How to Grow Vegetables All Year Long (Even in Winter!)

by Seasonal Wisdom on January 31, 2013

Post image for How to Grow Vegetables All Year Long (Even in Winter!)

Growing and harvesting vegetables all four seasons of the year is only a dream for many cold climate gardeners. And that’s exactly what Niki Jabbour of Nova Scotia, Canada is trying to change.

Her book, The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener (Storey Publishing) proves you can grow your own food, 365 days of the year, no matter where you live. After all, her garden is “perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in the Great White North,” as she writes in her book. And just look at the greens she’s growing in December!

Seasonal Wisdom sat down with Niki to get more advice on four-season vegetable gardening, and learn about her award-winning book. Enter to win a free copy of this book by midnight on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013. Congratulations to Sarah from Texas for winning this book!

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener  caught my eye the minute I heard about this book. Excuse the pun, but I was really hungry for information on growing food in my own winter garden.

It’s no secret that Seasonal Wisdom is a fan of local and homegrown foods. So, imagine being able to eat locally and seasonally from your own garden in a cold climate like Canada? Needless to say, I was intrigued.

Over the last year, Niki and I have become friends through social media tools like Twitter and Facebook, as well as our garden writing community. And I even helped her a bit with her next book.  But first things first … let’s get back to the idea of four-season food gardening and this great book that you could win.

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener taught me a lot about how the growing season can be extended from an early jump start in the spring to fall planning for winter harvests.  Even after all these years of vegetable gardening, I find this book is one of those garden resources I’ll reach for again and again.

Want to have a lovely winter garden? See these tips.

kitchen gardenWinner of the 2012 American Horticultural Society Book Award, the 247-page book is packed with gorgeous four-color photography, as well as practical and inexpensive ways to grow vegetables all four seasons.

From getting an early start in spring to picking vegetables in winter, Niki walks you through a calendar that makes these ongoing harvests possible.

Part 1 explains how to stretch the growing season effectively using everything from cloches to row covers and homemade hoop tunnels, such as the uncovered frame shown in the garden above. There’s also great advice on intensive planting, prepping the soil and designing effective gardens.

Part 2 describes how to grow a wide variety of different vegetables and herbs. Plus, Niki provides a helpful planting schedule for each crop, as well as her favorite varieties.

protecting vegetables from cold weatherYou can even learn how to make a mini hoop tunnel similar to these covered with plastic.

vegetables growing insideWhen winter comes, the mini hoop tunnels can be used to grow a wide variety of taller vegetables, such as kale and leeks.

salad greens growing insideNiki gives great tips for succession planting and interplanting, so you can fit more in your garden spaces. She even tells you how to make these attractive cold frames, shown in early-spring.

salad greens insideIn winter, these cold frames are still packed with a wide variety of foods. Can you imagine how nice it must be to harvest spicy greens, kales and lettuces, even in the snow?

Conversation with the Author

Niki recently sat down with me to discuss the book and all-year gardening. Here’s what she had to share:

protecting vegetables in snow storm1) What inspired you to write a book about four season gardening?

Answer:I grew up with a veggie garden, but it was a typical short season garden that gave us only a few months of homegrown harvest – peas, tomatoes, carrots, beets, corn and my favorite – yellow beans! Over the years I’ve had fun experimenting with countless crops, pushing my season to extend for as long as possible. Now, we are able to enjoy a year-round harvest and I wanted to share my successes – and failures! – with other gardeners.

2) Why do you think more gardeners don’t grow vegetables all year long?

Answer: I don’t think a lot of gardeners know about the wide range of cold tolerant veggies and herbs that can be harvested all winter long. When the frost arrives in autumn, many gardeners are tired and happy to hang up those gardening gloves until the following spring. Yet the truth is that a winter garden is very little work.

The only thing I do from Dec through Feb is harvest! There is no weeding or watering, and I don’t have to fight the deer or slugs like I do in spring, summer and autumn!

vegetables in winterMizuna and mustard plants

3) What misconceptions about four season gardening did you want to clear up?

Answer: People often ask me what food crops could possibly be grown in winter and most think it’s just kale. But, really there are dozens of cold tolerant veggies that can be harvested in winter. I had never heard of – much less tasted – most of these vegetables until I grew them myself.  Edibles like mache, mizuna, tatsoi, celeriac were all new to me, but have since become family favorites.

I still love kale though, which is incredibly cold tolerant and we grow about six types each winter. My top pick for flavour and tenderness is dinosaur kale, which is also called black or Tuscan kale. It’s just outstanding!

I like to have a steady supply of both baby kale and mature kale. The mature leaves are used for kale chips and in soups, wraps, burritos and more, but the baby leaves are perfect for tender salads. I’m making myself hungry!

4) What are some of the wonderful things growing in your garden in early-February?

Answer:  If I walked up to the cold frames right now, there would be delicious frilly endive, spinach, Swiss chard, leeks, scallions, ‘Winter Density’ lettuce, arugula, mache, tatsoi, pak choi, mustards, mizuna, carrots, celeriac, beets,  and kale. We generally have between 25 to 30 types of winter veggies.

Carrots are definitely the top cold season crop for the kids, but I love all the salad greens.

inexpensive winter protection for plants5) What would you like readers to know about four season gardening and your book?

Answer:  I really want to encourage gardeners to move outside their comfort zone both in terms of gardening techniques (with a cold frame, for example) and with variety selection.

Who knows? You may find new favorite foods to grow! Growing into winter is really very easy, but does require some advance planning as most of winter crops are planted in late summer and early autumn.

Season extending doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive either. Many of our devices are made from recycled materials, but even a simple row cover or cloche can be used to extend the harvest for several weeks in spring or autumn.

Niki-JabbourWin a Copy of The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener!

Seasonal Wisdom readers can win a copy of this award-winning book. Enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck everyone. Don’t forget to enter by midnight on Feb. 5, 2013! And PLEASE check your spam folders so we can alert the winner quickly.  This giveaway is now over. Congratulations to Sarah from Texas for winning.

Disclosure: This prize was provided at no charge, but my opinions are my own.

Coming soon! Niki has a new book coming out in late 2013, which features dozens of amazing gardeners from North America and the UK, who have shared some of their own ideas for growing food.

The working title for this book is Superstar Food Gardens: 70 Plans From My Favorite Gardeners.

I’m thrilled that Seasonal Wisdom’s kitchen garden design, inspired by Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and other famous Founding Fathers will be featured in Niki’s upcoming book.  I’ll share more information when the book is available. 

Hope this post inspires everyone to keep eating local and seasonal foods, as well as to grow more foods yourself, even in winter. How are you extending your growing season in the vegetable garden?

Read More! 

Tips for a Lovely Winter Garden

How to Survive Winter if You’re a Gardener

Great Winter Containers (Maine)

Great Winter Plants (Northern Idaho) 

Great Winter Plants (Canada)

Great Winter Plants (North Carolina)

Great Winter Plants (Northwest)

{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah Matthews January 31, 2013 at 10:59 am

Great tips, thanks so much!

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TLD January 31, 2013 at 12:03 pm

This looks like a fabulous book! I’m curious how things will turn out in soggy and sunless Seattle, but always willing to give it a go.

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Cathy @Mother of a Hubbard January 31, 2013 at 12:17 pm

I’m a four season gardener as well, but farther south than Nikki in zone 6b. Like Nikki, I think more people would garden in winter if they knew 1) how EASY it is to do, and 2) how well cold-tolerant plants withstand freezing temperatures. I call my low tunnels my “living refrigerators,” as there is little plant growth during cold weather, but I can step out and harvest most any time I would like. I have heirloom kales, tatsoi, michihili cabbage, rapini, kohlrabi, beets, carrots, mizuna, swiss chard, spinach, rutabaga, and turnips that I’ve been harvesting all winter long, and fava beans have been steadily coming up so that I can get a jump-start on spring. I love to garden in winter, and I would love to have a copy of Nikki’s book!

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Elena January 31, 2013 at 12:33 pm

This is my first winter of year round garden. My timing is a bit off, I am almost out of greens and the Meridia carrots are tiny. I did take notes so next winter I hope I do not have to rersort to grocery veggies.

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Scott January 31, 2013 at 12:55 pm

great ideas. looking forward to incorporating them next season.

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Sarah Redford January 31, 2013 at 12:58 pm

I never thought about growing in the winter. I can only container garden and don’t have room to bring many plants indoors. I am going to try some covers over my pots and see how that works out. It would be nice to at least have some lettuce and scallions in the winter. Thanks for the giveaway.

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Seasonal Wisdom January 31, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts. We really appreciate them. Good luck in this drawing!

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W Boyer January 31, 2013 at 2:13 pm

I live on Cape Cod and have been interested in year round gardening for a while. I use herbs in my front beds during the winter since some of them survive with minimal protection, and now want to try veggies. This looks like a great resource for my climate.

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Kaci January 31, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Those photos of snow around a green garden are striking!

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Mike January 31, 2013 at 4:23 pm

I think year round gardening is a great idea….love trying new things*nd learn as I go. Trial and error are the best ways to learn and of coarse with the help of Nikki’s book.

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Therese Coupez January 31, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Wonderful interview, thank you! The photos, especially all of those greens growing in the snow, are especially inspiring.

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Victoria January 31, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Kim and I have grown carrots and kale during the winter but would love to try more veggies!

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Julina January 31, 2013 at 5:53 pm

I would love to be able to eat fresh organic veggies all year long.

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Seasonal Wisdom January 31, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Happy to see all these “local food” lovers out there, folks. Doesn’t Niki make it look easy to grow year round vegetables? Good luck to all in the giveaway!

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Modern Mia Gardening February 1, 2013 at 8:19 am

I would love to grow veggies all year-round so we could have more fresh veggies and fruit for the kids. They are making a valiant effort to eat all the carrots at the grocery store before we leave each week.

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Sue February 1, 2013 at 8:20 am

We just moved to Connecticut from Pennsylvania where we belonged to a CSA that had a winter market and grew beautiful veggies in a hoop house all winter. We miss it sooooo much! So, I have been thinking about figuring out how to grow our own in the winter and wondering how much it would cost, where to set-up, etc. This would be the perfect resource!!!

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Jonquil Alexia February 1, 2013 at 8:21 am

Given my limited space, I need all of the tips that I can get! Also, I want to instill the urge to garden in my grandchildren.

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Crystal February 1, 2013 at 8:31 am

I’d love to have a copy of this book to see what ideas I could take into my California winter garden. We only get a couple good frosts each year, but winter veggies still need more help than I have been giving them!

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N. Frances Moritz February 1, 2013 at 8:41 am

I would love to grow through the winter!

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Sadie February 1, 2013 at 9:02 am

I would love to have fresh greens in the winter.

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Sandy February 1, 2013 at 9:12 am

All year round sounds great.
And-using Kale for a burrito wrap got my attention!

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Laurieb February 1, 2013 at 9:50 am

This year our goal is to support our veggie needs by growing them here on Vashon in our extensive garden. This book looks very interesting for the winter months…not to mention the extended cool moist of the Pacific North Wet.

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Luisa Simone February 1, 2013 at 10:16 am

I live in Portland, Oregon and I have tried growing veggies all winter. My most successful crop was kale that overwintered from a spring sowing. Since then, I’ve tried sowing again in September…but I think that is too late for the plants to become established for winter harvesting. Right now, I have some cabbages that have been doing very little all winter. As our days grow longer, the cabbages seem to be growing again. I’m thinking that I should start the veggies earlier in the summer, and then just plan on harvesting through the winter.

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Emily G February 1, 2013 at 2:01 pm

This book looks amazing! As a fourth year medical student I have very little time for hobbies, but gardening is my one exception and because I believe it is much better for your health I try to grow as much of my own food as I can. I have not yet tried winter gardening and I believe this book would be a great to begin my foray into it!

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Julie Stedman February 1, 2013 at 2:52 pm

My husband and I seem to spend our winter discussing how to extend our growing season – but we don’t ever DO it! Love the pictures – especially the hillside beds – looks just like my hillside where we’ve tried to terrace and grow soup beans. Thanks for this offer!!

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Frank February 1, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Perfect lift-me-up for the winter blues!

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adrienne February 1, 2013 at 5:59 pm

I usually only grow Swiss chard over the winter, but I think, with this book I could learn so much more!

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April February 2, 2013 at 7:34 am

Wow! I can’t wait to try some of these ideas out!

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Sarah Anderson February 2, 2013 at 8:30 am

I would LOVE to be growing right now! I need this:)

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Jamie February 3, 2013 at 9:23 am

I’d love to grow vegetables all year long. It’s more satisfying to be able to grow your own food, tastes better, and is easier on the wallet when you can grow your own. I’ve only grown a summer garden, but I’m hoping to learn more this year and also do a winter garden.

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Cheryl February 3, 2013 at 12:53 pm

I have the book out now from our library ( I check books out first to see if I want to purchase them ). This is a must BUY.

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Ali February 3, 2013 at 3:50 pm

what a great resource! I’m wanting to stretch my gardening into winter, but it seems so scary (I know, not the most mature attitude!). Would love the help this book could give…

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Wendy Iles February 3, 2013 at 6:22 pm

What a great resource! Looks like a winner all year round!

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Rob @ Bepa's Garden February 4, 2013 at 5:59 am

I have been winter gardening for the past few years here in new England. It is so nice to be able to grow fresh greens year round, and being able to pick fresh lettuce, spinach, arugula, scallions, sage, parsley and other green from a snow covered cold-frame (mini-greenhouse) in the middle of December is such a joy! I just wrote a post on my blog http://bepasgarden.blogspot.com about growing with cold-frames and have free downloadable plans available to build your own cold-frame.

This book looks like it offers a lot of valuable information on winter growing that is definitely worth checking out!

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Deliamo February 4, 2013 at 6:22 am

I’d love to learn how to extend our season – especially as here in VT we have such a short growing season!

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Krista February 4, 2013 at 6:55 am

I am so inspired by Niki and would love to extend my growing season. There is nothing more satisfying than preparing a meal with ingredients you’ve grown yourself.

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Sarah MK February 4, 2013 at 9:23 am

I’d love to be able to trudge through the snow and come back in the house with fresh greens for dinner. We do not to purchase greens unless locally grown organic and they tend to be hard to find and expensive during the winter.

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Laurie Burns February 4, 2013 at 9:26 am

It’s cheap and healthy!

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Kim Fischer February 4, 2013 at 12:18 pm

I have always wanted to grow greens in the winter. Looks like a super great book!

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Brian February 4, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Would love a copy of this book. Have been waiting to get it from the library.

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Lisa D. February 4, 2013 at 3:16 pm

I would love to learn how to have fresh, organic vegetables all year long. Thanks!

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Tera February 4, 2013 at 10:01 pm

I totally aspire to this level of gardening!

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cathy February 4, 2013 at 10:40 pm

some vegetables just taste best fresh…like frozen or canned just can’t come close in flavor

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Suzanne February 5, 2013 at 10:14 am

I would love to grow my own fresh vegetables in winter, have to try that hoop house over the raised beds.

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Ross Remenak February 5, 2013 at 4:40 pm

I really think this type of gardening is possible here in the Pacific NorthWest.

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Leslie February 5, 2013 at 4:46 pm

I live in north east Ohio and have a nice garden every year but I would love to keep gardening in the winter!

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Denise Fedor February 5, 2013 at 4:47 pm

I would love to garden all year long! w a i t i n g for spring

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Lynne February 5, 2013 at 4:47 pm

This looks like a fantastic book. I am a master gardener in high altitude CA. We are always looking for ways to extend our growing season which is very short. There is a lot of recent interest in growing vegetables in our area as well. I will definitely hope to get a look at this book.

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Beuna February 5, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Looks like a fantastic book!

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Seasonal Wisdom February 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Thanks for all the great comments. Good luck in this random drawing, and don’t forget to check your spam folders to see if you won!

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katie February 5, 2013 at 5:05 pm

our community garden has a hoop house with tables so winter gardening just isn’t an option with all that open above and below table air space. we usually can’t get in to it until mid March or so. I would love to be able to grow greens, carrots. it would be wonderful to keep delivering fresh produce to my local mission kitchen. I wonder if herbs can be grown this way. Hmmmmm…..

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Lorraine February 5, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Thank you for the information! I would love to read your book and feel confident growing all year long. It does make me wonder why I stop gardening in the fall.

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Melissa February 5, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Would LOVE this book! Extending my too short growing season by winter sowing this year, along with growing some herbs and lettuces under my grow lights.

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Ken February 17, 2013 at 3:01 pm

What a great idea – that book sounds excellent. I hope it is available here in New Zealand!

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Niki Jabbour February 21, 2013 at 11:59 am

Hi Everyone, thank you so much for your kind comments! I really appreciate them and also am very thankful to Teresa for the interview! I had a blast talking to her and am thrilled that she will be contributing to my next book that will be released in late 2013.. And Ken from NZ, here is the info about getting the book in your neck of the woods:

Book Reps NZ Ltd.
2/39 Woodise Ave.
Northcote, Auckland 0627
New Zealand
http://www.bookreps.co.nz

Thanks again everyone! Niki

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Seasonal Wisdom February 21, 2013 at 6:20 pm

You are so welcome, Niki. How exciting that your book is available internationally! Thanks again for participating in this Seasonal Wisdom post. Teresa

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Joe Farinaccio March 12, 2013 at 5:42 am

Thanks so much for this book recommendation Teresa. Growing year-round is a goal for many of us. But I’ve tried in the past with little success. My family would love to have fresh, home-grown Kale, Lettuce and carrots all year long.

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Seasonal Wisdom March 12, 2013 at 8:02 am

So glad it was helpful! Thanks for stopping by and hope to see you again. Teresa

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