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Winter Gardening

Herbs Parsley KaleWhile gardening is not for everyone, many people do enjoy maintaining a home garden or tending to a small space in the local community garden year aroud. Even though gardening is most popular during the summer months, if you choose to, you can have a garden year round with a variety of seasonal vegetables and herbs.

There are two different ways to look at winter gardens:

  1. Gardening to have a winter vegetable crop during the winter months,
  2. Maintaining a garden through the winter for a spring vegetable crop. Since we are already into the first of winter, we will be looking more at the latter.

Don’t worry if you didn’t plan out a winter garden ahead of time. There are many areas in the United States where you can still get those winter or spring vegetables planted during the fall season. If it’s already too chilly or there’s snow where you live, consider starting and keeping seedlings inside or in a greenhouse. You can learn more about your plant hardiness zone online through a site like the United States Department of Agriculture.

Here are eight winter gardening advantages and simple tips for gardening newbies:

Advantages to winter gardening. Compared to growing a summer garden.

Winter gardens can be less work. Your soil and garden beds should be partly ready to go from the summer garden and, to a degree, should still contain some good fertilizer. Remove finished summer plants to make room for cold weather plants and turn the soil to remix before use.

It usually rains during the winter months, so watering will be minimal unless it’s a dry winter
Although there are still a few insects to deal with that attack winter plants, pests like aphids and cabbage loopers, there are far more insects to have to fight off of summer vegetables.

The best advantage to maintaining a winter garden is that you will have tasty veggies during the winter or when spring arrives!
Winter gardening tips for late fall planting. Transplanting seedling starts from indoor growing.

Now that we’ve had daylight saving time (fall back), watch to see what areas of your yard are being hit with sun and for how many hours per day, then check plant tabs to see if your winter vegetable needs sunlight. If the vegetable does need more sunlight than your garden bed has to offer, consider potting instead so it can be easily picked up and moved to sunnier areas.

It is important to pay attention to frost warnings. This is necessary if you already have plants in the ground or are planning to transplant seedlings. If the forecast shows frost or extreme cold, use mulch to protect and insulate in-ground plants and wait to transplant any seedlings.
Loosen the soil at least 18 to 24 inches down and work in new organic compost and fertilizer a few inches deep and all around the bed, if needed.
Make sure your greenhouse transplants are big and strong enough to handle the cold winter weather. Transplanting a vegetable plant outside in the cold that’s too weak could cause the plant to die or not produce.

What Can I Plant?

There is a long list of plants that do great in the winter. These include beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chards, garlic, greens, kale, lettuce, onions, peas, pumpkin, radishes, squashes, turnips, and more. A lot of these, particularly the greens, chards, and broccoli, can bolt and produce small or bitter fruit and leaves in the hotter summer months. Planting in winter gives them a more suitable climate for delicious produce. Of course, don’t forget the herbs!

In fact, so long as you keep your plants protected (or hidden) from that frosty weather, you can grow many vegetables right through the freezing weather. Some plants even welcome freezing weather with open arms. That being said, if you’re up north where freezing weather is common and frequent, I suggest planting in a greenhouse, or in raised beds with protective tarps or tents for the plants. Those of us in the south, and in areas where frost is uncommon, have it a bit easier and can get away with just planting our winter vegetable garden in raised beds.

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