Overwintering Vegetables

January King Cabbage-only about 4″ tall at the moment

The first time I heard of overwintering vegetables I misunderstood, I mistakenly though overwintering vegetables meant wintertime vegetables, I had plans to plant and harvest all winter long.  The truth is overwinter vegetables  aren’t planted in the winter, you start them in the late summer and fall, they don’t produce in winter either, they will stay in the ground all winter, but produce in the spring.  Some overwintering vegetables  like sprouting broccoli specifically require a cold growing period before they will produce. While others like fava beans are fall planted to give their roots  a head start  before  the conventional spring planting. Watch out for seed packages labeled overwintering because you need  varieties that are bred to  over winter, not just any old seeds will do. In my garden the overwinter-ers don’t get bigger than seedling size until spring, they are not show stoppingly ornamental for a winter garden, but it’s still fun to see them slowly creeping along waiting for spring to appear. Overwintering is always a bit of a gamble, you have a relatively short window of sowing time, and the tiny seedlings will be left in the ground for months before they produce, if anything goes wrong you probably won’t be able to re-sow, and will have to try again next year.  Last year I lovingly nurtured overwintering cauliflowers and onions only to have them bolt and go to seed in the surprisingly early warm weather we had.  Bad luck aside it’s still a worthwhile  project, and gives me one more thing to look forward to for spring. This year I am attempting to overwinter heirloom white cauliflower, purple sprouting broccoli, January king cabbage, walla walla onions and fava beans.  I have grown overwintering crops without any cloches or row covers, but I am going to experiment with half my crop under cover this year to see if it improves my chances.

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