Enjoy a harvest from your garden year-round with these winter gardening tips for success…
Do you dream of enjoying fresh garden harvests all winter long, but don’t think it’s possible where you live? In fact, winter gardening (and harvesting) is possible throughout most of the continental United States, and more and more people are rediscovering the rewards of growing food throughout the year.
There are a number of benefits to gardening in the winter – including reduced pest pressure, fewer weeds, and less need for watering. (In fact, we NEVER water in the winter here in Ohio.) Whether your area experiences wind, snow, or flooding in the winter, there are plenty of things you can do to enjoy a bountiful winter harvest.
Here are the three most essential steps for successful winter gardening:
1. Plant cold-hardy varieties
Choosing the right crops to grow is essential. You can’t expect to grow tomatoes or peppers in the winter – unless you have a huge and expensive heated greenhouse, and even then, the conditions won’t be ideal. Don’t fight nature. Instead, choose plants that prefer cooler weather and can tolerate cold temperatures. You can also ensure an extended harvest by staggering your plantings, and planting crops that mature quickly, as well as those that may be harvested even after growth stops, such as root veggies like carrots and parsnips. A fall planting calculator can be very helpful in determining when to plant what according to your growing zone. (See tip #3 below.)
2. Provide protection from the elements
Even cool-weather crops may need some protection when temperatures dip below freezing. But you don’t need anything expensive or high-tech. A simple cold frame or inexpensive hoop or low tunnel should do the job. Remember that you don’t actually need to keep your plants warm; you just need to protect them from wind and extreme temperature fluctuations. Old blankets work great as extra insulation when you need additional protection on top of these simple systems.
3. Plant at the right time
When cold weather arrives, plant growth will slow or even stop altogether. That’s why it’s essential to plant your crops early enough that they have time to mature before temperatures start to dip below freezing. This way, even if you don’t get much growth during the winter months, you can still harvest what is already there – and when you get warm spells you may see some additional new plant growth. Use a fall garden calculator like this one to determine when to plant what in your area. Be aware of your first frost date, and familiarize yourself with how long each crop takes to achieve maturity – keeping in mind that as the weather cools, growth will slow. Over time, you will develop a sense of what planting schedule works best for your area.
Winter Harvesting Tips
Remember when it comes to harvesting your winter veggies, it’s important to follow a few guidelines. The best way to harvest winter greens is to cut a few outer leaves at a time. When you get warm spells, the plant will continue to grow new leaves from the center.
You will also want to make sure you ONLY harvest when temperatures are above freezing, so if you are expecting a prolonged cold snap, you may want to harvest in advance and store your greens in the fridge. The same goes for root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, and turnips. While these crops may be mulched heavily and left in the ground for a while, if your soil freezes solid in the winter, you will want to dig or pull these crops before that happens. You can store them in the refrigerator or in a root cellar if you have one.
Check out this handy infographic for more helpful tips for successful winter gardening, including cold-hardy varieties, planting zones, and more:
Source: Fix.com Blog