The departure of the hummingbirds at the end of the summer is a sure sign that winter is just around the corner. That means that it is time to start putting in crops for the winter and figuring out how best to protect them.

Even though winter gardening is challenging, it also can be quite satisfying. If you’re interested then read this and learn how to extend your veggie harvest this fall with these tips.

Any parsley or spinach put in the ground now will be ready for a small harvest by the end of the autumn season. Then, by the time spring rolls around, a much bigger crop will be ready to harvest. One thing that consistently surprises me is the excellent flavor of onions that are harvested from plants that survived the winter.

One thing I have discovered about winter vegetables, however, is that you should never plant more vegetables than you can realistically protect from the weather. Temperatures in my part of the world sometimes dip below 0°F. Major snowstorms and high winds also impact this area, which can be extremely hard on plants. With proper preparation, however, you can protect plants from even the toughest winter conditions. Building a cold frame with a lid made out of tempered glass is the perfect way to protect spinach. To keep onions safe, try covering them with a tunnel, adding row cover on top of that, and finishing by placing a blanket or quilt on top.

Usually, you don’t need to place covers or frames over your plants until sometime in November. By the time March rolls around, the covers can typically be opened or removed. The amount of growth that plants experience during that time is negligible since it is too cold and there isn’t enough light for them to really thrive. However, when the days start to get longer at the end of the winter, these plants are ready to go. They grow incredibly quickly, meaning that they can usually be harvested at about the same time that you are getting ready to plant for spring. Being able to bring in such an early harvest is one of the best parts of overwintering vegetables.

Plants That Do Well During The Winter

Spinach is one of the best plants to put in a winter garden. As long as they are covered securely with plastic, cloth, or glass, spinach plants can withstand surprisingly cold weather. To get the best results, older plants with sturdy roots are a good choice. As long as they are properly covered, however, even young plants can do quite well over the winter. Parsley and arugula are also good options for a winter garden – especially when planted close to the spinach. Try putting all three of these plants together under the same cover.

Some onions do well when overwintered and can be harvested in the spring. In the United States, onion varieties like Desert Sun and Top Keeper have to be grown from seed. In Europe, however, onions that are usually harvested in the fall like Senshyu Yellow can be grown from sets. These are some of my favorite onions thanks to their juiciness and their mild flavor. What I love about them, however, is how early in the year they are ready to harvest. Oftentimes, they can be pulled as early as June. Personally, I have had the most luck with onions grown directly from seeds in the ground instead of being transplanted. I’m not sure why, but that definitely seems to be the case. Garlic is a lot easier to grow. I usually put it in at the end of October. As long as you cover it with a thick layer of dead leaves, it should be adequately protected for the winter.

Other greens that you may want to try planting during the winter include lamb’s lettuce (mache) and miner’s lettuce (claytonia). During the early part of winter, these plants remain quite small. As soon as spring rolls around, however, they experience a dramatic explosion of growth. To keep plants like these happy, cover them with a tunnel and an extra layer of fleece. Depending on when you put them in, you can usually squeeze in a couple of harvests during the cold-weather season. By the time the hummingbirds come back to the garden in the spring, the plants will be blooming, helping to bring more of these beautiful birds into your outdoor space.