You wake up one morning and something is different, there is a specific chill in the air that, while not cold, is the first indication that the frostier, winter months are approaching. As usual, this tells us to consider getting coats and jackets out from the loft and ready the home for the upcoming wintry season, but what about the garden, plants, and fresh produce? Having sat out all summer in a backyard lavish with greenery, picking fresh fruit and veg from your allotment for lunches and dinners, is this not something to protect to ensure you can enjoy the same luxuries next summer?
And what if this is your business? As a commercial farmer or perhaps you’re a nursery owner with an avid enthusiasm for all things green and leafy, then you need something to protect and maintain your stock during the off-season.
The changing weather patterns are inevitable, and so our preparations and precautions for those should be too, and when it comes to food and plant harvest it is no different. This season, before the bite of winter wakes you up in the dark mornings, let’s make sure everything is ready and in place and your garden, fields, and produce are protected. Simple, yet effective elements to implement into your routine can make a big impact for the future, and more so for the following years’ seasons, so let’s dive in and see how you can maintain your harvest this winter.
If you have ever been to an allotment, farmland, or smallholding you will most likely have seen structures (made from glass, plastic, or durable weather-resistant materials) filled with all sorts of plants, trees, flowers, and fruit or vegetables. These are called greenhouses and are the epitome of winter harvest maintenance.
As a business owner, it is essential that you shield your crop from damage caused by climate events and changes, this means tending to the produce and plants themselves as well as the structures housing them. Consider these tips for the forthcoming chilly months and once they are in place it is easier to maintain throughout the year.
∙Watering and irrigation systems need to be checked, repaired if necessary, and then maintained because if uneven watering occurs it can cause a lot of issues.
∙Greenhouses can get warm quickly, open the doors and windows to encourage adequate ventilation, but keep an eye on the level of shading or lack thereof. Too much could cause a drop in the growth rate of produce, too much could cause ‘sunburn.’
∙New growths should be tied as early as possible to support sticks or trellises to strengthen during summer to survive the winter.
∙Once the cold has arrived regularly check the structure of the greenhouse for damage and repair immediately, also try to keep the glazing and glass as clean as possible.
∙Monitoring conditions can be done by feel and touch, but a thermometer will offer the most accurate readings of temperatures.
∙Insulation is key, you can use fleecing or even bubble wrap to prevent heat loss and shield against frost, and if your greenhouse is heated regularly check the thermostat is in top working order.
Plants, shrubs, and bushes
Most greenhouse growers prefer using soil beds and containers rather than the ground because the soil mix is more fertile, lighter, and ideally should have a good combination of slow-releasing nutrients in. You also want to check that while the soil mix holds water well to hydrate the plant, it similarly needs to drain fast to prevent drenching and soggy roots causing rot.
Sow the seeds during the spring and summer months to stabilize their rooting system, and once winter arrives and they essentially go into a state of ‘hibernation,’ they will already have an established foundation ready to sprout again at the first sign of next spring.
Any already established bushes with or without fruit can still be protected outside of the greenhouse by adding mulch to the ground after a couple of initial frosty days to harden the ground, and the mulch then on top to keep heat and minerals locked in for the winter.
All things tasty
I love tasting homemade produce, it is just so much more flavourful, like you can taste the love and care that goes into their care. Planting fruit and veg takes a fine balance of timing and the current growing produce should only be moved to their final positions once they are solid and sturdy with climbing supports and ties integrated for tomatoes and climbing cucumber stalks.
The main objective of maintaining good vegetable growth all throughout winter is temperature maintenance. If temperatures are optimal veggies such as cabbage, beets, or broccoli can survive freezing temperatures and continue to grow for your picking the whole wintery season.
At the end of the day with a few simple guidelines and tips, you can be enjoying great food and flower harvests all year round, and a greenhouse is just the answer to make it happen. Here’s to happy harvesting.