Finally, the winter garden has been planted – better late than never. Winter vegetables need enough time to get established before cold temperatures roll in. Tender plants will be damaged and killed by frost, while the hardier winter crops will endure. Not sure when your first frost date is? Check the Farmers Almanac to find the frost date closest to your location.

winter vegetables with some hardy, decorative succulents

Our first frost date in Portland, Oregon, is around 10/18. My garden was finally planted a couple weeks ago. I am using row covers to help keep these tender plants warm while they get established. It’s an easy system – just find a way to make hoops over your planting area and securely fasten some greenhouse plastic over them.

yellow and red winter onions

Greenhouse plastic will hold up well against the elements, but it is expensive. A cheap alternative is contractors plastic. It will last one season, maybe two, but eventually the sun will cause it to crack. Just be sure to throw it away before it breaks down too much, leaving you with flakes of plastic all over your organic garden.

Here is a quick illustration of what our winter garden looks like this year.

Winter vegetable beds

Some plants are hold overs from the summer garden – like our broccoli. I worked around them, carefully turning in compost as I planted vegetable starts, seeds and onions. With the row covers protecting the beds, I will need to continue to water the garden periodically. It’s a good excuse to keep a close eye on the plants, spotting pests and diseases before they take hold.

What is still growing in your garden? Are you braving the winter to grow food, or ready to throw in the towel for the season?

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Written by Renee Wilkinson