organic, vegetable, gardening

A vegetable paradise in the middle of winter

Wouldn’t you just love to have a garden that produces fresh, scrumptious vegetables all year long? It is that time of the year when gardeners from colder countries are preparing for the icy winters that will bring a long pause to their gardening activities. But for us it is just the beginning of a very fruitful and colorful winter.

I have been waiting for September to spread the spell of fertility into my garden. As it is finally here I better get my plan for a rooftop vegetable farm ready.

It is essential to have a good plan for a successful vegetable garden. Each vegetable will have different requirements. Here are some basics that I kept in mind before I made my plan. You can do the same.

Find your zone

Each city has a different growing zone that is calculated by the lowest winter temperatures it get. For example in zone three, the lowest winter temperature ranges between minus 30 to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit and in zone 10 it ranges between 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It is a good idea to calculate what the range in you area is before you begin to select seeds.

Crop timings

There are mainly two seasons to grow crops; summer and winter. You will have a wide range of vegetables to chose from in both cool-season and warm season crops. Most of the time imported seed packs will say that that the plant needs to be grown in summers but you need to be wise here. Notice the minimum temperature it says is needed for the seed to germinate. You will learn that this is your winter temperature!

Know your seed

Once you know which vegetables you want to grow, you need understand the difference between the seeds:

Heirlooms: These vegetables have been been grown for at least 50 years. They are known for their color, taste and for being organic. These seeds have been passed down by generations. When you replant the seeds from the same vegetable you will get reap a harvest.

Hybrids: These are the result of the cross breeding that is mainly done to produce a pest resistant harvest which is goodin terms of color and increased flavor. You will need to buy new seed packs each season.

Personally, although I love the way seeds have been engineered to create interesting looking crops but deep inside I don’t feel a connection with hybrids. Somehow I always feel they are not a part of nature as it is. Still, I always end up having some hybrids in my garden as well.

Selecting vegetables

Keep in mind the space you have and the amount of sunlight it gets. Most crops need a minimum of 6 hour in direct sun light. Some will need partial sunlight as well. If you are short of space, you can always take your garden to your rooftop like I have done and grow your favorite seasonal vegetables at home!

Map out your garden

You garden must be well designed . Map your garden by placing the taller plants at the back and the shortest in front. It would be even better if you play with the contrasting crops.

Continuous harvest

Wouldn’t you just love to keep your garden producing scrumptious food for you? Keep some space vacant for future plants. In order to guarantee continuous harvest plant seeds every 2 to 3 weeks.

Keep these points in mind when you are ordering your seed packs. Go for a reputable seed store even if you have to pay little extra.

I received my seed packs last month. Since I am expanding my rooftop garden, I have a lot more space so I need more seeds. The seeds I have ordered include three different types of tomatoes (for paste, canning and for salads) baby corn, eggplant, Brussels sprout, courgettes, melon, pumpkin, salad leaf, colored bell peppers, celery, cucumber, bitter gourd, garlic chives, purple ruffled basil, mint, parsley etc

This season I am aiming for a perfect and productive vegetable rooftop garden. Why don’t you grow some crops with me and make your own rooftop garden?


Zahra Ali Husain is a sustainability educator, freelance writer and an environmentalist. She is also a co-founder of Organic City Pakistan and runs the Green Schools & the Horticulture Therapy programs along with Yasir Husain. Zahra also manages an organic farm.

  • Sarah Zaidi

    I am still waiting for my crops supply :)and yes i would love to have my garden produce scrumptious food for me! 😛

  • Though I seldom go through these sophisticated gardening guidelines 🙂 but Yes! I love Winters since plants need less watering and comparatively less care however sometimes it takes hours to clean the pests manually to keep the crops Organic!
    Last year I harvested two different kind of Chillies, Okra, Eggplant, Cucumbers (a regular one and a Sindhi verity), Regular Pakistani Round Shaped Tomatoes and Exotic Cherry Tomatoes while Mint and Lemons are Year-Round available Roof Top Products @ my place.
    Love to see posts regarding the progress of ALL EXOTIC vegetables you mentioned.

  • Thanks 🙂

    Nabil, what ever I learned if through these guides. I think they are helpful for the beginners. But once you gain that confidence this become part of our practice.

    I want to see your garden!! post me some pictures. I would like to share it with my readers too.

    Join us on FB!/group.php?gid=142364005785263&v=wall&ref=notif

  • Hi Zara,
    Nice to know another kitchen gardener.
    Very nice blog you have.
    Can you tell me in which zone Pakistan generally and Islamabad particularly can be placed.??
    Please join my pod'
    and also start a pod in Karachi as well and be a part of international kitchen gardeners organization.
    Hoping to hear from you.
    Happy gardening.
    Salma Kamal.

  • I have joined the group and shared some pix there…

    I have a request, If U can post a blog like "How To BLOG ur garden/crops/harvest…?

    Hope to fined a way to blog my garden without spending much time 🙂

  • Salma, Welcome to crops in pots!
    Thanks for your wonderful comments. I will surely start a pod for karachi.

    for your zone, leme know your lowest winter temp. I will also try to post a chart for calculating your zone.

    Dear Nabil,
    Simplest and fastest way to blog is to share your photos only. In other words, start a photo blog!

  • Anonymous

    salaam zahra jee..

    I am liking your vegetable list :). The brussel sprouts take around 32 weeks from plant to harvest and they love partial shade, I grew them last season but the caterpillars love them, its a very interesting plant i love how the sprouts grow on the side of the stalk like small table tennis balls but obviously green 🙂

    Also you are growing aubergines and courgettes ( nice choices) but i am really pleased you are using the words "aubergines" and "courgettes" instead of "eggplant" and"zuchinni" you have not been totally Americanised quite yet LOL..

    I know what you mean about the FL hybrid seeds too, i try not to buy the f1 and stick with seeds that can be saved for the next growing season..