Planting A Winter Garden Is Easier Than You Think

When summer is over and I pull out the last of my overgrown plants from my garden, I am sad. Its part of a growing cycle: you plant, you nurture, harvest, and then the season comes to an end. My garden feels clean and it looks ready for spring’s plantings, but it’s cold and dreary and spring is still months away. I am already dreaming of warm afternoons, signs of my bluebell bulbs and daffodils coming in and of course planting my garden.

For years, I only had a summer garden. As a young gardener, I did not know that I could plant a garden over the winter.  I would anxiously await Mother’s Day. In our region, I saw that as a safe time of year to plant and not worry about frost. During this time, I would shop around for my favorite vegetable starts. Throughout the season, there would be less and less vegetables at the hardware store and local nursery. One day I noticed there were still some vegetables into September. What? Could it be that people are still planting this time of year? Of course! Through talking to other gardeners and some research, I discovered a winter garden!

These are the vegetables that I planted in my winter garden this year: kale, arugula, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions, lettuce, snow peas, spinach, and swiss chard. A winter garden ensures fresh, homegrown vegetables all year long and it is quite easy to plant and maintain.

Here’s why:
-The soil is still soft and malleable from my summer garden, so planting is actually pretty easy.
-Winter gardens require less hand watering since it rains on and off throughout the winter and early spring.
-The weeds are easier to maintain since there are less weeds that grow in the cold weather.
-Because the trees have lost their leaves, some of my garden beds get more sun than they do in the summer.
-My flower gardens require minimal maintenance so there is more time to work in my food garden.

After I pull out my summer garden, I rake my beds out, removing all the weeds and then immediately plant my new starts. When I am planting my summer garden, I plan for vegetables I want to try and which ones my family didn’t eat as much of throughout the season. For my winter garden, there aren’t as many options to plant, since most plants will not survive the frost. It’s easy to pick out the ones that I know my family will eat and start planting. My winter garden ends up being about a third of the size of my summer garden.

There are a few things you have to do in order to have a successful winter garden:

  1. Water plants regularly until it starts raining on a regular basis.
  2. Fertilize your plants.  Even if you amended your spring garden with fertilizer, odds are the nutrients need to be refreshed.
  3. Cover lettuces with a “floating row cover fabric” on freezing nights (it helps to plant them all in the same area for this purpose).

That’s it!  Once you get this down, you will have vegetables into the spring, when others are just starting their spring garden. 

#wintergarden #raisedgardenbeds #gardening #foodgarden

Tips For Less Weeds

In the early years of gardening I hated weeds. They were my nemesis. It seems as if they were always out of control. One day there would be a handful of weeds and then a few days later, there were so many that I wanted to give up. My husband, who runs a landscape company says that we manage the weeds. They are a natural part of growing. If you have a perfect garden, then the weeds will grow perfectly.

It’s important to control weeds since they will compete for water and nutrients from your intended crop. If you’re like me once the weeds take over, I am discouraged and my garden becomes a chore. Here are a few tricks I have learned over the years to manage my weeds.

Remove weeds when they are small.

It’s more efficient to address the weeds when they first appear in your garden. If you catch them when they are small, remove them. Of course, it doesn’t seem as urgent. They are not shading your intended plants and they are not choking out what you have carefully planted, so it’s easy to just let them be. Like all plants, weeds have a growth cycle. If you allow them to grow and go to seed, then they will multiply quickly and take over your garden.

Then I use my Hula Hoe (also called Scuffle Hoe) to scarify the soil. This tool scrapes up the weeds and pulls them up. I quickly gather the weeds and separate them out of the soil. It takes me a few minutes to finish the whole bed.

My favorite saying is, “Inch by inch, everything is a cinch.” I weed one bed at a time and after a few days, they are all clean.

Before cleaning out the bed.
After cleaning out the bed and using hula hoe to clear out the weeds.

Don’t water the weeds.

One thing you’ll also notice about my garden is that I run drip to each one of my individual plants. This also keeps the weeds under control, since I am only watering where I intend to grow. I use to overhead water my garden beds. Now that I have drip running to all of my beds, the weeds really have to work hard to survive the hot weather. Next season, I will be helping a friend set up her garden and I will share how I set up a simple drip system.

I always welcome small helping hands when it comes to weeding my garden beds.

Occasionally, the weeds do get out of control. In that case, I lay down burlap to cover the trouble area until I can get to the weeds and pull them up.

Staying on top of your weeds really is the shortcut! Manage your weeds well. That way you’ll have less weeds and more time to plant and harvest, which is my favorite part of gardening!

#garden #gardening #gardenbeds #harvestgardens #raisedgardenbeds #weeds #foodgarden