8 Reasons I LOVE My Winter Vegetable Garden

This week my girls and I did something I’ve been wanting to do for a LONG time …plant our first vegetable garden at our new home! It has felt like a LONG six months since we last had access to our own homegrown vegetables (in our old backyard), and I was so ready to get back to it. After posting one of our pics on social media yesterday I got quite the mix of comments and thought the whole topic of winter vegetable gardens was worthy of a blog post.

Girls Planting Winter Vegetable Garden on 100 Days of Real Food

First of all, we live in Charlotte, NC. While our region is known for icky ice storms (including one just earlier this week) we’re fortunate enough to have a pretty mild winter with maybe only 1 to 2 sightings of snow each season. I know many people are still covered up in snow at the moment so I realize winter gardening doesn’t exactly work for everyone right now! But whether you live near me or have to wait another month or two to start here are the reasons I love growing my own vegetables this time of year.

Why I love my winter vegetable garden on 100 Days of Real Food

8 Reasons I LOVE My Winter Vegetable Garden

When people think of homegrown vegetables they likely picture big juicy tomatoes and vibrant bell peppers. While I love to have those crops thriving in my backyard all summer long, I have to say it’s hard to beat growing your very own lettuces and greens in the winter. Here are my reasons why:

  1. No cages.
    No big wiry cages to contend with when it comes to keeping your winter vegetables upright (which is usually necessary for tomato and pepper plants).
  2. No bugs.
    In general bugs are harder to come by in the winter, which means you’re less likely to find them nibbling on your veggie plants!
  3. No green thumb necessary.
    It’s honestly pretty hard to kill a lettuce plant that doesn’t need all that much from you in the first place. (And this is coming from someone who is by no means a master at plants!)
  4. It can be ignored.
    When life just gets in the way it comes in handy that most winter vegetable plants can be ignored for a couple days or even weeks at a time with very few (if any) negative repercussions.
  5. Harvest just a little.
    I love how I can go out and tear off just a few of the larger outside leaves of our lettuce or spinach (or kale or Swiss chard) while still keeping the main part of the plant in tact to continue growing.
  6. Less watering.
    Since it obviously doesn’t get very hot this time of year winter vegetable plants don’t need nearly as much water as their summer counterparts.
  7. Easy.
    We simply put our veggies in good organic soil in a sunny spot (at the right time of year – see below), give each plant a small handful of organic fertilizer around the base once every few weeks (we like “Plant-tone” brand – it stinks, but it works!), and water it every few days (if it hasn’t rained recently) – and that’s all there is to it. My daughters could honestly run our winter garden all by themselves it’s so easy.
  8. Two chances.
    In our zone we can plant winter crops both in the fall and then again in late winter. So, if you don’t get around to it the first time, nature gives you a second chance to enjoy winter’s bounty!

Now all of this is not to say that summer gardens aren’t worth the extra effort – because, I promise they are! – but growing winter veggies is so darn easy there’s really no reason not to do it as well (if you live in a region that can handle it).

What We’re Growing this Winter

Here in Charlotte, NC we are in zone 8 (but close to zone 7). That means the average annual minimum temperature is between 10 and 20 degrees F. We can do our winter plantings around Labor Day and then again around Valentine’s Day.

Here’s what we planted this week:

  • Lettuce (several different types)
  • Arugula
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Carrots (from seed)
  • Cilantro

PS – For anyone else located in the Charlotte area be sure to check out my most favorite local vegetable gardening resource – Renfrow Hardware. They even have classes, which I’ve taken.

It Doesn’t Take Much

Whether you have a big yard or a small balcony I just want to share that it truly doesn’t take much to start growing your own food – any time of year! When my husband and I were in Chile last month (where it’s summer) I had to laugh when I saw this tomato plant growing in a bag of dirt in the street!! All it takes is a sunny spot and some TLC so don’t be afraid to try your hand at growing your own food. It can be incredibly rewarding (and tasty)! :)

Tomato Plant in Street on 100 Days of Real Food

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39 thoughts on “8 Reasons I LOVE My Winter Vegetable Garden”

  1. Hi Lisa! Nice blog! I love gardening very much. There are lots of flowers in my garden. Now I am thinking of growing vegetables. Thanks for sharing all the benefits of a winter vegetable garden. I will definitely apply this process. Keep posting!

  2. Can’t wait until the kids are old enough to help me with the gardening – such a great hands-on learning experience. Love the list of veggies and looking forward to the recipes!

  3. I’m so excited for our garden this year! We are moving it to a new spot in our yard, expanding like crazy, and adding a whole bunch of raised beds. I’m not a great gardener, but practice makes perfect, right? We are in a colder spot than you, still lots of snow, but I’m hoping to add some cold frames so I can extend our growing season. I also always grow herbs in the kitchen on the windowsill. Growing your own food is so fun!

  4. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out a way to grow some veggies in the winter. Living in Montana it’s very hard. Even the summers can have a very short growing season.
    Any tips from any fellow cold weather dwellers?

    1. A lot of the plants Lisa has can be grown indoors in pots as long as they are near a window and get plenty of sun – you could also build a cold frame which would extend the growing season

  5. Are you growing from seeds you started indoors? If not where do you get plants this time of year? I haven’t seen any around us in VA.

  6. Can you tell us more about those brick raised beds at your new place? I’m making plans to take over a large portion of my backyard with either raised beds(we currently have only two large cedar raised beds) or possibly going straight into the ground since there’s so much space I want to use for the garden. Just curious what made you decide to use the brick raised beds. They are beautiful, and I imagine they match the color brick on your house.

  7. I live in Northern California. I helped my dad plant his winter garden with assorted lettuce greens, beets, green onions, cilantro, flat leaf parsley, Brussel sprouts, kale, swiss chard, broccoli, cauliflower and sweet onions. In fact I planted so much in his garden that he said I didn’t have to plant my own winter garden this year. We have been harvesting all the wonderful fresh garden for a while. Now we are starting to harvest the cauliflower and broccoli. I love all the delicious vegetables from the garden. Nothing compares! I’m really looking forward to spring break and planting the summer garden. Bring on those summer tomatoes! Happy gardening year round. I’m lucky to be a California girl!

  8. This is great! I am in the metro Detroit area of MI, so this isn’t possible right now, but is it possible in March or April? I am not sure what you mean by being in zone 8 – can you explain?

  9. Please tell me where you can purchase starter plants at this time of year, I live just North of you in Mooresville. My garden is ready to go, but I can’t find anywhere that has plants.

    1. Judith, do you know Brawley Seed Co. on Main Street just north of downtown Mooresville? It’s a wonderful local business for plants and seeds.

    1. Yes, it would be more economical to do more crops from seed (and definitely possible), but it’s hard to beat the instant gratification with the starter plants!

  10. This sounds great! I am very interested in attempting this, but have a few concerns/issues that I’d love some advice about from people that actually have green thumbs. Concerns/issues: 1. I live in Michigan 2. We have a yellow lab service dog (for me) that loves to chew anything 3. I have MS so fatigue is a major issue as well as balance, coordination, but I am still walking. ‘N
    Let’s say I wanted to grow some lettuce/kale and strawberries for my young daughter & husband. I know strawberries are not a winter garden plant, but I need my family to help…
    Is this doable for some one with my issues? Is there a fairly simple way to keep my dog away? Suggestions?
    I am trying to eat more ‘real food’ and help my picky daughter to eat better.
    Thoughts? Thank you!

    1. May I suggest raised garden beds? Check out square foot gardening as well. As for the pups, my dogs do not like hot/spicy nor extreme bitterness, and you can safely spray plants with a concoction of one of the other.

    2. I live and garden in Michigan. Most of the vegetables Lisa planted are Spring crops here and can be planted in April or some in March. The seed packets usually indicate when it is safe to plant by region. They can also be planted again late summer for a Fall crop.

      Vegetables like lettuce and kale and even strawberries do well in containers that could go in a sunny spot near the house. Maybe a patio or deck? This would be easier with your MS I think. Less bending, digging and weeding. The MSU cooperative extension website has some good information about gardening in Michigan. hth

      1. At my previous house there were multiple feral cats that my neighbor used to feed so they were always hanging around. I found the most successful was similar to the ‘cat scat mat’ mentioned in the link above, except I just buried plastic forms with the tines sticking up a 1/2 in or so above the soil – the cats don’t like the feeling on their paws so they stopped going in my garden

  11. I’m in NC – just about an hour north of you – wondering if I could plant some of these items in ‘window boxes’ out on my back porch? How much sun is needed each day?

    1. Absolutely! Just make sure the lettuce and greens have room to spread out a little. The more sun the better, but our last garden technically had too much shade and we still did okay. :)

  12. I would like to agree that it does not take much. I am in Texas and planted some lettuce and kale this past November in pots. I am now enjoying fresh salads, have been for the last 3 weeks and will for at least a couple more. It’s the best feeling in the world.

    1. We are actually planning on adding a little fence, but they could probably jump it if they want to. Fingers crossed we don’t have any major issues!

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