Winter Gardening in the Deep South :: What to Plant and What to Avoid

Y’all, Zone 9 might be my least favorite zone of all. 

When I think of gardening, my absolute dream is something around Tennessee or slightly farther north. I just imagine all the goodies Amish women plant throughout the year. I also tend to fantasize about winter gardens simply because the upkeep is much lower than your summer garden. 

winter gardening

Summer gardens tend to equal pest control, bugs galore, constantly weeding, and never enough water in Zone 9. 

Hence my love for winter gardening in our planting zone. 

Winter gardening here is a nearly weeding free time that requires less watering due to more moderate temperatures, but it’s not without its downfalls. 

Some winter plants I’d love to grow just aren’t suited for our temperatures. 

Take cauliflower for instance, temps above 70 degrees cause it to turn purple. Granted that doesn’t affect the taste; our constantly changing winter temps just cause cauliflower to run somewhere between purple and frozen mush. 

Wait, I was just saying our winter temps are too high for certain veggies? How do they also go to mush? 

Well my friends, those random cold snaps we have are torment to our above ground winter gardens. 

So with that, and a few winters behind me. Let me give you a list of my favorite winter garden plants. 

My Year-Round Garden Staples:

Perennial Strawberries 

Lemon Thyme 

I have the absolute worst luck with Rosemary. Thyme seems to be my magic herb; I can neglect it half to death and it just thrives. Plus, Lemon Thyme tastes amazing on roasted winter root vegetables. Try other hearty herbs like Oregano and Sage as well. I actually have my beloved herbs at the end of the garden closest to my kitchen. Way on the far end live my perennial strawberries. I’m not the best strawberry grower, but they are hard to kill. I might not have had the best production this summer, but my plants did produce. 

In the fall:

Carrots

Kale

Beets

Swiss Chard

Collard Greens

There’s a longer list for what you can grow in our zone. I’ve heard broccoli, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts work. I just haven’t had any luck. Anything above ground is more suspect to the weather. That’s why I prefer sticking to root veggies and greens. After the last freeze, my kale literally popped right back up. 

Early fall is also a great time to plant garlic to have it ready for Spring. 

My last ditch effort to save my cauliflower during a freeze a few years ago by increasing the bed temps with Christmas lights. 

So you want to skip a winter garden?

This might be my favorite tip of all time, one I gathered from an Amish gardening book. My favorite kind of gardening and cookery book. 

Want to know what it is? 

Well instead of putting out all sorts of crazy fertilizer the Amish actually plant tillage radishes during the winter. Otherwise known as the daikon radish. 

These radishes are a longer root until a traditional radish and can help break up compacted soil. The best of all is that they are known for nutrient retention. I say best of all, but my favorite thing I read in the book was that you don’t pick these radishes. Instead, you let them die and till them into the soil. That’s right, plant, basically ignore, and till before your spring garden. 

Note that the earlier you plant these, the better. So shoot for planting after you pull up your summer garden. 

That’s it! It’s a short list of winter gardening, but I love kale and carrots so it makes for a cheap and easy crop. Like I said though, if you are on the market for taking a break this winter try planting tillage radishes. 

Emily Babb
Emily, originally from North Louisiana, lives with her husband Jeremy and sons Harrison & Elliot in New Iberia. She's an elementary teacher by day and blogger by night at her personal blog Louisiana Bride. She began blogging to document planning her wedding and has since moved to sharing recipes, meal planning ideas, and the humor in daily life. Emily enjoys yoga, gardening, camping, and is a closet hippie. When she isn't having a toddler crawl all over her while she attempts to workout while simultaneously cooking dinner, you can find her reading a good book or watching old BBC documentaries on YouTube. She use to be cool, but somewhere in adulthood all those concerts quit happening and a mini van showed up in the driveway.

1 COMMENT

  1. interesting, if someone hadn’t taken up his garden, maybe I could get some home grown things. Right now all we have going is a couple of cabbages that the 3rd grader planted for some contest

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