For most of Canada, winter gardening is only something they can dream about. With their gardens coated in thick layers of snow, they’re often lucky if they can find the soil, let alone anything growing in it. However, here in Powell River, BC, we are extremely fortunate to have a mild enough climate that we can still successfully grow and harvest vegetables and fruits almost all year long!
When to Plant for Winter Gardening
While winter gardening is more than possible with our more temperate weather conditions in Powell River, the lower light and cooler temperatures mean that our veggies won’t be growing as quickly as they might in the warmth of spring or summer. This is why planting early is crucial when it comes to winter gardening. We need to give our plants enough time to grow sufficiently that they will be ready in time for winter. If we plant too early, they can vegetate too quickly and won’t be able to stand up to frost. Too late and they won’t grow mature enough for harvesting.
For most winter gardening plants, you’ll want to start looking at planting as early as June or July for best results.
Winter Gardening Plants
While many of our favourite fruiting plants crave the warm temperatures of sunny summer, there are some vegetables that actually thrive when the mercury drops. Here are some plants that won’t mind spending time in the garden during a Powell River winter (just make sure to check the seed packets to ensure you’re choosing varieties that are specifically hardy for winter gardening):
- Arugula. If you love this fresh, peppery green in your salads, plant it in August or September to keep the flavour going all winter long.
- Beets. While they’re known for their earthy flavour, beets actually become sweeter when grown in cooler conditions. Plant them in July to enjoy the most delicious winter harvest!
- Broccoli. These little trees aren’t fans of the warmer temperatures, which can often make them bolt too soon. Plant them in June or July for a winter harvest.
- Brussels Sprouts. They may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but when you love them, you love them. Plant them in July for a bountiful early winter harvest.
- Cauliflower. Much like their green cousins, cauliflowers love a nice, cool bed to grow in. Plant in June or July and enjoy their tasty, white stalks just in time for Valentine’s Day!
- Cabbage. Summer may be the season of slaws, but there are hundreds of delicious, hearty meals you can make from cabbage to keep you warm through the winter. Plant them in June or July.
- Carrots. Like beets, carrots use the cold to transform their taste into something even sweeter. Plant them in July or August for best results.
- Kale. This leafy green superfood is packed with Vitamin A, making it very popular in the health and wellness community in recent years. It, too, gets sweeter in the cold, so plant in July or August for the best flavour.
- Lettuce. Just because the warm weather is gone, doesn’t mean your fresh salads need to be, too! Plant these from July to October for a continuous winter harvest.
- Scallions. These small onions have a sweeter, more mild flavour all around, which makes them great for getting a bit of that onion-y taste without overwhelming your dishes. Plant in July or August.
- Spinach. A great way to get your greens. Add fresh spinach to everything—from sauces to salads to smoothies. Spinach can be planted from July to October for a continuous harvest.
Tips for Winter Gardening Outdoors
Since the winter climate slows the growth of our vegetables, it’s often common that they won’t grow to be quite the same size as they may in spring. But, what they lack in size, you can make up for in quantity by planting more!
Winter gardening vegetables still need plenty of sunlight to fuel their growth. So, when preparing your bed, you’ll want to ensure it will be located somewhere that will maximize the little sunlight we see in winter. Keep in mind that the sun stays lower to the horizon in the winter. So, even if that spot next to the hedge seems perfect in the summer, it may not be in the winter.
Though they may like growing in the cooler winter conditions, any plant would shy away from a frosty gust of wind. To prevent any unnecessary damage from a chilling breeze, ensure they are well sheltered. We recommend you use a protective covering, like our Reemay Garden Blanket, which will keep both your plant and the soil warm. It’s also a good idea to lay down a protective layer of mulch around your plants, as well.
Certainly, the best part about living in Powell River enjoying the great outdoors, especially when our mild coastal climate allows for fresh-from-the-garden flavour all year round! To learn more about winter gardening or to stock up on your seeding essentials, visit us today.