How To Start Winter Container Vegetable Gardening

Is it possible to enjoy homegrown vegetables throughout the coldest months?

Today, you’re going to see how you can turn winter container vegetable gardening into a reality!

I’ve also put together a list of best frost-tolerant veggie plants you can grow even you don’t have a yard to plant them in.

Let’s jump right into some helpful tips first.

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What makes the container growing so satisfying during winter is that you don’t have to deal with weeds. Also, it’s delicious to have fresh greens in the cold months when the chilly weather nurtures the plants.

How To Make A Winter Container Garden

With careful planning, you can have plenty of homegrown vegetables and herbs to eat throughout the winter.

They will survive the cold climate, and you can harvest them at your leisure.

Tip #1: Space For Vegetable Container Gardening

When you’re planning to grow veggies indoors, think about the space.

But don’t let limited space squash your green thumb.

It depends on how much space you’re willing to sacrifice.

It can be as small as a windowsill or as big as your whole room.

Whichever space you’ve decided for vegetable planting, make sure the area gets the most light.

Tip #2: Container For Growing Winter Vegetables

You want to make sure that the containers fit the allocated space.

What about the size?

The larger the container, the easier it is to grow winter vegetables. Those faux wine half-barrels are lightweight and attractive.

Times Standard

Not all containers are created equal for the winter container garden.

When picking a container, avoid terra cotta, which can crack with multiple freezes and thaws.

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Growing winter vegetables in containers

Tip #3: Drainage For Winter Vegetable Gardens

Good drainage is essential for growing winter vegetables in containers.

Preferably, get a container with drainage holes.

Place a layer of broken crocks or spread a thin layer of fine gravel in the bottom of the pot.

It improves drainage before adding a potting mix.

Standing your pots on feet will also help with drainage.

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If you’re using clay soils, add compost, composted manure, and other organic matter to help with drainage.

Tip #4: Soil For Growing Vegetables In Containers

It’s essential to use a quality soilless mix for winter container gardens.

Vegetable plants don’t grow excessively during cold months, except in the warmest zones.

They are usually dormant when the temperatures hover in the 40s during the day and dip into the upper 30s at night.

Because planters in winter aren’t thriving, the soil must drain well. Otherwise, you’re assigning roots to soggy, heavy soil—and the root rot that usually occurs in those conditions. Try to avoid soil mixes containing moisture retention granules, especially if your winter is a rainy season, like in the Pacific Northwest. Blending composted organic matter into pots is a great idea to help enhance drainage.

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Tip #5: Fertilizers For Strong Roots During The Winter Months

Vegetables will not grow without nutrients.

It’s essential to prep the winter vegetable garden.

Why?

Many soil microorganisms won’t be as active during the cold season.

Low microbial activity reduces the absorption of nutrients by the plants.

Add a cup of blood meal or soybean meal along with all-purpose 4-4-4 organic fertilizer to your potting mix. The additional nitrogen gives winter-grown vegetables an extra boost.

Times Standard
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How to Create Winter Container Gardens

Tip #6: Growing Edibles Indoors Under LED Grow Lights

Vegetables in pots require at least six hours of sun to grow well.

So, place them in a south-facing window that gets plenty of sunshine.

If the space for your indoor vegetable gardening does not have enough sunlight, consider using grow lights.

A regular light bulb won’t work because it doesn’t have the wavelengths of the sun.

Grow lights imitate the wavelengths of the sun, allowing your plants to thrive.

When comparing lights, you need to consider their output in two terms — color and intensity. Plants respond in certain ways to specific color spectrums. Of course, daylight has it all, but artificial lighting sometimes only provides a limited spectrum, and varying degree of intensity. Once again, leafy veggies and herbs will do fine with less intense lighting, while anything larger than 12″ will require a little more ‘oomph!’ For the cooler lights (fluorescents and LED), keep the light source about 4″ above the top of the plant. Others will have to be at a greater distance away to prevent frying the plants.

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Invest in powerful grow lights to boost your vegetables during dreary winter days.

You can get a plant stand with built-in LED lights.

Alternatively, you can hang the lights over the edible plants on racks.

With LED lights, you extend your growing seasons even when the cold weather has arrived.

Many people take the hydroponic approach to indoor gardening by designing their systems or by buying any number of high-tech soil-free containers with full-spectrum grow lights attached. Plants grow naturally and faster — up to five times faster — in the ideal climate created by water reservoirs and LED lighting systems. There’s no dirt. That makes it a clean way to grow on benches or countertops.

Boston Globe

Most of these small hydroponic kits include a complete vegetable growing set.

They provide containers, lights, nutrients, and pre-seeded plant pods to get you started.

All you need to do is to add water.

You should not stop growing vegetables because of winter.

AeroGarden container uses pods filled with a variety of herb seeds that will be ready to harvest in as little as four weeks.

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Tip #7: Watering The Container Vegetable Garden In Winter

Winter veggies need lesser water than crops you grow in summer.

Even if it doesn’t rain much, the soil remains moist longer during cooler, shorter days.

So how often should you water your edible plants?

In winter, a soaking every week or so is usually enough, but do check your plants more often than that. If they feel dry, douse them. Mature vegetables tend to get thirsty, and they won’t suffer if they have “wet feet.”

MotherEarthNews

For indoor vegetable gardens, it’s a different story.

Plants must be watered diligently because indoor air gets very dry in the wintertime. Check the soil and, if it feels dry to the touch, add some water.

TreeHugger

To test the moisture regularly, shove your fingers a few inches into the soil.

It should feel like a wrung-out sponge.

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If the weather forecast warns freezing, don’t water your veggie garden. Water can freeze in the container.

Tip #8: Pest Control During Cold Seasons

Check plants daily to control insects and diseases when they appear. Fortunately, insect and disease problems occur far less often in the winter than in the summer growing season.

LSU AG Center

Keeping the slugs and snails out of winter-grown vegetables is easier when growing in containers. The easiest method is to sprinkle iron sulfate bait around the outside of the container. Coffee grounds work well, also. The key is to keep up on baiting.

GardenDesign

Help avoid pests by segregating vegetable containers from houseplants. Never put patio plants next to vegetables. That’s an excellent way to introduce aphids and scale insects.

Boston Globe

Tip #9: Keep Your Crops From Freezing

When the water inside a plant freezes, the plant cells will burst.

And it’s impossible to save the damaged veggies.

You can use the following methods to prevent freezing.

Floating Row Covers

Floating row covers or tunnel cloches use either plastic or the fabric-like spun-bonded polyester (Remay) as covers. The fabric can provide insulation. It also allows light, air, and water to pass through. But not plastic. On hot days, it might overheat. So, open up the ends of plastic covers. But close them at the end of the day for freeze protection.

Upend Buckets

Upend buckets or bowls over short crops, toss sheets over larger plants. The important thing is to keep frost from descending onto the foliage. But should you use tarps or blankets? Using fabric is best because, if plastic touches the plant, frost will come through the plastic anyway. Plastic must be propped or suspended above crops, so there is a protective cushion of air.

IamCountrySide

Burlap

Burlap is a good material because it is porous, allows the plant to breathe and water to percolate into the root zone. Fleece, an old blanket, and even a plastic tarp can all be used to trap heat into the soil and reduce root damage. If using a non-porous material, remember to remove it occasionally to allow the plant to breathe and avoid mildew issues from excess condensation.

GardeningKnowHow

Tip #10: Trellis For Winter Climbing Vegetables

A fine, small-space trellis for peas in winter (cucumbers or beans in summer) can be made with hog wire fencing, which has 2-by-4-inch openings. Buy a 6-foot length of 4-foot-wide fencing. Stand it on end for a 6-foot-tall trellis. Fasten it between two tall metal stakes you’ve inserted deeply in the ground or mount it a foot from an existing fence.

SF Gate

Tip #11: When To Sow Vegetables For Winter Harvests

Sow hardy winter vegetables such as sprouting broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, winter cabbage, and leeks in late spring or early summer as they take several months to reach maturity. They stand well through frosty weather and can be harvested throughout the winter months.

RHS

Sow leafy crops such as chard, chicory, land cress, and parsley in early summer. They can persist through winter if you give them some fleece or cloche protection. And you can harvest them in autumn.

List Of Winter Vegetables To Grow

You can grow a variety of vegetables in containers during the cold season as long as they receive water, fertilizer, and the appropriate space.

The success of winter edible container growing depends on

  • the choice of vegetable,
  • the timing of sowing the seeds, and
  • the wind protection.

What Vegetables Can I Grow In Pots In Winter?

Winter container plants stand up to the light and even hard freezes, depending on their location and the duration of the cold snap. In milder winter regions (Zones 7 to 10), you can expect to enjoy winter container gardens through the New Year and beyond.

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Among the cool-season crops that can withstand the slings and arrows of winter are:

  • spinach
  • onions
  • broccoli
  • ​Swiss chard
  • carrots
  • cabbage
  • kale
  • parsnips
  • cauliflower
  • garlic
  • leeks
  • lettuce
  • Brussel sprouts
  • beets

They also grow well in containers.

Lettuces, leafy greens, sprouted seeds, radishes, carrots, and herbs are among the easiest plants to grow indoors in winter. They tolerate cooler temperatures and limited light. They also mature quickly, and many, like chives and parsley, don’t grow tall.

Boston Globe

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t have fresh food from the garden. Greens such as lettuce, arugula, and mustard, along with cold-weather crops including kale and Swiss chard can be grown in a cloche or cold frame. Many root crops and brassicas will overwinter for a spring harvest.

GardenDesign

Squash

Use a 5-gallon pot (or even larger) to grow space-saving winter squash varieties like “Cornell Bush Delicata“, “Papaya Pear”, or “Table King‘” Plant three seeds in each pot and thin to the healthiest plant.

Dummies

Garlic

Garlic can be grown in containers. Garlic grows best with a cold winter, so they may struggle to grow well indoors or in warmer states.

ABC

Onions

Plant from fall through winter in soil that’s been amended with compost, feed regularly, and keep the soil moist at all times. The richer the ground, the better the flavor. Though you might choose to wait until they reach maturity, you can harvest onions anytime after planting, even as you thin them out to make more room.

TheSpruce

Parsley and cilantro

How many times have you planted parsley or cilantro only to have it turn overnight into thick stalks of flowers and seeds? Try planting those herbs now and enjoy an extended crop of the tasty leaves.

LA Times
TIP
For container vegetable gardens, don’t skimp on root space. Give lettuce and small greens a depth of 8 inches, larger plants such as chard, kale, peas, broccoli 10 to 15 inches. Space container crops as you would in a garden bed so that leaves of mature plants touch or reach the edge of the container.

Beets

Beets offer a double bonus! Growing them provides us with delicious roots AND nutritious greens. Beet seeds can germinate in cool soil, and they sprout best when soil temperatures are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

FrugallySustainable

Green And Sweet Peas

This is the best time for planting both kinds of peas, when the temperatures go easy on their tender leaves and delicate, fragrant flowers. Don’t wait for the spring. They can’t stand the heat. And be patient with your peas. They’ll look like they’re struggling, and then suddenly they’re popping out leaves all over the place, whoosh!

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Vegetables You Can Plant in the Winter to Garden Year Round

The following baby greens are ideal for winter container gardens.

Why?

Their shallow roots don’t need much room.

Lettuce, arugula, kale, and spinach grow well indoors, but are best harvested as baby greens, before reaching maturity. Greens do not need supplemental light if located in a sunny, south-facing window. Otherwise, provide 10 to 12 hours of artificial light daily.

TreeHugger

You can mix your favorite leafy green varieties. Try any combination of Swiss chard, arugula, kale, spinach, and leaf lettuces in the planter boxes.

Swiss chard

All kinds thrive in winter but plan to remove them in spring when they will bloom, seed, and die. My favorite is “Bright Lights,” which has a mix of white, pink, yellow, orange, and red stems. Winter-grown plants escape damaging leaf miner insects.

SF Gate

In fall, plant chards in Earth Box. They’ll survive through winter. You can harvest almost the whole summer.

Kale

You can be sure that kale as one of the real treasures for the winter gardener — its sweetness and full flavor exposed with the frost. This ultra-cold-hardy, ultra-frost-tolerant leafy green vegetable is a reliable, deeply rewarding vegetable for the cold season garden. There are those varieties that can grow to harvest in the dead of winter almost anywhere! Siberian kale says it all.

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Direct sowing is the easiest way to plant overwintering baby greens. Make shallow holes with your fingers. Sprinkle the seeds about a half-inch apart. Finally, cover with a thin layer of potting mix and add water.

Lettuce

For fall and winter, choose loose-leaf or romaine varieties. Read descriptions to find ones that tolerate cold best. Some good choices are red-tinged “Marvel of Four Seasons,” speckled “Flashy Butter Oak,” and the red-leafed romaine “Rouge d’Hiver.”

SF Gate

Perpetual Spinach

Perpetual spinach makes an excellent “cut and come again‘”crop that will produce huge yields of tasty leaves. Early autumn sowing will keep you supplied with tender young leaves throughout winter, and with regular harvesting, it will continue to crop well into summer! Be sure to remove the flowers to prevent it from running to seed.

Thompson Morgan

Arugula

This Mediterranean green thrives in our fall-into-winter weather.

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If you harvest a few leaves from baby greens such as lettuces, spinach, and arugula, it just keeps growing.

Sprouts & Microgreens

The easiest way to enjoy homegrown veggies during the winter months is to grow sprouts and microgreens in containers.

  1. To get started, get a clean, mason jar, a piece of cheesecloth, and seeds for sprouting. Or pick up a sprouting kit.
  2. Clean the seeds before sowing cuts down on any potential mold problems. Soak 2 tablespoons of seeds in a bowl of diluted apple cider vinegar (2 tablespoons of ACV) for 10 minutes.
  3. Rinse thoroughly and place the seeds in a jar or a sprouter.
  4. Add enough water to cover seeds.
  5. Cover the jar with a piece of cheesecloth, secured with a rubber band.
  6. Let the seeds soak overnight. The seeds are going to absorb a lot of water while soaking.
  7. Drain the jar through the cheesecloth.
  8. Lay the jar on its side, somewhere dark or at least gloomy.
  9. Rinse seeds gently with water and repeat draining. Usually, 2-3 days of rinsing and draining about 3 times per day are enough.

The seeds will germinate and flourish. They also do not need direct sunlight. In a few days, you’ll have fresh sprouts.

Harvest once the first leaves emerge by cutting them with scissors just above the soil. Greens of all types are ideal for harvesting as microgreens, as are peas (that’s how you get pea shoots), and root crops, like turnips, beets, and radishes.

TreeHugger

To grow microgreens, get an open, flat growing tray with drainage holes. Wet the soilless mix. Then add an inch of soil into the container.

This organic potting soil is excellent for growing microgreens indoors.

Microgreens and sprouts add a fresh crunch to your salads and sandwiches! Try quinoa, alfalfa, kale, radish, and mung beans.

Herbs

Herbs grow well inside, be sure they’re not too close to a window during the winter months (the cold air may cause wilting). Take your pick from these foolproof options: basil, rosemary, cilantro, chives, thyme, oregano, and parsley.

Country Living

Basil, chives, parsley, dill, sweet marjoram, and thyme grow well on a windowsill.

  1. Plant them in a Smart Pot with a high-quality potting mix.
  2. Place the planter on a large saucer.
  3. Snip the herbs for cooking.
  4. Regular pruning prevents them plants from getting leggy.

AMZ Smart Pot is the leading fabric container for faster producing, healthier plants.

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Winter Windowsill Vegetable Gardening

Who says that you need lots of space to grow your food?

If you don’t have a big gardening area, you can grow organic vegetables in a small space such as your windowsill.

These crops are good candidates to grow on a windowsill over winter:

  • Lettuce
  • Radish
  • Carrot
  • Cherry tomato
  • Hot pepper
  • Bell pepper
  • Onion
  • Spinach

Planting vegetables in containers where space is limited is an easy way to harvest homegrown foods during cold climate.

Takeaway

If you live in tightly-packed urban environments with no space to grow, you can still create a simple, sustainable container garden.

You don’t need a greenhouse to grow veggies during cold months.

Don’t let your green thumb frost over. Start your winter container vegetable gardening today.

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