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.
-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:
- Water plants regularly until it starts raining on a regular basis.
- Fertilize your plants. Even if you amended your spring garden with fertilizer, odds are the nutrients need to be refreshed.
- 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