The temperatures are dropping and the days are getting shorter. This can only mean one thing: It’s winter in North Carolina!
If you’re like most of us, you spent your autumn driving across the state, marveling at the stunning fall foliage at every turn. While The Tar Heel State looks great in every season, it really comes alive this time of year.
In between campfires and Christmas lights, your schedule might be pretty packed lately. A winter garden can provide a place of respite, joy and reward. Though the last of the summer tomatoes might be long gone, there’s plenty to grow and enjoy.
You can fill the garden and the larder with a few of these go-to crops that do well in this particular climate. If you thought the growing season was winding down, let this guide inspire you to keep it up!
Flowers to plant
You may already know that pansies and violas are some of the most cold-hardy plants around. Available in a range of colors from sunshine yellow to deep plum, these are mainstays in any NC winter garden.
The best part? With a little TLC, they’ll maintain their sweet appearance and brilliant color all the way through the winter. They’ll even survive a frost or freeze, though they might appear a little shocked or withered in the days that follow.
Plant a few rows of flowers in your vegetable garden to add a pop of color to the space. They do well in the ground, but can also thrive in containers and raised beds. Similar cold-tolerant floral varieties include:
- Winter jasmine
- Sweet alyssum
- Winter iris
- Christmas rose
As long as you keep your garden well-watered and maintained, you can enjoy these beautiful blooms for months to come!
Everyone knows that winter is the unofficial Slow Cooker Season. When it’s already dark before you leave the office, there’s nothing like coming home to a piping hot bowl of soup or stew.
However, you’ll need a crisp salad to balance out those hearty dishes. This is when you’ll be glad you planted a winter garden in NC! While your summer rows might have been filled with sweet peppers, watermelons and Better Boys, this month it’s all about the leafy greens.
Be sure to leave plenty of room for all of those beloved salad standouts, including:
- Swiss chard
In addition, you can also plant a few rows of Brussels sprouts at this time of year. Then, any time you crave something fresh, you can simply walk outdoors with a pair of garden shears!
Whether you start them indoors from seeds or take the fast track with seedlings from the garden center, the key is to get these veggies in the ground as early as possible. This will give them time to acclimate before the ground becomes too hard or frozen.
Hearty root vegetables
What’s a traditional winter pot roast without plenty of savory root vegetables? When you have plenty on hand, you’re only a few ingredients away from one of the most nourishing and filling meals. At the same time, root veggies also taste great roasted, baked or grilled for a quick and easy side dish.
Forget filling up your grocery cart. When you plant these in your garden, you can enjoy the freshest bounty around! A few of our favorites include:
These crops can be a little challenging to grow successfully from a transplant. Especially if you’re starting from cooler temperatures, we recommend starting them directly from seed. This way, you can control every aspect of their growing environment and slowly acclimate them to the outdoors.
Fragrant, delicious herbs
If you’ve ever pulled a loaf of crusty rosemary bread from the oven, then you know that the right herbs can absolutely bring a meal alive. Thankfully, you can grow plenty in a winter garden in North Carolina!
Just like pansies and violas, there are plenty of cold-hardy herbs that do well in these chilly months. These include:
- St. John’s Wort
All of these plants will maintain their foliage and structure throughout the fall and winter. However, it’s best to use a light hand when harvesting. A gentle pinch can help your herbs last as long as possible, even when they begin to look a little thin.
In addition to their culinary uses, herbs also make beautiful border plants in your garden!
Tips to maintain a winter garden in NC
Once your plants are in the ground, you naturally want them to live as long as possible. To help them retain their appearance and quality, check your soil often.
Make sure it stays moist, and take the time to thin out any seedlings that appear. At the same time, make sure you’ve allowed plenty of space for the plants to spread out once they start growing.
If you live in an area that routinely sees significant frosts or snows, then it’s a good idea to invest in durable row covers. Made of heavy-duty fabric, these are designed to protect your crops from falling victim to a severe cold snap. Not only do row covers keep the chilly precipitation away from your delicate plants, but they also help warm up the ground beneath them for a true win-win.
What will you plant in your winter garden?
As we bid farewell to autumn, it’s time to look forward to all of the fun and excitement that winter brings. Though you might think of gardening as more of a spring and summer activity, you can enjoy this hobby all year long.
Fill your winter garden with the flowers, veggies and herbs described above. Then, sit back and marvel at all of your hard work, preferably with your hands wrapped around a mug of something warm.