Winter Gardening- Tips to Maintain Your Winter Garden Color:
Winter blues got you down? Consider these ideas for keeping your garden colorful throughout the coldest months.
While many crops won’t grow during winter’s coldest temperatures (melons, tomatoes, squash, and peppers), many vegetables will tolerate and even thrive on the cooler temperatures that come with fall and winter weather. While many plants can bare the temperature, the main limitation this time of year is sunlight. While temperature is also a small factor, you can address this using greenhouses, cold frames, cloches, and row covers. There are a couple tips to keep in mind if you’re thinking of doing winter gardening like landscaping experts.
- Planting enough crops in late summer and fall to harvest throughout the winter. These crops should reach maturity before the cold temperatures hit, but they hold well in the garden so you can harvest them later, when the rest of your crops have been consumed or are no longer viable. They won’t usually grow much during these colder temperatures, but they will stay in good condition for eating fresh. Keep in mind, you will need to grow enough to harvest without regrowth. Some easy crops to start with are root vegetables, winter lettuces, Asian greens, parsley, peas, kale, and spinach.
- Before temperatures plummet, plant short season crops late in the regular gardening season to eat. The beds in your garden will empty from summer harvest and those vacancies leave opportunities for quick-growing crops. You can eat these quick growing crops before the cold sets in. Anything that grows in 3-6 weeks can fall into this category, such as radishes, tendril peas, lettuces, turnip, arugula, and mustard greens.
- Protect your crops by using tools and techniques so you can grow all winter long. If you have a way to make your season’s heat last longer, such as a greenhouse, cloche, or row cover, you can extend the time when your plants actually grow. Many of the plants listed above will grow longer and more vigorously if protected by one or two layers of cover. A greenhouse also allows you to get a head start on spring planting and to extend the growing season well into the autumn. The problem is that traditional greenhouses are quite expensive and typically too large for the average backyard. Fortunately there are two do-it-yourself options: buy a ready-to-assemble greenhouse kit or purchase plans and build the greenhouse from scratch.
- Planting slow growing crops to harvest in late winter or early spring. Your crops will enter the cold temperatures without being fully grown. These overwintering crops go dormant as the days shorten and the temperatures drop. Then, when the calendar changes and the days begin to lengthen, they start growing again, adding to the growth they put on in fall. Overwintered crops are usually ready for harvest very early, about the same time you start planting next season’s crops. This helps your growing season stay strong throughout each of the seasons and temperature changes, ensuring you always have something to grab in your garden. They don’t usually need winter protection and include onions, cauliflower, garlic, and some types of broccoli.
There are a lot of options available for winter gardening. It’s best you keep an open mind and be prepared with a variety of strategies which will allow your growing season to be productive almost year round. Keep in mind that planting times vary based on your location, but a general rule is that in the northern part of the country, most winter crops get planted in late July and August. In the southern US, extend that window as far as October.