Written by Bailey Harris
When most people think about gardening, they think about planting vegetables in the spring and early summer. But in many areas, it is possible to have fresh produce all year long. The following guide will help you get started on your first winter vegetable garden.
Choosing Vegetables to Plant
There are many different vegetables that do well in cooler growing climates. In fact, some tend to taste better when they are hit with a bit of frost. Winter vegetables may include root vegetables, such as radishes, carrots, parsnips, beets, turnips, and some types of onions, or head-type vegetables, such as cauliflower, cabbages, and Brussels sprouts. Other planting options include spinach, winter lettuces, Swiss chard, leeks, and peas.
You should try to choose vegetables that have proven themselves hardy in your region. Better Homes and Gardens can help you learn more about frost and hardiness zones. You may also be able to get information about winter vegetables from your local gardening center.
Choosing a Location
Although you can plant winter vegetables in the same space you planted spring and summer vegetables, it is almost never a good idea. It is much better to plant in a new area that has not been stripped of nutrients. You will have stronger plants and a better harvest. Planting in a new area can also help prevent the spread of disease and insects.
If you would like to lengthen the growing season and protect your winter vegetables from cold and harsh winds, you may want to consider taking advantage of windbreaks and walls. Doing so could help you add 10 to 15 degrees of warmth to the space. Cloches (a transparent plant cover), greenhouses, and cold frames can also offer some level of protection for winter vegetables.
A more frugal option may be permanently edged raised beds that can hold large quantities of vegetables. The soil in raised beds is usually 10 degrees warmer than ground-level soil. You could also try making raised beds for single plants by laying an old tire on its side, laying another tire on top of it, and filling the hole created by the stacked tires with dirt. The tires will absorb the sunshine and keep the soil even warmer than traditional raised beds.
Planting and Protecting Your Garden
Most winter vegetables are pretty flexible. You can plant them at almost any time. However, your harvest may be better if your vegetables are established before the first killing frost in your area. If you missed the recommended time table, don’t be afraid to plant anyway. The rewards may be worth the risk.
You can garden late and provide your winter vegetables with an extra layer of protection by covering your garden soil with a two-inch thick layer of mulch after planting. Covering leafy vegetables with cheesecloth or clear agricultural cloth can also provide your plants with additional warmth.
If you liked this article you might like How to Eat Local in the Winter, it’s full of tips of how to sustain green local diet during the colder months. Also check out our Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes for ideas of how to use your homegrown vegetables!
Source: The Alternative Consumer