By: Laura Miller
What can be done with a winter vegetable garden? Naturally, this depends upon where you live. In southern climates, gardeners may be able to grow a vegetable garden over winter. Another option (and usually the only one open to gardeners in northern states) is to prepare the garden for next year’s growing season by providing winter maintenance for veggie gardens.
Below is a breakdown of vegetable gardening in winter for both northern and southern gardeners.
If you are lucky enough to live in an area where hardy plants can survive winter temperatures, growing a winter vegetable garden is one alternative. Hardy vegetables which can be planted in fall for a winter or early spring harvest include the following:
If you decide not to vegetable garden over winter or if you live in a northern climate, winter maintenance for veggie gardens helps prepare the garden for the spring planting season. Here’s what you can do now as an investment in your garden’s future:
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Read more about General Vegetable Garden Care
Greater care must be taken to keep indoor plants well-lit. If you can, place them in a south-facing window that gets plenty of sunshine and natural light. The reason leafy plants do better than fruiting plants is because the latter requires more light to produce flowers and fruit, but this is achievable with artificial light. Weaver writes:
He compares fluorescents, High Intensity Discharge lights, and LEDs. You can read a more detailed comparison here.
Plants must be watered diligently because indoor air gets very dry in wintertime. Check the soil and, if it feels dry to the touch, add some water.
If you're growing tomatoes or peppers, you will have to aid with pollination, since there are (hopefully) no bees buzzing around your house. Peppers dislodge their pollen easily, so you can do this by dabbing the flowers with a cotton swab and transferring to other flowers. With tomatoes, use an electric toothbrush simply to jiggle the flower and release pollen to encourage self-pollination.
Looking for winter vegetables to grow in California during the drought? There are plenty to choose from. Even though there are drought conditions causing water usage to be restricted, you can still grow a bountiful garden. Many vegetables are tolerant to drier conditions and will thrive with little irrigation. Vegetables that thrive in drought conditions will grow much faster and be ready for harvesting much sooner. In fact, there a few vegetables that grow so quickly that if planted at different intervals, will allow the gardener to harvest the produce several times during the season.
Greens are easily grown and highly nutritious, many containing trace elements and an abundance of Vitamin C and K. Collard greens, kale, arugula, spinach, mustard and Swiss chard are just a few of the leafy greens that can be easily grown in a California garden. Leafy greens are excellent for salads, wraps and sandwiches and can also be added to many dishes for a touch of rich, green color. If you are tired of using the same old lettuce or spinach in your salads or on your sandwiches, try growing a few different varieties. Maybe you will find a few new favorites.
Next on the list is root crops. Because their roots dive deep into the soil, they do not have to use moisture from the surface to produce full, nutritious, ripened vegetables. Potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, kohlrabi, radishes, garlic and onions are all grown under the surface of the soil. Not only doe they draw their water from the soil, they also take in a wealth of nutrients as well. Selenium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, calcium and potassium are found in soil in varying amounts. Root vegetables will continue to pull nutrients from the soil as long as they remain in the ground. Once they are harvested, however, they tend to lose them rather rapidly.
Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, celery and peas are a few other common vegetables that often find their way into California gardens. Like the other vegetables listed, they are somewhat easy to grow and require little in the way of maintenance. Peas will grow rather quickly and if planted a couple of weeks apart, may allow you to gain a double helping. Many of these vegetables can be stored for later use if the proper methods are used. Steaming and then freezing is a good way to keep broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.
Protecting Your Produce
It is important to keep your garden free of weeds and other debris so that wild animals are less likely to come in and steal your produce. Rabbits, deer, raccoons and opossums are well known garden hunters and will quickly destroy a garden if left unattended. If you have the resources and are serious about keeping invaders out of your garden, you may want to put up a small fence. To keep out the smaller animals, you may have to put the fence close to the ground. One way to keep deer and larger animals out of the garden is to visit your local barber or beauty shop and ask for a bag of hair clippings. Because the hair smells like humans, many animals will avoid the area. The hair will eventually break down and act as a sort of fertilizer to help the plants grow.
Getting winter vegetables to grow in a dry climate does not have to be a chore. Many people look at gardening as a way to relax and eliminate the stress that accumulates throughout the day. With the right plants, you can grow a beautiful garden any time of year that will actually save you money on your monthly food bill.
When you first embark on a new adventure, you need a guide and a reference. My choice for a guide and a reference was Niki Jabbour‘s book called “The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener“.
Seeing the picture on the book cover of Niki pulling out a bounty full of vegetables in the snow stirred my curiosity enough to flip through its pages.
Her book breaks it down into 2 different sections:
Following these simple tips and learning from the experts of winter gardening should hopefully give you a boost to try it out.
Start off with 1 simple vegetable and you might be ringing in the new year with fresh lettuce packed in your winter garden.