As we head into the winter season, many people assume it’s time to pack up their garden tools and retire to a few months of armchair gardening. But the winter season can be one of the most productive for Dallas vegetable gardens, particularly if you love greens and bitter herbs.
Come November, you will see a marked decrease in the variety of seasonal annuals and edibles available. Keep an eye out, however, for some of the tough herbs and greens that thrive in winter. Cool-season greens and herbs—such as dill, parsley, kale, and spinach—can still be dropped in the ground or into containers this month. In fact, there’s no sense trying to grow them once we hit late spring, as they simply can’t tolerate the heat.
Dill and fennel aren’t just flavorful plants, they’re beautiful plants. I often plant these carrot relatives as ornamentals in my front yard, as the feathery foliage is a perfect complement for winter annuals like pansies and violas. In spring, these favored host plants will reward you with swallowtail butterflies. Simply snip the tiny leaves fresh all winter, or dry and store for later use.
The bright emerald-green foliage of curly parsley is a welcome sight in the winter garden. Parsley is very frost tolerant and gorgeous when paired with violas, poppies, and primrose. When many plants begin to go dormant, parsley perks up. Use as an accent in containers or in mixed landscape borders.
Kale provides a variety of eye-catching foliage colors. The blue-tinted foliage of dinosaur kale is particularly unique. Like parsley, it makes a welcome winter companion to seasonal color. A cold-hardy green, its flavor doesn’t actually develop until after the leaves have experienced their first frost.
Spinach plants easily tolerate our winter frosts, and young seedlings can even survive down to about 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Seeds can be sown directly into the garden all winter long and will even germinate at temperatures as low as 32 degrees, albeit very slowly. Spinach germinates well at soil temperatures right around 50 degrees. Savoy spinach has dark curly leaves and is typically the type found in bunches at the grocery store. Flat or smooth-leaf spinach has larger, smooth leaves, and semi-Savoy, a hybrid between the two, has a similar crinkled texture to Savoy but is a bit easier to clean.
A sunny spot for your herbs and greens is best. Amend your beds and containers with compost before planting new crops. All of these greens will appreciate consistent moisture but also benefit from good drainage. You can dress herbs and greens with a vegetable fertilizer after they germinate or are planted, but you’ll find that most winter greens are very low maintenance. If you’re worried about young plants in a hard frost, use floating row cover or frost cloth for temporary protection.