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.
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.
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:
- 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).
- 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!
- 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!)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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)
- Swiss Chard
- Brussels Sprouts
- Carrots (from seed)
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)! :)