Arbason F1 Greenhouse Tomatoes

There’s no denying it: people across the country are jazzed about growing their own. But food self-sufficiency doesn’t have to be limited to the summer months, and taking advantage of the possibilities in fall, winter and spring can save a lot of money (and the resources needed to transport food from distant locales).

The secret to growing your own food year round (even in areas with cold winters) mainly has to do with variety selection, timing and season extension techniques--and these vary by where you grow. So we’ll look at the fall and winter crops you can grow and the last date they should be planted by for each region. For each crop, it is a good idea to try planting several successions a few weeks apart--this way you will learn which fall planting dates produce the best results for each crop in your area.

 

Northern U.S.

Mark your calendars! Growing food in the north is limited by both the number of frost-free days and the amount of daylight we receive. The frost issue can be handled by using season-extending row covers, low tunnels, coldframes or hoophouses, which protect plants from hard frosts, allowing them to continue growing much longer than they would outdoors. But the light issue is pretty unavoidable—once the day-length drops below 10 hours, plant growth essentially grinds to a halt. This means that it’s really important to get your timing right so that fall crops are basically mature before this date.

 

Southern U.S.

Southern growers typically have more flexibility when it comes to planting dates, since the first frost is much later and light levels remain higher throughout the winter. This means that a wider variety of crops can be grown—depending on the specific area, it can be more like a whole “second season” than an extension of the main growing season.

 

Pacific Northwest

Growers in the northwest have a unique climate characterized by relatively moderate temperatures all year round. This means that the area is exceptionally well-suited to multiple successions of fall and winter crops that wouldn’t survive exposed to the elements, but do just great with the protection of hoophouses or low tunnels.

To learn more about fall and winter growing, check out our other resources: