Chicory Winter Care: Learn About Chicory Cold Tolerance
By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Chicory is hardy down to USDA zone 3 and up to 8. It can withstand light frosts but heavily frozen ground that causes heaving can damage the deep taproot. Chicory in winter generally dies back and will spring anew in spring. This occasional coffee substitute is easy to grow and a fairly reliable perennial in most zones.
Learn more about chicory cold tolerance and what you can do to help protect the plants.
Chicory Cold Tolerance
Whether you are growing chicory for its leaves or its huge taproot, the plant is very easy to start from seed and grows rapidly in nutrient rich, well-draining soil in a sunny location – and there are various types to grow. Chicory is a perennial which can live 3 to 8 years with good care. During the “salad days,” young plants will go dormant in winter and return in spring. Winter chicory can withstand extreme below freezing temperatures, especially with a little protection.
Chicory will start showing new leafy growth as soon as soil is warm enough to be workable. During the winter, the leaves will drop and growth slows down significantly, exactly like a hibernating bear. In areas with deep freezes, chicory is tolerant of temperatures down to -35 F. (-37 C.).
In areas that hold water, this kind of freeze can damage the taproot, but provided the plants are in well-draining soil, such cold poses no problem with a little protection. If you are worried about extremely deep freezes, plant winter chicory in a raised bed that will retain more warmth and enhance drainage.
Chicory Winter Care
Chicory that is being grown for its leaves is harvested in autumn, but in mild climates, the plants can retain leaves through winter with some assistance. Cold climate chicory in winter should have straw mulch around the roots or polytunnels over the rows.
Other protection options are cloches or fleece. Production of leaves is greatly reduced in freezing temperatures, but in mild to temperate climates, you can still get some foliage off the plant without harming its health. Once soil temperatures warm up, pull away any mulch or covering material and allow the plant to re-foliate.
Forced Chicory in Winter
Chicons are the name for forced chicory. They look like endive, with slender egg-shaped heads and creamy white leaves. The process sweetens the often bitter leaves of this plant. The Witloof type of chicory is forced from November to January (late fall to early winter), right at the peak of the cold season.
The roots are potted up, foliage removed, and each container is covered to remove light. Roots that are being forced will need to be moved to an area of at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 C.) during winter. Keep the pots moist, and in about 3 to 6 weeks, the chicons will be ready for harvesting.
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Winter gardening with low tunnels
For most areas of the United States, winter gardening is easy to do and full of delicious rewards.
We live in Agricultural Zone 7B on the outskirts of Greenville, SC, at the base of the Appalachian Mountains. This area is considered a moderate/average climate region: not too hot, not too cold. Goldilocks would like it here.
We love all-season gardening, including winter gardening, since it gives us the opportunity to taste each season. We can tell the time of year based on what’s on the dinner table. This practice provides quite a bit of dietary diversity, while allowing us to more richly experience earth’s journey around the sun.
Baskets of cool weather garden veggies keep us feeling great even when the weather outside is frightful.
Many gardeners actually enjoy fall and winter gardening more than spring and summer gardening. Why? Plant diseases and pest insects are virtually non-existent. Plus, if you live in an area that gets rain once every 7-10 days like we do, you probably won’t need to irrigate at all once your cool weather garden plants are older than shallow-rooted seedlings.
We have many mouths and duck bills to feed, so growing edible plants year round is helpful.
What you'll need to grow microgreens
If you love to reuse and repurpose, check your recycling bin for containers to plant a microgreen garden. The pros suggest egg cartons, old takeout or berry boxes, foil muffin tins, small paper or wax cups, or the bottoms of milk containers.
"Look for relatively shallow containers of about 2 inches, and create drainage holes in the bottom," says Ortega. Line up your containers on a large baking sheet or tray so they're easier to move.
As for the seeds you'll need, the experts favor organic or non-GMO versions such as the ones from the Hudson Valley Seed Company or Sustainable Seed Company. Mainstream companies like Burpee also offer options.
You'll also need potting or starting soil (some companies make special microgreen soil mixes), a spray bottle to water, scissors for clipping, a salad spinner, and markers so you can note the planting date and the variety, says Brandt.
Want to make it even easier? Check out these all-in-one microgreen kits, which include seeds and growing trays—you just add sun and water.
Best winter veg to grow
We pick 10 vegetables for delicious, warming meals to see you through winter.
Published: Thursday, 3 October, 2019 at 3:35 pm
The winter garden needn’t be devoid of life. On the contrary, it can be home to an array of winter crops that provide fresh ingredients for seasonal meals.
Robust vegetables like kale, Brussels sprouts, beetroot and turnips shrug off the worst of the weather, with no adverse effect on flavour. On top of these familiar favourites, you could also try your hand at lesser grown plants like skirret and chicory.
It’s a good idea to have a roll of fleece and some cloches to hand, too. Hardy crops are unlikely to be killed even on the coldest nights, but they can help maintain the quality of the roots and leaves for eating.
Many winter and spring veg crops are sown in the warmth of August – check out these winter veg crops to sow in August.
Discover some of our favourite winter veg to grow, below.
These bulbous vegetables are perfect for adding to soups and for bulking out stews. Watch this video for advice on how to grow turnips from seed.
Celeriac can be used as a purée or to serve with roast meat. It’s an easy crop to grow that’ll perform well, even in poor summers. Protect from the worst weather with fleece or cloches. Find out how to grow celeriac.
Love them or hate them, a Christmas dinner wouldn’t be complete without some buttery Brussels sprouts. Once planted, make sure they’re firmed in well to avoid windrock.
Purple sprouting broccoli
Sprouting broccoli are robust plants, so they make ideal winter crops. Harvest your spears when the flowers have developed but are not yet open. Go for the central spear first to encourage side shoots to develop. Find out more in our sprouting broccoli fact file.
Cooked with a generous handful of mushrooms, chard makes a tasty pasta sauce. The colourful stems look great in an ornamental border, too. Check out these ways to combine edible and ornamental plants for more ideas.
Chicory can be roasted, wilted or added to salads. Go for the lettuce-like, ‘non-forcing’ varieties, which can be overwintered with the help of fleece and cloches.
Cabbage is a winter staple and can be eaten raw, cooked or preserved.
Watch Monty Don plant out winter cabbages in this video clip from Gardeners’ World:
Mizuna has a peppery flavour well suited to salads and as a garnish, as you would with rocket. Find out how to sow mizuna for a winter harvest.
A delicious side dish or stirred through a creamy pasta sauce with plenty of garlic. Kale responds to having its leaves removed by growing more, providing plenty of repeat harvests.
Carrots are perfect with roasts, in salads, as a soup and in cake. Follow the advice in our carrot grow guide to get your winter crop on the go.