2015-09-24 / From The Garden

Time to Plant Your Winter Garden

By Cynthia Gibson


Garlic is best planted in the fall for a spring crop. Cloves that have not been exposed to temperatures below 65 degrees may not form bulbs. Garlic is best planted in the fall for a spring crop. Cloves that have not been exposed to temperatures below 65 degrees may not form bulbs. Before the September air turns crisp, a spell of high humidity can produce noteworthy quantities of mold in the garden. That said, it is time to pull out the spent tomato plants, complete the final weeding, and prepare for the long winter ahead.

Planting a winter garden brings into play vegetables that are easy to grow and that overwinter well; they will be your first vegetables to surface next spring. Regardless of how cold our winters might be, these seeds, bulbs and plants will make it to spring, sprout and produce great vegetables.

Included in your mix of seeds for planting now should be lettuce, carrot, winter radish, garlic, and wild arugula. Even if they sprout before the freeze, they will overwinter and then continue growing as soon as the soil warms in the spring. Even though this might seem like an unusual approach to gardening in New England, this type of gardening has gone on for years.


Runder schwarzer radish has a dirty looking dark skin, but when peeled, they are as white as snow. Runder schwarzer radish has a dirty looking dark skin, but when peeled, they are as white as snow. To begin, prepare your soil as you would for spring planting. Make sure your beds are free of weeds (which also overwinter easily). Adding new soil is a good idea; your vegetables beds have depleted your soil of the rich nutrients it held all summer long. A bit of fertilizer should be added and thoroughly mixed into the soil. As with all gardening projects, there are good years and bad, experimentation, wins and losses.

If you planted leeks this summer, do not pull them out. Left in your garden over the winter, they will be twice the size or larger next year. The same goes for Swiss chard: if you cut it way back to the nubs, it will re-bloom in the spring. Many bulbs, plants and mainly seeds are far hardier than they look!


Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Along with spinach, another entry on the good list for winter greens is sylvetta, or wild arugula. This arugula is different in that it grows in clumps and is very slow to bolt (one of the largest complaints in growing arugula). It will start sprouting this winter, be covered with winter’s snow, and then bounce right back in spring with a lovely crop. It is a very peppery tasting arugula, which adds great taste to a salad. Another winter hardy lettuce is Cantarix. It is a red, heading lettuce that is remarkably beautiful and strong.

It is also time to plant garlic. The best bulbs to plant in the fall are "German extra hardy," inchelium red, and Georgian crystal. These are hardneck garlics that will produce up to 35 cloves each.

Runder schwarzer winter radish is also known as the Munich beer radish. Radishes are eaten at cocktail hour in Europe instead of our ubiquitous cheese and crackers. Runder schwarzer is not the prettiest radish in the garden. It is large, with a dirty looking dark skin, and looks like a radish that has been dipped in mud. However, when this beauty is peeled, like most radishes, they are as white as the driven snow. This one is spicy and hot! It is one of the best radishes for overwintering and will grow very well in the spring.

Carrots are another great crop for overwintering. One of the best to grow is merida. They have a pure carrot taste, and are a deep orange-red.

Once your winter garden is planted, let it breathe, sprout, and make sure weeds do not reappear, as they will compete for the rich fertilizers with which you amended your new soil. After the first frost, it is time to cover your winter garden with dark landscape fabric, with holes in it, to allow water to penetrate to the seeds, bulbs and plants. Secure the covering to the ground using large garden pins which are at Home Depot and Ace Hardware. It is not necessary to cover leeks; they will stand tall all winter long.

Planting a winter garden not only gives you a leg up on spring planting, but is also a great incentive for you to start garden cleanup this fall.

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