How To Grow In The Winter – Winter Gardening
Can you believe it another year has come and gone? Many of you may be wondering how to grow in the winter, or if there is a such thing as winter gardening? I am going to get to that.
I have to say, I love this time of year when the mailbox fills up with all the new garden catalogs. You set by the fire sipping some hot coffee and thinking about how this will be your best year for gardening yet.
With some advanced planning, you don’t have to wait for spring to start getting down and dirty. Most people don’t give a lot of thought to winter gardening, but with the price of food going up and the quality going down maybe we should!
Do you know how to grow in the winter?
Winter gardening means more than getting the garden ready for spring. Winter gardening is about producing high-quality food just as much as spring gardening. After all, don’t you think that garden fresh food is just too fantastic to give up just because of a little cold or snow?
Whenever I talk about winter gardens, some people look at me rather strangely, because in “most” places you can’t grow tomatoes in January.
However, you can grow some pretty awesome winter vegetables that seem all the sweeter. Nothing beats winter-pulled carrots when you know how to grow in the winter!
People in the southern states have always enjoyed a wide array of cold crop veggies. Nowadays people in the northern states can pretty much enjoy the same crops by using some type of winter protection to extend the growing season.
Cold Frames & Other Ways For Winter Gardening:
When thinking of how to grow in the winter, many of us can’t afford an expensive heated greenhouse. Although most of us may wish we could! But with a little forethought, most of us can use a simpler method, to help grow a winter harvest.
Have you thought about the possibility of using a cold frame, a simple hoop house also known as a low tunnel greenhouse or how about a Reemay? A Reemay is just simply a blanket for your garden and can be purchased at many hardware stores or on Amazon.
Here in Virginia, our second spring or winter gardening season starts in September or October, while the most northern states may need to begin in August.
Choosing What To Grow:
If you are thinking of giving winter gardening a try, there are a few things you will need to keep in mind. Winter crops obviously need to be cold-tolerant, but not all cold-tolerant plants are suitable for winter gardens.
When considering what plants to grow, make sure you also take into consideration the plant’s habit of growth. Spinach, which makes an excellent choice for a winter garden, is cold hardy it germinates in fall, grows from late fall through winter, and then goes to seed in spring.
It continually is putting out new leaves, that you can pick and enjoy all winter. On the other hand broccoli and brussels sprouts are also both cold-hardy but after a certain point, they stop producing making them a poor prospect for the winter garden.
How To Grow In The Winter Starts With Picking Your Crop For Winter Gardening:
Is gaining in popularity as a winter crop. Arugulas has an acquired taste, that adds a little jazz to any meal on a cold day. A big plus for winter-grown arugula is its milder flavor, and you won’t have the problems of flea beetles that comes with warmer weather. As far as arugula goes I like ‘Sylvetta,’ which is perennial here in Virginia.
Is not as frost-tolerant as spinach, but it does make a good fall and spring crop. Leaf lettuce seems to do better than head lettuce at least for me. One thing you will want to look at when selecting a winter seed is how resistant it is to mildew as this can be a problem in wetter weather. For this reason, I LOVE ‘Five Star’ which is a lettuce mix from Johnny’s Selected Seeds of Maine.
Is a very hardy herb; it grows slow in winter, but mine survives Virginia winters will without any protection. I grow ‘Forest Green’ and have been very pleased. Parsley also gains extra points due to the fact that it is a self-seeding biennial.
Makes an excellent winter crop seems like it really LOVES the cold. I have read that even as far up as Maine it does well with only a unheated greenhouse. My personal favorite is ‘Winter Bloomsdale,’ because it’s dark green leaves seem even sweeter after the first frost.
If you thinking only greens are good for winter gardens, think again! Winter Carrots are sweet as candy after a few touches of frost. They do well in a cold frame packed with some loose straw. ‘Napoli’ have always done well for me.
Who can resist the rich, oniony flavor of leeks in your winter salad or soup. I like ‘Lexton.’ If you want to harvest winter Leeks, you will need to plant early in spring.
I don’t know about you, but I like turnips raw, and my personal favorite for winter gardening is ‘Hakurei,’ a Japanese variety that is round, and white, its tops are also tasty if temperatures are above freezing. I also like ‘Colletto Viola,’ because of its crisp flesh and pink shoulders.
The list doesn’t end here, don’t forget to try collards, and parsnips which like carrots seem to grow sweeter as the temperatures drop.
You’ll want to stay clear of things like basil, beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, okra, peppers, potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatillos, tomatoes and of course melons. That is unless you will be gardening in the house.