Tips on Growing & Caring for Heirloom Plants in the Winter

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If you are among those gardeners who feel daunted at the idea of winter gardening, don’t be disheartened – you can still enjoy growing plants, edibles, and prized heirloom varietals even in the wintry months of the most southern and coastal U.S. states. In this article, we discuss some of the ways to help your plant survive what could be called the toughest season for them.

Choosing the Kinds of Plants to Grow

Gardening involves a lot of planning and preparation. From choosing the kinds of seeds to grow to choosing the proper soil for the plants, a wise gardener must take everything into careful consideration before planting. One of the things many gardeners consider is the kind of seed variety to plant, especially if they intend for them to grow and thrive during the winter season. Since you’re here on Heirloom Gardener, we’ll focus on the open-pollinated and heirloom varieties and the types that have for the ability to handle cold and still produce a delicious and unique crop.

Since there are many kinds of heirloom varieties, you have the opportunity to diversify enjoy the opportunity to participate in local and sustainable agriculture. Additionally, you connect with your food and its history, as well as with your community.

In case heirlooms are new to you: heirloom varieties, seed types which have been carefully passed down from one generation to the next, usually over a period of 50 years, have adapted to their environment better than other varieties. Many people enjoy them for unique flavors and appearance and there are specific heirloom vegetables that you can plant depending on the climate where you live and on your purpose for planting. Below we’ll discuss cold and frost hardy heirlooms, but feel free to explore options most adapted to where you live too!

Many vegetables can survive cold and even light frost. Although frost can be a big problem, there are several things you can do to provide extra protection for your plants, which we will discuss below.

So now that we’re all familiar, let’s grow! Here’s are tips and types for growing heirlooms in winter. 

Photo by triocean on AdobeStock

Taking Care of Your Garden During Winter

Because no season is harsher to your plants than winter, it is important to take extra good care of your plants during this season. Although many plants can survive the cold, the presence of frost can often threaten their growth. Here are some things you can do to protect your plants during this season:

  1. Remove debris and cover the plants – This is where the importance of plant spacing comes in. When your plants are properly spaced, it’ll be easier to remove debris and cover them with a plastic sheet to shield them from the elements.
  2. Trim the plants – Trimming and pruning your plants can help prevent the chances that they become diseased over the winter. Like their fauna counterpart, many plants usually “hibernate” when the temperature becomes low, and require extra attention to help them thrive. Many gardeners prune annual flowers and plants with blackened stems while others completely remove their foliage.
  3. Add mulch – Spreading a new layer of mulch will serve as the food source of the plants during the winter season. This will also insulate the soil and warm your plants. Assess your bulb beds and the general garden soil because these can freeze and crack during winter. Adding and running an all-season garden watering system at a slow but continuous flow of water during surprise temperature drops will help prevent soil and root freezing since the water will be warmer than the air. 


Photo by Heather Gill on Unsplash

Heirloom Varieties for Your Winter Garden

Whether you are already a fan of heirloom seeds and plants, or are looking to discover their joys, here is a list of heirloom vegetables that you can try growing during winter:

  1. Rouge d’Hiver Lettuce – also called Red Romaine, this vegetable can survive both the cold and the hot weather. The Red Romaine provides beautiful groundcover and matures quite fast, with some being harvestable around January.
  2. Stampede Jerusalem Artichoke Tubers –This type of artichoke, which also goes by the name of sunchokes, is a potato-like tuber that produces high yields even during winter. They can be stored easily and can be eaten raw or cooked.
  3. Bandit Leeks – This plant is characterized by its thick stem and very attractive blue-green leaves. Not only is it cold hardy, its flavor and sweetness actually improves with frost and cold weather.
  4. Snowball self-blanching cauliflower – This heirloom variety of cauliflower wraps itself using its large leaves when the temperature gets lower. This trait protects its head and helps keep its pure white color.
  5. Mary Washington Asparagus – This asparagus produces numerous spears per year. You can plant the seeds indoors in spring and then transplant outdoors around last frost. This asparagus will need two years before you crop it properly.

So, while winter may not be the most common season to think of for gardening, in the right areas, with the right plant selection, support, and care you can keep your thumbs green year-round!  

Mother Earth Gardener
Mother Earth Gardener
Expert advice on all aspects of growing.