In the city, we have microclimates, and we can grow our food a bit longer than those that live out in the country. Our microclimates are created by our buildings since they shelter our growing areas keeping them a bit warmer than they would be out in a more rural area. They also provide opportunities to grow our food a bit earlier in the spring since our soils may warm up a bit sooner than out in an open area.
One can not generalize to ALL urban growing areas since each site is different due to how the property is laid out. You have to examine your own space and find out where it thaws more quickly, or when the ground freezes etc…the key is to try a variety of “the cold season vegetables” throughout your urban growing site. As you consider your own growing environment, you will discover what does best in various locations throughout your city lot. I have at least 5 or more areas that thaw and freeze at different times. Fall or Winter Gardens are very similar to summer gardens you just have to “experiment” with a variety of crops and find out what you like to eat and what grows best in your growing zone.
I have found I do not need to cover many of my vegetables, but they have their season just like summer crops, for example, some vegetables need protection from snow. It is essential to take notes on your own growing area and study it over each growing season to determine which places are best to grow you fall/winter vegetable crops.
Here, is more detailed information about microclimates
I grow a lot of Kale in my yard! Kale was THE vegetable that motivated me to start growing MORE food on my city lot since every time I went to the farmers’ market kale was always gone, and even if I got up early, it was still gone. So I decided to grow my own about 10 yrs ago, and the rest is history. It is one of the easiest plants to grow and a nutrition dynamo.
One of my fall/Winter Kale Garden Champs is Blue Scotch Kale. I start it from seed under lights in the spring and transplant the young seedlings outdoors. In our area, this Kale tolerates a pile of snow cover! It just bounces back when the snow thaws. It is a shorter variety, so I do tend to brush the snow off of it when we have smaller amounts. It looks very pretty out in the winter garden with snow falling on it, and it tastes great. This year, I found a hard to find purple curly leaved Kale that is open-pollinated for next year. I am so excited to find out what it looks like and how it will perform in my urban potager.
Kale Transplanted from the backyard to Containers Fall 2012
I start most of my Fall /Winter growing greens in early spring under lights. I plant them out when the snow thaws since they can tolerate the cold.
I also am growing a Scottish Heirloom Swiss Chard next year that has solid red leaves which are suitable for your health. I have the seeds for these, but will not be able to share how well they do until I grow them out next year. I continue my quest for the most nutrient-dense foods for cold winter gardening!
Swiss Chard growing in Palm Rae Urban Potager
The champ for lettuce this fall was Merlot Lettuce, which is lovely red lettuce. It takes a long time for it to start growing in the August Summer garden, but the second batch I started in September is beginning to take off with our cold nights. I find lettuce is okay as long as you get a ‘thaw” during the day. When the ground freezes here lettuce is not too good that late in the season, for example, December/January. However, I believe if I put a bit of protection over it should do well.
I grow Watermelon Radish in the Fall/Winter Garden(French Breakfast + Purple radish in the spring), but this year I did not get too many “true watermelon Radish” many of them did not develop a true Watermelon Radish. The seed savers must have had some of them cross, but I did get a dozen large ones to use. I find this radish is large enough for two salads, and I like to use this in our fall/winter gardens since they are beautiful sliced on a fall salad!
It is snowing today! I have all my fall/Winter crops in the ground producing. We also have, beets, carrots, and radicchio ( but just the young leaves since I planted them in late summer), arugula, tatsoi, and parsley. One thing I have learned about growing a fall/winter Urban potager/Kitchen Garden is it takes time to study and learn what best grows in your microclimate and what your family likes to eat…….gardening develops “patience”..a trait hard to find in our busy plugged in world…but when you do start growing a fall/winter urban potager/kitchen garden you no longer see Fall/Winter as a time for your garden to sleep!