Get Growing: Winter Vegetable Gardening

Posted on Wednesday, 12 August 2020 under Local Food & Agriculture

With this summer heat finally arriving, we hate to bring up winter, but now is a perfect time to start planning and seeding for your fall/winter garden!

Whether you already have a garden started or thought you missed your time to plant, there are still plenty of options for homegrown, cold-hardy vegetables. Winter is an underrated and fantastic season for gardening, a time to enjoy less watering and weeding. Just as the spring and summer mark an exciting time for bountiful harvests from the garden, colder seasons on the west coast also offer some beautifully fresh produce. You still have time to plant, but you better get going now! And, if you don’t have a garden space, there are a number of options for growing in pots or on balcony gardens.


Many leafy greens, like arugula, lettuce, mustard greens, pac choi, chicory, chard, and spinach can be seeded directly into your garden now for harvests throughout the fall and winter. And, arugula, mustard greens, chicory, chard, and spinach can continue to be planted into September. These leafy greens do well in the cool season, providing a longer harvest for fall salads and other dishes. Although they do well in the cold, it would be wise to protect them once the hard frost hits with a simple cloche tunnel cover.

Root vegetables, such as beets, carrots, turnips, and radishes can all be direct seeded now until September, some being ready as early as fall. A trick with carrots and turnips is that once they reach maturity and the colder weather begins, they can be protected all winter until you are ready to eat them. The ground acts as extra storage for you! Once the weather cools, cover your ready carrots and turnips with a thick layer of mulch and secure them with a row cover on top. When you’re craving hardy root vegetables mid-winter, simply dig them up from under your covering. The carrots may even be sweeter after staying in the ground over the winter.

If you want to keep it simple and continue to have herbs and garnishes in your kitchen this fall, cilantro, parsley, and scallions can all be direct seeded now and continue to grow in cooler weather. And, if you can’t be bothered to protect your crops, the parsley and scallions will come back in the spring even after a tough winter.

Many vegetables in the brassica family sure do love the cool season as well. Try planting kale and collards now to be eaten this coming winter. These plants tolerate frost well and even develop a sweetness to them after a cold spell. To help them out in the harsher months, apply tunnel covers. And, if you can get your hands on some transplants from a friend or a farmer, plant brussel sprouts for a fall and winter harvest.

Cloche covers don’t have to be difficult. Typically, some old PVC or any other material that could work for a hooped frame, and polyethylene film work just fine. If you’re covering smaller heads of lettuce, clear plastic food containers make the perfect micro cloche. For larger plants, a tomato cage secured with polyethylene around it makes for good protection. Some covers can only withstand a certain cold temperature – so make sure to use the appropriate covers for what you want, and remember, it doesn’t have to be fancy! However, a few important things to remember when using polytunnel covers are: ensure there is ventilation, make sure the plastic cover isn’t touching any of your plants, and find a way to anchor it down well in case of extreme weather.

Mulching is a great way to keep your root vegetables from getting frostbitten and add extra warmth to other veggies as well. You can use straw, compost, dry grass clippings, dry leaves, etc.

Another great option for extending the gardening season is to build a cold frame. These structures act as great protection from frost and really harsh winter conditions. However, you don’t necessarily need a cold frame to extend the season and have homegrown veggies throughout the winter. This is just another option for the gung-ho gardener!

The first average frost in the Metro Vancouver area is early November, so keep an eye on temperatures to ensure your plants get covered when they need to.

Already thinking about next year? Here are some vegetables that can be planted now and in the coming months for harvesting next season!

*Keep in mind that many of these plants still need help overwintering. Mulching and row covers go a long way in helping plants through the winter.

Shop local for your seeds! For a list of local suppliers, visit our BC Seed Suppliers Listings.