August 16, 2013 by Hope Gardens
“Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.” Pietro Aretino
We are so fortunate here in Southern California to be able to plant and harvest veggies year round. There are definitely rules to follow however in regards to which vegetables are grown in warm weather and which in cold.
Many cold weather veggies are either leafy greens or root vegetables. While leafy greens and lettuces often wilt or bolt in warm weather; they thrive in cool weather, lasting much longer and coming back harvest after harvest. Cooler temps and increased moisture also give these greens the crispness and succulence we expect in a delicious lettuce or spinach or collard.
What I find super interesting is how root vegetables need a cold winter bite to give them their sweet taste. As you may remember from 5th grade, plants produce sugars during photosynthesis for energy. In response to cold temps, plants break down some of that energy into “free” sugars to guard against frost. This extra sugar makes the veggies extra sweet. The colder the temps, the sweeter the beet, the broccoli, the rutabaga.
Many winter vegetables grow easily from seed so you can try a number of different varietals of kale, chard, mustard, arugula and spinach. I’ve also had good luck planting seeds for turnips and beets, and the cutie pies of the garden: sugar snap peas. Carrots and radishes are extremely easy to grow from seed…so much so that you almost never see seedlings for them in the nursery. Conversely, although broccoli is easy to grow; it’s better to pick up some seedlings. Broccoli can be prolific, so be ready to harvest their heads as soon as they are ready, otherwise the heads will flower. If you overlook a few heads, at least the bees will be happy!
There’s so much fun in a winter garden, I encourage you to give it a try. Another BIG plus is that there is much more flexibility in terms of timing your install. You can put a winter garden in from October-February, but please call us now and get on the docket. Building your soil now and growing a winter garden is the best way to ensure a healthy soil for your future heavy-feeding spring/summer garden.