Winter gardening – Stretch your gardening season

Winter leaves
Creative Commons License photo credit: wsilver

Winter gardens can be very successful. In my zone 5 growing zone I am still limited to what I can grow and depend heavily on cold frames and a greenhouse but many milder climates will soon be able to grow crops.

For those in milder areas or areas that have a warmer micro-climate here are a few early winter garden tips for successful crops.

  • Select a site in full sun. Place you garden in a location that gets southern sun exposure. You will need to provide as much sunshine as possible during the short days of winter but may need to have an area that is protected from cool winds.
  • Perfect drainage is a necessary for a winter garden. You will need to add sand or organic compost to improve drainage. In the fall I try to make sure I have one garden bed that is ready for an early garden. It will save time when I have weather conditions that work for planting.
  • Choose plants for your winter garden that require cooler temperatures and less light. Pansies, calendula, nemesia and stock are annual flowering plants that thrive in winter. Broccoli, cabbage, cilantro, lettuces, peas and radish are all vegetables that grow well in winter. But from experience I have found that starting the seeds indoors or a greenhouse prevents many of the seeds from rotting or poor germination.
  • Many herbs will do well in a winter garden or on a sunny windowsill
  • For planting seeds indoors or the greenhouse for my winter garden I use newspaper pots that I make. Using this step I save on pots and so not have to disturb the new plants roots.
  • You will need to space your plants further apart than in the summer months. This gives the plants maximum air circulation, which helps to prevent fungus disease and mildew. Cooler weather and dark conditions cause both of these conditions so be on the lookout in a winter garden.
  • You will also want to place taller plants on the north side of your winter garden bed and shorter plants on the south. This will ensure that the taller plants will not cast shade of the smaller plants.

For winter gardening I always keep clear milk jugs that can provide additional heat for plants when filled close by. I also have blankets and clear plastic, just in case. It’s always best to be over-prepared for those sudeen changes in temperature or cold winds.

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Denise

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