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Fall and Winter Vegetables

Gardening in the winter is somewhat challenging but doable. Many of the greens, some of the root vegetables, and herbs can be planted in the fall and will grow through the winter months. The saying is that greens are better after a frost. Turnip greens, collards, Swiss chard, and mustard need lots of organic matter added to the soil. They are not only rich in flavor, vitamins, and calcium but are stunning grown in beds and with winter flowers like pansies, snapdragons, alyssum, and calendulas. The herbs rosemary, cilantro, regular chives, and oregano will hold up under the cold temperatures. Lettuce and spinach do not like to be frozen, so they should be grown in cold frames or covered with cloth or hay when it goes below about 45 degrees. Plant cool-season vegetables as early as possible and in succession. This is a good idea and gives the gardener early harvest, a longer time of harvest, and a head start before insect pests, heat and disease show up in warmer weather. When the soil temperatures are cool, plants don’t require as much water as the summer garden. The soil needs to be evenly moist, and it should be checked often to see if it needs irrigation. Cold can cause desiccation or drying out, and seedlings should be checked regularly. Mulch will help keep the soil temperature moderated and may even help the soil to warm up sooner. Organic mulch breaks down and helps to hold nutrients and moisture. Fertilizers come in lots of forms and formulations. It is a good idea to test the soils’ pH early in the growing season before adding lime. Lime is not a fertilizer, but it is important to know that certain nutrients may or may not be available when the soil is too acidic or alkaline. A soil test will give this information to the gardener. Certain fruits and vegetables differ in the kind of soil they will grow best. It’s always best to test.

Arugula is easy to grow from seed. Cut and come again. Laura Lee Rose, ©2021, Clemson Extension

Arugula is easy to grow from seed. Cut and come again.
Laura Lee Rose, ©2021, Clemson Extension

Seed wide beds of lettuce and harvest whole plants to thin or cut leaves for salads. Laura Lee Rose, ©2021, Clemson Extension

Seed wide beds of lettuce and harvest whole plants to thin or cut leaves for salads.
Laura Lee Rose, ©2021, Clemson Extension

This gardener is using old windows to cover the young lettuce. Laura Lee Rose, ©2021, Clemson Extension

This gardener is using old windows to cover the young lettuce.
Laura Lee Rose, ©2021, Clemson Extension

Using a mulch like coastal Bermuda hay will keep the soil from splashing on your winter greens. Laura Lee Rose, ©2021, Clemson Extension

Using a mulch like coastal Bermuda hay will keep the soil from splashing on your winter greens.
Laura Lee Rose, ©2021, Clemson Extension

For more information on starting your fall/winter garden, see

How to Take a Soil Sample
HGIC 1256, Planning A Garden
HGIC 1307, Collards
HGIC 1329, Arugula, Kale, Mesclun, Mustard, and Swiss Chard
HGIC 1320, Spinach
Swiss Chard
HGIC 1324, Turnip and Rutabagas
HGIC 1312, Lettuce

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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