If you grow your own fresh fruit and vegetables, the thought of winters arrival can be daunting. Well, it needn’t. While our overall production may suffer a bit with the temperature dip in the weather, it’s still possible to grow plenty of fresh food even in the face of snow, ice and frost.
The trick is growing our plants in a warm place, ideally, inside. Greenhouses — the most common means of growing in the colder months — are nothing conceptually new, but of course, not all of us have the space to install a greenhouse. Well, what we do have are homes, typically heated, as well as sunny spots to install sun boxes and other growing contraptions tailor-made for these months.
Want to keep your veggies growing over the winter? Check out these easy, innovative solutions for eating fresh year-round.
Choosing Sensible Plants
Firstly, it’s important to recognize that not all plants are well suited for attempting in the winter. Certain things must be taken into consideration. It’s not just a time when temperatures drop, but also the winter months are notoriously less sunny, both during the day and regarding the length of the day. In other words, sun-hungry and cold-weary plants are probably not going to be the best choice for winter growing. (It is possible to grow them, but the amount of energy necessary for it is hardly sustainable.)
Instead, we need to choose those cold-hardy varieties that’ll be more likely to endure right along with us. Luckily, the possibilities aren’t overly limiting. Lots of peas and low-lying bush beans, such as broad beans or garbanzos, do well. There are also a plethora of greens, including kale, cabbages, winter lettuces and spinach, that just will not wilt. Garlic and different types of onions survive and produce great, nutrient-rich, flavorful sprouts to enjoy. Other root crops like carrots, parsnips, radishes, beets and potatoes can also prove colorful additions to winter harvests.
Container Gardening Indoors
Container gardening is being adopted by many an urban and suburban gardener these days. These growers have recognized that producing food on windowsills, tabletops, patios, and balconies makes effective use of space. Unlike growing on a large scale, all it takes to get a container garden going is a few pots, some seeds, and a bit of organic potting mix.
Containers in indoor spaces are also the perfect way to grow veggies in the winter. Be sure to put the plants near the sunniest windows, more for the light than the warmth. Generally, the inside of our homes are in no danger of reaching freezing temperatures, so there will be not concern over frost or sub-zero temperatures. Meanwhile, those drab winter months will get a bit of brightening up with greenery growing all over the house.
Preparing Spaces Outside
Of course, a greenhouse makes it easier to grow a fuller garden during colder times, but that’s not to say those of us with less space are completely out of luck in this regard. There are several inexpensive, sensible ways to create miniature, electricity-free greenhouses wherever there is sun and a swath of ground. For more container gardening, you can start by simply enclosing patios and other outdoor spaces with repurposed plastic sheeting, white bed sheets (to allow light in) or removable windows during the winter.
A favorite method used by gardeners interested in braving the outdoors for a little exercise in winter are sun boxes or cold frames. Sun boxes are basically small greenhouses. Typically, they are wooden frames with lids that have glass windows to let in the sunshine. They work particularly well butted up to homes because concrete, bricks and stones absorb heat during the day and release it at night. Having decomposing organic material, i.e. mulch and compost, also helps to create heat within them. The boxes are easy to build or inexpensive to purchase as ready-to-roll versions.
Keep Those Gardens Flourishing
Without a doubt, winter gardening will add some interesting new kinks to the typical cultivation techniques; however, they can and will be fun and pleasantly productive for those looking to keep up their gardens even after the frost arrives. Plus, it’s just nice to have something green growing in those leafless months, and gardening is a fantastic way to resist the winter blues.
Lead image source: Lizard10979 / Flickr