Keep active in the winter and eat better with your very own winter harvest!
There are many reasons to plant a winter garden- fresh inexpensive produce, the joy of seeing plants grow in the winter months, and having a hobby to keep you mentally and physically fit. Most people can grow vegetables in the winter. However, the method that you use and the plants that you will choose depending on your location.
Many plants can be planted in late summer and early fall and harvested into the winter months. Some common winter crops include:
You should check with your local extension agency to find out for certain what types of vegetables make good winter crops in your area. To find out what hardiness zone you are located in, and your area’s average highest and lowest temperatures, see this map.
You generally want to make sure the soil is 40 degrees or above when planting your winter garden to ensure that the seeds will germinate.
Simply check the soil with a thermometer prior to planting. Also, knowing the weather in your area will enable you to establish a timetable when growing winter vegetables. If you are not sure when your area has its first hard (plant-killing) frost, ask your local extension agency.
If you are planting out of doors without a greenhouse, you will need to be sure that you harvest your crops before this date. Some plants are more frost resistant than others. Know your plants and what they can endure before you plant them. For instance, if you have a short growing season you may want to choose plants that harvest in just 30 days rather than 90.
If your area is too cold for winter crops (such as areas in the north), you can choose to construct or buy a greenhouse in order to have a winter harvest. Greenhouse kits are available for purchase, or you can make your own. Some people create inexpensive greenhouses from heavy duty plastic and PVC pipe. Using growing lights can keep the temperature of your garden above freezing.
If your area is milder (further south), but still reaches freezing, there are some methods you can use to help protect your plants from frost. Plant your garden on the south side of a building if possible, so that your garden will be exposed to more sunlight and have protection from winds. Using a thick layer of mulch can also help to protect the roots of the plants from frost. Using a raised bed can also keep roots warmer. And, on nights that do frost, you can cover your garden with plastic to give it extra protection.
How you store your harvested vegetables is very important, since you want them to stay fresh until you are ready to use them. Choose a cool area and arrange the vegetables in such as way as they are not touching. Some people choose to store their produce in containers of sand to accomplish this.
Growing a winter vegetable garden can be quite rewarding. With careful planning and lots of hard work, hopefully, you will be rewarded with an abundant harvest!
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