Plant your cold hardy seedlings now and enjoy fresh lettuces through the winter

These glorious September days make it easy to pretend that summer is going to last forever. Make the most of the sun by planting your winter garden now. Here are some easy tips to ensure success

At this late point in the year, seedlings are your best bet to ensure a winter harvest. Select cold hardy varieties such as kale, Swiss chard, spinach and cold-resistant lettuces.

Members of the brassica family – collards, cabbage, Swiss chard – do particularly well at this time of year.  Planting seeds is an option for those who are interested in getting a head start on spring and ‘overwintering.' Seeds to plant now are kale, winter lettuces, arugula, spinach and pac choi. Check your seed packets carefully to see what varieties are best suited to germinate and grow in lower temperatures – now is not the time to plant tomatoes or cucumbers.

Plant in the Sunniest Location Possible

Winter is going to mean less light and warmth, so you want to pick a location that will get maximum winter sun. Plan carefully: in winter the sun will travel closer to the horizon, so it may be blocked by your neighbor’s garage or hedges.

Protect Your Plants from Frost

When it gets frosty, you may want to cover your plants lightly, first at night and then during the day when it gets colder.  Creating a “tent” for your plants will make sure that the cover material doesn’t crush or suffocate your plants. You can get lots of inspiration for garden covers online or from West Coast Seeds. Last year, we used recycled tent poles and plastic sheets to cover our garden beds.

Adjust Your Expectations

Vegetables grow very slowly in the winter. I planted my first winter garden two years ago with the expectation of harvesting vegetables all winter. This simply was not the case, as the vegetables didn’t grow fast enough to harvest sustainably. What made the whole exercise worth it was that we were able to enjoy early season salads months earlier than if we planted in the spring. 

Don’t Neglect Your Garden During Winter

Check your winter garden frequently. On sunny days, pull back the cover to give the plants some direct sunlight. After it snows or during a cold snap, make sure that your cover hasn’t collapsed or that that water isn’t pooling and freezing on your cover. Make sure rodents or other animals are not seeking refuge under your garden covers.

There's Always Time for Garlic

If you miss this last window of opportunity, don’t fret: you can plant garlic in October and broad beans in November!