Winter Gardening Tips from Farmer Jane Saiers


Author: Jane Saiers

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It was a pleasure to host a group of community members at our winter Seasonal Food Workshop. January is a great time to explore what helps us (here in the Piedmont of North Carolina and elsewhere) extend our growing seasons to enjoy fresh from the garden food for as many weeks and months as possible. Here are some of the tips we shared at the workshop.Old kale, new peas

When growing for winter harvest:

  • Choose cold-hardy vegetables and cold-tolerant varieties/cultivars.
  • Time your plantings for winter availability.
    • Seed root vegetables in the ground by September 1 for continuous harvest during the winter.
    • Get a head start on the Persephone period (short days with <10 hours sunlight), when plant growth slows considerably (~Dec 1-Jan 10 in North Carolina). Start crops so that they are just shy of maturity before the Persephone period begins. (Young plants tend to be more cold hardy than older ones.)
  • Plant successions of short time-to-maturity crops.
  • Use season-extension tools.
    • Hoophouse/greenhouse
    • Row covers
    • Mulch
  • For greens, use “cut-and-come-again” harvest strategy.
  • Plant crops with multiple “harvestables” (e.g., turnips/turnip greens; beets/beet greens).


Categories of Winter Vegetables

  • Vegetables that grow quickly and mature and are harvested before the coldest weather (e.g., radishes, tatsoi, other mustards)
  • Vegetables that can be harvested all winter (e.g., kale, beets)
  • Vegetables that lie dormant or nearly dormant most of the winter and get an early start in the spring (e.g., kale, arugula, chard)


Examples of Winter-Grown Vegetables in North Carolina

Crop Killing Temperature (degrees Fahrenheit)
Arugula 22
Asian Greens (Napa cabbage, komatsuna, pak choy,

senposai, tatsoi)

15-25 (depending on variety)
Beets 15-20 (depending on variety)
Broccoli 25
Cabbage 27 (most types)
Carrot 12
Chard 10
Collard 0-10
Kale 0-15 (depending on variety)
Kohlrabi 15
Lettuce 15-25 (depending on variety and leaf size)
Mustard 20-25 (depending on variety)
Parsnip 0
Radish 20
Spinach 0-5 (depending on variety)
Turnip 12-20 (when mulched and depending on variety)


Free Online Planting Calendars

Bradley LK et al. Planting Planners: Central North Carolina Planting Calendar for Annual Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs. North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. July 2012.

Jones D, Roos D. Planting and Harvesting Guide for Piedmont Vegetables and Herbs.

Winter Gardening References

Coleman E. A Garden for All Seasons: Gardening on the Back Side of the Calendar. Mother Earth News, Issue 178, Feb/March 2000. Available at:

Coleman E, Damrosch B. The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses. Chelsea Green Publishing Company, White River Junction, VT; 2009.

Dawling P. Sustainable Market Farming: Intensive Vegetable Production on a Few Acres. New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada; 2013.

Great Sources for Winter Gardening Supplies

Four Season Tools

Gardener’s Supply Company 

Johnny’s Selected Seeds

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