Winter brings with it a number of challenges for gardeners, from the extreme cold to frozen ground and limited daylight. But with just a few simple precautions, you can still enjoy winter gardening even in the most frigid climates. Here are some tips and ideas for growing crops through winter in your home garden.
Grow In Colder Climates
In the most frigid regions, even slow-growing crops can struggle to survive. Many plant families, such as the Poaceae (grasses) and the Violaceae (Violets), can easily survive temperatures as low as -38°C (-36.36°F), whereas other plants, such as the Rosaceae (Rose family), died at a mere -10°C (14.0°F).
One solution is to try growing crops that are hardier, such as medlar (a sour orange), quince, and Chinese pear, which are all able to survive in low temperatures. You can also grow crops or plants that tolerate colder climates, like celery, carrots, and parsnips.
Watering your herbs and vegetables is a key part of their survival in any climate, but in winter it is even more important than usual. Too much water in winter could lead to a number of problems, including fungus diseases, rotting crops, and a lack of growth in winter. If you are going to be away for a while or are going to be spending a lot of time indoors, you may want to consider growing crops that can survive with very little water.
The key is to choose plants that have a deep root system so that they have a better chance of surviving without regular watering. There are a few plants that can survive with almost no watering at all, including amaranth, corn, and sunflower. You may also want to consider growing crops that are naturally drought-resistant, like tomatoes and peppers.
Protect Plants From Freezing Rain
As well as water, many other factors come into play when it comes to determining what plants can survive in a certain climate. One of these is freezing rain, which has the potential to cause heavy damage to your vegetables, especially if it falls during or just after your harvest.
An easy way to protect your plants from freezing rain is to cover them with an upside-down plastic bucket, while the leaves are still a little green. You can either cover the plant with the bucket or store it inside a shed or garage to make the bucket your ‘greenhouse’.
Hide And Go Seek
Although it may seem like a good idea to grow vegetables in the middle of a flower bed in winter, the soil in most gardens is too cold for a plant to grow well. Instead, consider growing herbs or hardier vegetables, like carrots, parsnips, and radishes, which can withstand chilly temperatures. If your garden does have suitable soil, you may be able to grow some warmer-loving vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and Asian greens.
Cold-tolerant vegetables, like these, are perfect for growing in containers, as they can be moved indoors when the weather gets colder. If you’re growing a mixture of crops, you may also want to consider overwintering the crops that are harder to grow in winter. Carrots, for example, can be planted in the autumn and left until spring, when the soil is warmer, and then harvested for fresh eating when the weather warms up again in summer.
Don’t Forget About Fertilizer
The best way to protect your plants from winter damage and ensure they have a good season is to fertilize them regularly. Winter is a difficult time for many garden plants, as they need to stretch their resources even further to compete with the cold and the lack of water. This means that fertilizer, especially nitrogen, is even more important than in summer.
A good fertilized winter crop can have up to 20 times more nitrogen than a summer crop, as this is a crucial element in the metabolism of plants. If you have to stop fertilizing, you can still boost the growth of winter crops. For example, you can add the ashes of a fire to the soil and cover the crop with a thick layer of soil and ash. This will help to feed your plants and increase their growth.
Fungi For Protection And Growth
Many of the same fungi that attack fruit and vegetables in summer can start to grow in winter. This may be a source of protection for your plants, as it can keep the soil damp and protect them from freezing. As well as this, fungi can also be a source of food for your vegetable crops. When you are looking for a few things to eat, consider using fungi as a food source for your vegetables.
This is especially useful for root crops, such as carrots, potatoes, and parsnips, which are often neglected as a diet source. You can also use fungus for protection. For example, you can create a ‘fungal mulch’ using a mixture of dry leaves, sawdust, and organic matter. Place this mulch around your plants to protect them from heavy rain and heavy frosts, while also feeding them.
Think Seasonal When Planning Your Garden
One of the great things about vegetable gardening is that you can grow a wide variety of crops, meaning you will always be able to find something to eat in your garden no matter what the season. However, these seasonal fluctuations can make growing certain crops difficult in winter, especially if they are not hard enough to survive the cold.
One solution is to grow crops that are closely related to each other, such as root crops or legumes, which are closely related to each other and share many of the same survival traits. If you do have to choose between two closely related crops, consider growing one of them during winter and one in summer, as this will help you to make the most of your garden.
Consider An Indoor Garden In Winter
If your garden is too cold for your favorite crops, consider growing them indoors. Many vegetables, such as aubergine, broccoli, and cauliflower, can be grown indoors as annuals. These crops can then be harvested at the end of the season and planted out in spring, meaning you can enjoy fresh vegetables all year round.
You can also grow vegetables that are more winter-hardy, such as kohlrabi, winter radishes, and pak choi, which are best grown indoors. If you have room indoors, you can also grow a mini-garden, where you can grow a few selected vegetables and herbs. This will help you to create a nutritious, fresh diet at home, no matter what the season.
Gardening can be a rewarding hobby, but it can also be challenging. In order to succeed, you need to do three things well: plan, research, and implement. These tips will help you succeed in any climate, whether you live in a cooler or warmer climate.
Plan ahead by researching the best crops for your climate, soil, and space, and then implement those plans. Make sure you are protecting your plants from freezing rain, watering thoroughly, and fertilizing regularly, and you will be well on your way to a successful winter garden.