Winter time for gardeners and homesteaders tends to be a quiet, contemplative time in general. Not much you can do outside except look after the animals but it is a great time to start planning for spring. Aside from reading copious amounts of seed catalogs and doing my plotting, we also take this time to get some crops planted.
We don’t cover crop, but there are several types of vegetables that need either a good freeze or lots of growing time before Spring comes along. Or perennial vegetables like asparagus need to be checked on to make sure that the area is clear and ready for picking in a few weeks. I also do the same for my herb bed by snipping off old dead pieces and removing debris. Sometimes a very light blanket of straw (seed free) over some of the more delicate herb beds helps keep things comfy until winter is over.
Many types of perennial herbs need cold stratification and I’ve found that the best method is to just plant them in early to mid-winter right in the ground. I wait for a day that isn’t too terribly cold, maybe in the 40’s, and stick them right in. Kentucky weather is like a rollercoaster. Today it’s 60F for the rest of the week it’s not going to break over freezing. Sometimes it can start off at 70F and end up in the 20s. For temperatures that go up and down like that it’s important to plant seeds that are indigenous to your specific region. Urtica Dioica, Stinging Nettles, are one common weed strain that grows in my area but sometimes I have to get more specific to plant something safely.
When in doubt, or it’s really cold, try chucking your seeds in the fridge for a couple of weeks before you directly sow them on the ground outside.
Vegetables and Herbs That Need to be Planted In Winter
Nettles (Urtica Dioica) (highly nutritious and easy to grow in pots to keep them contained)
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum)
Arnica (Arnica Montana) needs to be planted indoors 6 weeks before spring
Self Heal (Prunella Vulgaris) needs to be planted indoors 8-10 weeks before spring
Marshmallow (Althea Officinalis) this herb is a pain in the butt. I’ve found success by cold stratifying it for 4-6 weeks in the refrigerator and then planting indoors in pots before setting out. The germination can be pretty low so I put several seeds in each pot
Vegetables That Need a Head Start
Onions (when grown from seed they last longer at harvest than those grown in sets)
I’ve found the following calendar jobby from the Old Farmer’s Almanac website to be very helpful indeed. http://www.almanac.com/gardening/planting-dates It should automatically populate your location but if it doesn’t just do a google search for the last frost dates in your area and it will do the trick.