Best Varieties for Fall and Winter Gardening

admin July 29th, 2011

Ok, we’ve already talked about the fact that a variety that overwinters beautifully in, say, Oregon or North Carolina won’t do well in Saskatchewan or Maine, so let us begin with the assumption that varieties are regional and specific, and use this thread to share widely our wisdom about what grows well in cool seasons in our particular region and place like it – that is, I’d be really grateful if you’d tell us what has overwintered well for you, or done well in fall, and also where you are and what your climate and soils are like “ie, high desert climate, cold winters, hot, dry summers, alkaline soil zone 5″ or whatever.  There’s not enough of this information out there.

Here are some of my own observations about growing here, in zone 4/5 (5 official, 4 for elevation), on my wet, thin soil in my wet, cold climate ;-) .  I had a good chance to experiment with varieties during the years we ran our CSA.

Best cold tolerant salad greens: Forellenschuss, Winter Density, Red Oakleaf  and Marvel of Four Seasons Lettuces, Mizuna (too bad I find the taste boring), all arugulas, vit and big seeded maches, beet greens (start a new crop since the little ones are best), sorrel, any mustard, pinky lettucy gene pool mustards, Fedco’s “ice bred” arugula and Collards.  Rainbow Collards, Prize Choy Bok Choy.

Best spinach: Vert and Bloomsdale Winter

Best cold tolerance in broccoli: Umpqua (OP) and Blue (Hybrid)

Best cold tolerant root varieties: Flat of Egypt and Lutz Longkeeper beet, all parsnips, Diamante Celeriac, Golden Ball and Purple Top White Globe Turnip, Oxheart and Meridia carrots (the latter are designed for overwintering – they didn’t quite for me, but did very well), any salsify and scorzonera, Gigante Kohlrabi.  Also Yellow Mangels lasted quite a long time in the ground for me – and I thought they were tasty, if a little mild.  Goats liked ‘em too.

Best fall producing pea varieties: Alderman (tall vine shelling) and Sugar Ann (snap)

Best cold tolerant leek: Blue de Solaize

Best cold tolerant favas: Lorraine

Best cold tolerant cabbages and kales – All kales  (red and white russian  are pretty hardy – red has even overwintered for me, but they do winterkill before the Tuscan and Siberians for me), Winterbor and Redbor are probably the hardiest.   Coeur de Blue, Glory of Enkhuizen, Stein’s Late Flat Dutch Cabbage, Even’star Collards, Vates Collards

Best Mustard: Osaka Purple and Green Wave

Brussels Sprouts: Oliver

Parsley - Curlys stand longer than flat, I find.

Best tomatoes for overwintering in pots: Red Robin, Balconi Yellow

Best hot peppers for overwintering in pots: Fish (this is the only one that doesn’t end the winter looking sad), Korean Dark Green, Thai Hot

Best basil for overwintering: African Blue

Best eggplant for overwintering – Pingtung Long, Fairy Tale

One important thing to do is talk to local farmers and extension agents about what they’ve tried - and check out local trials at universities.  Lots of good research going on there.

Ok, how about the rest of you?  Share your wisdom!


8 Responses to “Best Varieties for Fall and Winter Gardening”

  1. Claire says:

    Zone 6/7 border (St. Louis, MO), hot humid summers, very changeable falls and winters (this is the Midwest, after all). We usually get some rain in fall, varying a lot from year to year. Winter is usually our driest season, but we still get various forms of precipitation. We get intermittent snows that generally don’t last long before melting. Soil usually thaws at least once during a winter warm spell, then refreezes later. Frost heaving is a big problem here. My soil is very deep, reasonably well draining silt loam.

    I haven’t tried many varieties, but here’s what has done well.

    Best cold tolerant salad greens: Bronze Arrowhead lettuce (I’ve had small plants overwinter in favorable years). Ice-Bred arugula has also overwintered in favorable years. One of the maches, I forget which one, now reseeds itself every year, showing up in fall and surviving the winter to flower in late spring. Sorrel does well. Prize Choy bok choy is the only cole crop I’ve been able to seed in flats in June, carry the plants over our summer without them dying, and then plant them out in August and get full size plants out of it. One year I grew a 6 pound bok choy from this variety! However, getting successful greens depends on getting cool-enough weather in August or early September for planting, and during September for growing on. Some years work well, some don’t.

    Best roots: I love storage radishes, and they do very well here when seeded during a cool spell in August and pulled out in November before it gets really cold. Black Spanish Round and Red Meat are the two I’ve tried. Purple Top White Globe turnip usually does well in fall. Last year Harris Model parsnip and Danvers 126 carrot overwintered in the open garden, without mulching. Lutz beet did well for me last fall.But the best roots of all are Jerusalem artichoke, which we can dig anytime the soil thaws in winter as well as in November before the soil freezes and March after it thaws.

    Garlic (Inchelium Red and Kaskaskia Red), potato onions, and topset onions all overwinter well as long as I wait to mulch them until after the ground freezes the first time and uncover them in late March. If they aren’t mulched or they are mulched too early, many will frost-heave and die, or rot from being too wet. The topset and potato onions make nice green onions in fall too if I get them planted early enough.

    Blue de Solaize leek did well here - but now that I have a perennial leek variety (really a type of garlic) that overwinters beautifully, I’m leaning away from growing other leeks. The perennial leek is less work.

    Parsley and cutting celery do well enough in fall but only overwinter if they are in a cold frame.

    Last year I overwintered calendula (Resina) and basil (Genovese) as potted-up seedlings from small self-sown plants that came up in the herb bed in mid-fall. I’ve yet to successfully overwinter any pepper or tomato plant in the house - too cold and dark, I think.

    Beedy’s Camden kale does well in fall, actually has survived this very hot summer from a spring planting, and small plants of it overwintered last fall. Full-size plants die in January, I think from the freeze-thaw cycles. The collards I’ve tried (EvenStar and Cascade Glaze) behave similarly. So far I’ve had no luck at all with growing fall cabbage. Spring cabbage rots in the heat and humidity of July. So did seedlings from a June sowing. This year I will try direct-sowing fall cabbage in August, if we get a cool-enough spell (nights in the 60sF). Every mustard I’ve tried so far does well in fall from an August or September sowing, then dies when it gets really cold in winter.

  2. Gary Rondeau says:

    Here in the Willamette valley in Oregon, we have a plethora of things that do well. There are a few people who have really explored winter gardening here, and fortunately, they wrote it all down in a nice chart!

    I use this chart for variety recommendations and planting times - most of which have past. My favorite winter vegies are parsnips, leeks, Brussels sprouts, kale, and other winter brassicas. Winter giant spinach has wintered in my garden, as well as Fordhook swiss chard.

  3. Syd O says:

    Is this overwintering for tomatos, basil, etc done in a cold frame or greenhouse?

  4. Amy says:

    Gardening NW of Atlanta -

    I’ve started some seeds outdoors: Detroit Red and Detroit Golden beets, and some winter radishes (Black Spanish, China Red, Muncheiner Beir).

    In a flat, I’ve started Bloomsdale spinach, some “back-up’ beets (the local rabbits love beets), Marvel of four seasons lettuce, Capitan lettuce, Bronze Arrow lettuce, Georgia collards, Perpetual Spinach chard, Red Russian kale, Pan du Zucchero chicory, and China Choy bok choy.

    This is a new variety of bok choy for me (in the past I grew one from Bountiful Gardens that didn’t come with a name, but it grew really well), and until now I have only grown this variety of chicory in spring; otherwise, all of these have grown well in the fall garden for me in past years.

    All the seeds, both indoors and out, were planted over last weekend. Most have already poked their little cotyledons above-ground. I will start some later lettuces in about three weeks.

    The parsnips (Cobham Marrow) have been in the ground since June, and the garlic and multiplying onions will go out in October.

    Hope more people will publish their lists!


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