Gardening as such is a difficult job in any season and it can get even tougher in winter. At the same time, it is very important to keep your garden maintained and its soil fertile throughout the year.
Thinking positively, winter gardening has the additional advantage that you can still get vegetables for your kitchen without going to a grocer and that too at a lower cost. In addition, you can keep your gardening skills and passion alive without any seasonal break.
Vegetables to grow in winter should be ideally early maturing crops or mid-season crops. In addition, they should be undemanding type of plants that do not grow too tall.
The following are the typical winter crops.
- Winter lettuce
- Onions, shallots and spring onions
- Cabbages and turnips
- A wide variety of peas
Timing and planting
In winter, timing is the most important parameter in order to make sure that your crops are ready just before the FIRST peak frost. This typically falls in late October or early November depending on your region. Then you have to backward calculate, and plant your seeds or saplings discounting the time for maturity.
For example, if lettuce matures in 45 days, you can plant it as late as in mid-September. However, mid-season crops such as carrots would need early planting so that it is harvested before the first bad frost of the year. Please note that winter may not be the best time to grow lettuce, but you could grow it as late as in October for our winter gardening sake.
Early start in fall helps with the easy preparation and plowing of your garden.
You can source your garlic or onions for planting even from a grocer and don’t need to necessarily go to a garden center or seed supplier. However, if you source it from a grocer, you have to make sure that they are organic garlic or onion and not sprayed with any growth-prevention sprays. Sometimes, you might even get free garlic for planting – something that has already started sprouting and hence cannot be sold by the grocer may come free if you are in good rapport with your local grocer. Planting seeds, definitely needs you to buy it from authorized suppliers.
Protecting your plants
Covering your garden – most importantly to protect the fertility of the soil and its consistency – is another important thing to do. Seasoned gardeners will use anything available varying from straws and leaves to garden protection covers or cloches. In the case of an unexpected early frost arrival, you may have to be prepared yourself with cold frames to protect the plants at night and removed early morning every day.
If you are one of those lucky ones, you may already have a greenhouse with you in which case you have no reason to worry.
Protecting your plants for winter, in fact, starts from how you prepare your land. Plants are more protected in a prepared raised bed of soil than flat surfaces. This can also help with easy harvesting.
Winter vegetable gardening is all about knowing the weather in your geographic location and a little bit of calculation for timing it right.