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Growing a Winter Garden

Growing your own food is not just for warmer, sunnier months. Produce can be grown during cooler periods with a few materials and sun power. Considering produce found on the shelves throughout colder seasons can sometimes be lackluster and overpriced, a winter garden may be worth cultivating.

Though a bit of invention is needed to sustain a garden in cold climates, it can be done. Having one was routine in past eras out of necessity, where some sort of planting had to be going on at all times in order to make sure there would be enough food to eat. Produce can be grown all year long in cold frames, hot beds, greenhouses or tunnel constructions. These types of framed gardens provide protection from the elements for seedlings and plants.

Cold frames and hot beds are container-like covered enclosures. Greenhouses are also good options as long as there is suitable air flow. Tunnels are structures built lower to the ground that use the greenhouse concept, and if there is not enough room or finances for a total greenhouse assembly it is a decent alternative. These are all great for seedling starters and protecting produce. Even materials like inverted plastic containers, such as water bottles, can be used as portable mini-greenhouses. The covering will protect sprouts from cold and wind, and can be removed when plants begin to outgrow them.

No matter what you choose to hold your winter garden, pick a sunny location to place it in and make certain that the casing is properly insulated and covered in order to block the wind. Make certain a good drainage system is in order or root rot can occur, as well as taking a chance on submerging the entire garden in water. Proper soil and compost, which is needed to provide nutrients as well as help heat the growing area, is important also.

Some ideas for colder plantings are hardy greens like kale, Swiss chard, spinach, collard greens and broccoli. Cauliflower, peas and beans also do well in cooler months. Root vegetables, which grow better when planted into the soil, like carrots, radishes and beets are ideal. Excess vegetables can be pickled or frozen in single, flat layers and stored until needed or saved for warmer months.

Consider regional differences and what types of produce would best be grown with available resources. Check out the University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center for thorough information and tips on what to start planting each month. Kids can learn about winter gardens and how to grow food year round, too. For cold weather growing ideas as well as other gardening tips, Annie’s How-to Guide for Five Kinds of Children’s Gardens offers an instructional upload to get started.

Though we may become more inclined stay indoors longer during the wintertime, the sun’s power is still accessible and can be advantageously put to work in a winter garden.

GardenForever.com: Winter Growing Abilities: Winter Gardening
National Gardening Association: The Winter Vegetable Garden in Warm Climates
Logsdon, G. July 24, 2008. Building Hotbeds for Your Garden. Organic To Be.


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