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Should I Fertilize My Vegetable Garden in Winter?

By: Jessie Keith

“What is the best nutrient to use when preparing for a vegetable garden in the winter months?” Question from Denise of Clemmons, North Carolina

Answer: Vegetable fertilization regimes always depend on the plants you are growing. Winter crops for cold frames or hoop gardens tend to consist of cold-tolerant greens, herbs, and root crops. Nitrogen is the best fertilizer for growing leafy crops, while phosphorus and potassium support strong root growth.

If you do not plan to plant winter vegetables in your garden, wait until spring to add an all-purpose granular fertilizer for vegetables. Or you can also consider planting a nutritious winter cover crop, like winter wheat or buckwheat. This article lists a few good cover crops that naturally feed the soil.

There is one more point to consider, your choice of organic versus inorganic fertilizers. Organic fertilizers generally contain nutrients that are converted into accessible forms by soil microbes before plants can use them. These microbes are less active in the cold, to the nutrients will be less available to plants, so inorganic fertilizers will make nutrients more readily available to winter crops.

Happy Gardening!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

About Jessie Keith


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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