a south-facing spot with a building or fence to the north or a south-facing slope, to protect your garden from northerly winds. If you don’t have such a location, you might want to build a cold-frame, which is a relatively easy structure to build.

Preparing the Ground is Necessary

With winter comes RAIN. Or, at least that’s what happens around here (Oregon!). 🙂 Make sure that wherever you plant your veggies there is good drainage. If your soil contains clay, add some sand to it. Better yet, build a raised garden bed. Fill it with plenty of compost, manure and rotted leaves.


I can’t wait to get started on my winter garden this year! For now, I am putting the above dates in my calendar, so that I will remember when to plant my seeds. If you’d like to plant a winter garden, I suggest that you do the same! (Only, calculate the date based on your area’s first frost date).

Have you planted a winter garden? What do you have to add?

Photo Credit




  • Nathan

    Thanks for this article! We’re in exactly the same boat, have always wanted a winter garden but have not yet done it. We’re in Canada, but our first frost dates seem to be about the same so I’d guess planting times to be similar as well. Thanks for the planting suggestions.

  • Sam

    Certainly something to think about. We’ve tried cabbage and carrots in the past but must have got the timing wrong. I would love to have a full-on winter vegetables garden (there are a few you have listed that I wouldn’t have even thought about before). Thanks for sharing your research 🙂

  • Nikki R.

    This is exactly what I was looking for! My first frost date is in early November as well, and you just took the guesswork out of which crops I could consider.

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