Some crops, like the humble leek, require a long growing season. To enjoy these tasty vegetables in the summer, you need to start the seeds indoors in the late winter. Yes, that's right, leeks need that much time to reach their full potential! But with a bit of foresight and planning, you can cultivate superb leeks for your summer meals.

But did you know there are crops that require even more time to mature? In milder climates, gardeners can make use of the lengthy winter months through a gardening technique known as overwintering. This method involves planting crops in the summer and fall, then leaving them in the ground to harvest the following spring and summer. These hardy plants either go dormant over the winter or grow very slowly.

Overwintering crops offer several benefits. Firstly, it utilizes your garden space throughout the year. With strategic planning, these crops can replace others harvested during the summer, making your garden productive all year round. Another advantage is that these crops grow during seasons when pests are scarce or non-existent. Depending on the crop, they may mature from early spring to early summer, extending the harvest window significantly.

Here are our top picks for planning your overwintered food crops.

Broad beans – Plant these delightful legumes in October and November, and you'll be rewarded with a delicious harvest come April and May.

Red Spear Broccoli Seeds BR205
Sprouting broccoli – Start seeds indoors under bright lights before the end of June, transplant in early August, or direct sow in early July for a fabulous harvest from March to June. Red Spear is a gorgeous purple sprouting broccoli perfect for Canadian gardens.

Cabbage – Some varieties, like Deadon and Danish Ballhead, are incredibly hardy and boast improved flavour during colder months. Start these in July and transplant them mid to late August for a fabulous winter harvest.

CauliflowerGalleon is a classic overwintering heirloom. Sow indoors mid-July, transplant mid-August, and look forward to a scrumptious harvest in April and May.

About Garlic
Garlic – This flavourful favourite is perfect for overwintering. Plant seed garlic in September and October, and you'll be harvesting large, tasty bulbs in early July. If you store them properly, they'll last until the following March! Learn when to harvest garlic.

Certified Organic Walla Walla Onion Seeds
OnionsWalla Walla is the go-to sweet onion for the Pacific Northwest. Start seeds indoors in late June and early July, then transplant by the middle of August. These onions will reward you with a delicious harvest the following June. While they don't have a long storage life due to their high sugar content, caramelized onions made from Walla Walla onions are a culinary delight.

Yukon Spinach Seeds
Spinach – Direct sow spinach seeds in the third week of August for the absolute best results. Lightly harvest in the fall, and when the cold weather arrives, the plants will die back. But don't fret! In the following March, when the nights are still cool, the spinach plants will re-emerge and provide you with the cleanest, pest-free, fresh spinach you've ever tasted. Trust us, it works like a charm!

Compared to planting for fall and winter harvests, overwintering provides a longer harvest period, from early spring to summer. With careful planning, you can make use of your garden space all year long and enjoy delicious, hardy vegetables that thrive during seasons when pest pressure is low or absent. Happy gardening.