It’s possible to keep fresh food growing year-round in an indoor or outdoor garden. The climate you live in will dictate what type of winter gardening method you will need to use. Enjoy fresh cool-season vegetables fresh from your garden all yearlong with one of the winter vegetable gardening methods that we will share below.
Choose Suitable Winter Vegetables
It is always preferable to grow only those types of hardy vegetables that love cool temperatures, that way, you will face fewer problems. Vegetables that like cooler temperatures include:
- Brussels sprouts
- Broad beans
Winters are not the same for regions and countries. If you live in USDA growing zones 7 or above, you can continue to grow an outdoor garden during the winter. In growing zones below 7, the winter weather is too harsh for an outdoor garden. You will need to bring the garden indoors. Fortunately, that’s easy to do if you are growing them in pots. But what if you can’t bring your garden indoors? You will need to cover them somehow, using a variety of methods as described in the following.
When is the best time to plant? There is no particular best time to plant, but 6-8 weeks before the average first frost date for your particular area is probably the most sensible piece of advice. This should give your vegetables some time to mature before the arrival of harsh winter. If you are looking to harvest your vegetables in cold weather, then you should also protect the soil around the roots from frost.
Always add a thick layer of mulch (which can be up to a foot deep) consisting of leaves or straw over your vegetable beds. This helps to reduce the harmful effects of frost on the roots of your vegetables in the soil. For successful winter gardening, mulching is vital.
Raised Bed Hoop House
Outdoor raised bed gardens are easy to cover with a mini hoop house. Attach PVC pipes to the side of the bed to create a half-circle over the top of the growing area. Cover the PVC pipes with clear or white plastic sheeting.
The plastic sheeting will protect the plants from winter weather and hold the heat and moisture inside. Plant and grow cold-tolerant plants like turnips, salad mix, scallions, beets, and cilantro with this winter gardening method.
Besides plastic sheeting, row covers made of commercial plastic “fabric” can also be used. Fabric allows better air circulation to the plants that are being covered up, and thus, can be used to not only protect plants from the cold, but help keep out larger sized pests while preventing the air inside from overheating. All such covers do trap a certain amount of heat, and should not be used outside of wintertime. Instead, use some dark netting with large mesh size to allow for sunlight to pass through and heat to escape.
A cold frame is basically a wooden box with a glass lid. Inside the box are containers of plants that grow all winter. Cold frames are used in late winter to start seeds and to grow fresh food year-round. With this winter gardening method, you can grow cold-hardy foods like arugula, spinach, chard, leeks, and the other previously mentioned foods. Cold frames have been in use for long time, and they are certainly one of the most reliable winter vegetable gardening methods we can think of.
You can grow anything you want during the winter in a heated greenhouse. If the greenhouse is unheated, grow cold-hardy food-producing plants. Greenhouses are the ultimate solution for any sort of winter gardening, but they do come in many types, and not everyone can afford, or wants to have, a heated greenhouse. Many people find that their basement (and some fluorescent or LED grow lights) work just as well as any greenhouse would.
Indoor Grow Tent
Climate-controlled grow tents make a good indoor winter gardening method for any climate. These grow tents come in all sizes and are equipped with grow lights, heater, fan, thermometer, and humidity gauge. They are a kind of greenhouse as well, except perhaps lacking the conventional structure of a typical greenhouse.
The smaller ones are ideal for growing microgreens, herbs, and root vegetables like carrots and radishes. Larger grow tents can accommodate the larger food-producing plants, or enable you to plant and grow more.
Winter Gardening Is Healthy
Winter vegetable gardening will provide you with fresh, healthy food to eat and an enjoyable hobby even in the midst of winter. While climatic conditions have become more unpredictable in recent times, the key is to always be flexible. By having a mindset of working with nature and not against it, you can still beat the winter doldrums, and supplement your diet with one of these winter vegetable gardening methods.
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