4 Tips for Successful Winter Gardening

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While summer crops allow for an abundant fall harvest, this does not mean that your garden must lay barren all winter long. During the colder months, certain crops will grow and thrive.

Stop relying on canned, frozen, or store-bought veggies and continue putting fresh food on the table. Read on to learn 9helpful tips for winter gardening.

  1. Plant Hardy Crops

Knowing the right vegetables and herbs to plant in the winter will help you grow a thriving garden. The following plants make perfect winter crops.

Root Vegetables

Root veggies grow beneath the surface of the soil protecting much of the plant from the harsh elements. Root veggies to grow while gardening in the winter includes:

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Yams
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Rutabaga
  • Turnips

Not only will your yield grow during the winter. It will actually come out sweeter as cold condenses the natural sugars in these veggies!

Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables sprout cross-shaped leaves. .ome of these vegetables grow thick and hearty. Others will fool you with their delicate appearance as they withstand the cold.

Cruciferous veggies include:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussel’s sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Bok Choy
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Collard Green
  • Mustard Greens
  • Radicchio
  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard

Though all of these veggies will grow in winter, the leafier species may need a little extra care to survive the cold.

Legumes 

Adding legumes to your garden not only offers lots of plant protein. These crops absorb nitrogen in the air and save it in their roots. This makes them a great partner for cruciferous veggies.

Not all legumes can withstand freezing temperatures. Peas tend to thrive in the cold. You can also grow hairy vetch in your garden. Though inedible, it still helped with nitrogen fixation and looks pretty.

Herbs

Fear not! You can grow some of your favorite sprigs of flavor during winter.

Winter herbs include:

  • Cilantro
  • Sage
  • Chervil
  • Oregano
  • Winter Savory

Though many of these aromatic plants will not survive harsh winters outdoors, you can still grow plants like parsley, thyme, rosemary, and many more. Plant them in pots and bring the herbs indoors to thrive through winter.

  1. Start Planting Seeds in Late Summer

As August comes to a close, start sowing the seeds for your winter vegetables. They will need some time to mature before the colder months come. 

If you missed the mark, you can continue planting seeds into the early fall. For the best results, get them in the ground before the first frost hits, though hardy vegetable seeds can typically germinate in the cool soil, unlike the more delicate varieties.

  1. Water Strategically

During the summer, watering works best in the early morning before the sun shines hot and direct onto the plants. Their roots will slowly absorb the water throughout the day.

But, in the winter, mornings tend to feel super frigid. Choose the warmest part of the day so that the cold doesn’t stop the water from flowing through the entire plant.

If you’re expecting a big freeze, water the plants good ahead of time. Watering once a week in between frost and snow will best benefit your plants.

  1. Protect Your Crops

Even hearty plants will do better with protection from the cold. The most important plants to protect though are those that flower above ground.

For all plants, an organic cover like mulch will keep the roots warm and protected from the frost. Use a frost cover to protect the more delicate species. 

If you do not want to spend money on a special frost cover, use an old bedsheet to protect the rows. Do not use plastic coverings as the sunlight will bounce around inside and actually cook your crops.

Do not forget about your plants growing in containers. Keep these plants under the eaves of the house to protect them from winds and snow. Also, cover them with a frost cloth before a freeze can hinder their growth.

Cover small, individual shoots with plastic bottles at night. Remove the bottles early in the morning, unless the weather is extreme.

Create a Microclimate

Building a greenhouse may be out of the question for a residential garden. But, if you want to know how to garden in the winter while living in harsher climates, create a micro-climate jut for your crops.

To do this, you essentially take the science behind a greenhouse and scale down your operation of it. It may fit over your whole garden or simply cover a small section. 

You can buy a portable cold frame greenhouse from any garden store. You could also build a cold frame garden yourself.

How to Build a Cold Frame Garden

You will need lumber, screws, and battens to create the frame. Measure your perimeter so you know the size of your pieces of lumber.

Cedar works well for this task. Bugs and rot will not compromise the integrity of this lightweight wood.

Cut the wood to create an open box, with solid sides, that will fit around the area. Angle the top beams so they slope, as you would with a greenhouse, but leave lots of open areas.

To cover those open areas, you need a material strong enough to resist the cold and transparent so that it allows the sunlight in. You can use greenhouse plastic or plexiglass.

Fertilize Selectively

In your garden, you will have spaces with dormant summer crops along with your winter vegetables. Create clear spacing between the two.

Fertilize only the winter veggies only. They will need nutrients to last the season.

Do not fertilize your summer crops until after your last frost. Putting fertilizer on the dormant plants may cause them to bud early. This can irreversibly damage the plant.

Reap the Rewards of Winter Gardening

Don’t let the end of summer put a stop to doing something you love. Winter gardening offers the opportunity to grow a number of hearty, cold-weather crops outdoors. It also allows you to bring some of the freshness of summer inside by creating an indoor herb garden.

Gardening sends you in the right direction for living a healthy life. Read other ways to live healthy on our website!

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