Winter Gardening

Possible Plants for Wintering Over

In the comments to a recent post Laura asked me to write about  what survives in my garden over the winter and what I plant specifically in the fall to overwinter.

Our usual wonderful fall weather turned into what is more like early winter.  So here I am still planting and trying to get ready to make sure I have a few things TO winter over.

As you’ve “heard” me mention in various posts, whether or not something will “make” it is never written in stone.  Too many variables for that.  So all I can do is generalize and tell you of my experiences.

That should give you a jump on starting your own discoveries.


Garlic planted in October is looking great.  Garlic planted in November is not up yet.  Still have at least 80 more cloves to plant that would bring the total to 220.  Hope they’ll grow good roots in spite of our unseasonably cool weather.  I’ll know soon enough.


More than the usual amount of small onions were left in the ground this year.  I’ve pulled some as spring onions. 

In these freezing or close to freezing temperatures the outer part of the onion usually “falls away” and the inside part continues to grow to make another spring onion.

I always think they won’t make it through the winter, but am surprised to see many have renewed themselves in the spring giving me early garden treats.

A Virginia market grower planting onion seedlings in the fall and having them winter over is something I’ve read about only once. 

This can provide a much earlier start for your onions if you can do it.  It’ll depend on how cold it gets.  But if you have good luck, your overwintered seedlings will be much bigger in the spring than the seedings you start from seed in January.  Thus, you’ll get earlier onions and many will be bigger as well.

If you don’t grow that many onions you might find it doable to give them some protection over the winter.  

When last I tried to winter over fall-started and only lightly-covered seedlings, I lost at least half to freezing weather. 

Scroll down in this post to see pictures of how I protect plants  in various degrees of cold weather. 

It might give you some ideas for the onions as well. I plant way too many onions to make it practical for me to cover those in addition to the lettuces.


No problem getting through cold winters with mache.   It’s beautiful encased in ice and just as beautiful and delicious when the ice melts.

The one draw back to leaving it uncovered is it doesn’t grow much until spring.  If you give some protection during the winter you’ll see a big difference in how much it grows.

Some always comes up with my lettuce (which is under cover in severe cold) and those mache plants provide more for me in the winter than ones without protection.

Brussels Sprouts

I’ve not gotten serious about growing Brussels Sprouts.  But I’ve had them winter over much to my surprise.


I won’t give collards space in the fall garden, although I should.  That’s when they taste the best. They’re said  to be cold hardy into the upper teens. 

A few undercover with your lettuces might last the winter.


I’ve just gotten serious about growing cabbages since I see the hand writing on the wall about  food shortages.   (Cabbage and carrots are staples for me all year; provided by my garden in season and the grocery store in the winter.) 

I wasn’t sure how cabbage would winter over for me.  If grown in the spring and the fall/winter, cabbages from my garden should be enough without having to depend on a grocery store..

Planted several late last fall.   Three of them disappeared (or so I thought). When ready to plant in late spring in that section – what a surprise to see those three cabbages.  Still tiny.  But they grew into the most beautiful cabbages by the end of July.

wintered over cabbages still growing in June

This year some light cover was provided for the fall planted cabbages. I’m hoping for quicker maturity in the spring because of the light protection.


As with cabbage, I’m just getting serious about carrots.

Carrots will winter over if you can provide the right conditions.

Last year I had beautiful carrots that I planted to winter over.  When temperatures fell, I dutifully cut the tops back and covered with enough mulch to protect from freezing but hopefully not allow more top growth.

In two weeks it turned way too warm for wintering over carrots.  Tops started growing. That ruins the quality of the carrot.

Pulled them up and stored in the frig crisper.

Carrots harvested Jan. 2

This year I planned to try again, but didn’t get them planted until  too late to get good growth in time for winter.

I knew that when planting, so I didn’t plant many.  Just enough to “learn” what would happen.  They’re small but growing.  Since they’re at the end of my lettuce bed, they were convenient to cover.  We’ll see what happens.

Russian Kale

As long-time readers know, I allow select things to seed in my garden.

One such plant is Russian Kale.  It seeds in the fall and sits at about 3 to 5 inches all winter. It always looks rather pitiful and every year I think it (or they) surely won’t make it.

But it always does.  And in the spring fulfills its potential for growth.

A few plants come up from seed in the spring but it seems to me that the ones that winter over do especially well.


I’ve read that beets will store in the ground during the winter if heavily mulched.  I’ve never had enough left over to try it.


Lettuce will make it through 28ºF.  Only thing is when the forecast calls for 28º – it can easily go lower.  That will take its toll on lettuce although some could still make it through.

Important Note for Plants Under Protection

When nights stay below freezing I open the ends during the days that are warmer. 

When night time temperatures are above freezing (about 39º or so, the covers on the beds are pulled back until temperatures drop again.

That can be inconvenient but air circulation is a principle you can’t ignore if you want healthy plants.

Final Thought

If you want to experiment and/or be on the safe side — try what you want to winter over in the green house, (or under covers), and one or more without protection. 

I hope my experiences will help make yours even more successful.

Related Posts:

Six Reasons to Grow Mache

Still Eating Lettuces from Your Garden in January? Or not?


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  • All of these grow well here in the winter, and will perk up come spring. However, brussels sprouts are tough and mostly tasteless when we try to grow those here in eastern N.C. I suspect heat, but we don’t like them much anyway so it doesn’t really matter.

    Onions, garlic, collards, carrots, turnips, radish, mustard, kale all do well, though radish will freeze when the weather gets very cold.

    Some families in this area have heirloom collards from which seeds have been saved for several generations.

    I have bunching onions that I know have been in my family for 6 generations. The family came onto this land before the Louisiana purchase and one member went there and took up land, opened a trading post.

  • Interesting read. I have a small home made greenhouse that I have never heated until March but this time I have kept it at 40′ just to see how things would go and very surprised so far. I’m heating under my growing shelf with the heat at 40′ room and the pots stay at least 5′ higher. I put bricks under the pots today and think/hope temp will stay more constant. Time will tell but gardening is always happy time so who cares.

    Happy days


  • I am still enjoying lettuce in my tiny hoop house. It grows so beautiful all winter long, it is almost a shame to eat it!
    I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season!
    Carol Y

  • Theresa, another post I found incredibly helpful, thank you. As always, I enjoyed following the links to the older posts – and found them very helpful too! As you know, I never had to worry about winter, until now. Even if we are approaching summer here “downunder”, these posts give me much needed food for thoughts (and inspiration!) to start planning and be ready for next winter 🙂

  • Hiya Theresa!

    I don’t know about anybody else, but here in western Kentucky we went from October straight into January weather-wise. It’s been nuts! I use that “plant on election day, harvest on the 4th of July” adage as a guide for growing garlic. This year was the first time I remember a Farmers Almanac planting day and election day happening on the same day. So I got all my garlic planted on a beautiful warm day and 2 days later it was in the 20’s overnight, low 40’s for the highs AND we got a few inches of snow to boot! Where the heck is global warming when you need it? This week it’s normaling out with lows in the 30’s and highs in the 50’s. So I can get outside and get some things done. In the 30’s with a wind chill in the 20’s during the day?? I’m gonna watch TV thank you very much…..

    This is the first year I’m trying growing under cover. I have low tunnels on a few beds all year round. There is plastic fence permanently attached on the ends and plastic fence draped and tied over the hoops to keep deer out of my greens. They jump the fence and treat my lettuce/greens beds like an all you can eat buffet, so I had to put my greens in jail if I want to eat any. They don’t seem to like brassicas so I leave kale and such outside the hoops mostly.

    So anyways…. with the weather being so unusually cold, I got out some plastic drop cloths and put them over the hoops. The plastic isn’t long enough to close off on the ends, but it does protect the largest bed from prevailing winds, so I’ll see how that experiment pans out. Also curious to see how daikon radish does in the cold and if it revives in the spring after the tops die off in winter. Will get out and mulch the heck out of them today. I don’t know how many gardening seasons I have left in me to be doing all these “experiments” but I’m enjoying the heck out of it as I go along.

    Take care and God bless,

  • Beautiful pictures. The carrots look so delicious, especially. Question: Do you graze the cabbage, picking off the leaves for salads throughout the season, or do you let it go and cut it when it heads?

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