Winter is upon us, but it doesn’t mean you have to hang up your gumboots and shutter your greenhouse till spring. Winter gardening is the perfect opportunity to start planning for the next growing season and discovering which winter gardening plants you want to grow and harvest. This means you could be enjoying fresh beets, carrots, and spinach in February, while your neighbors are still making do with can produce and longing for the bounty of spring. Here’re some helpful tips to help you get started with your winter garden bed.
Winter Gardening Do’s and Don’ts
Winter Gardening Dont’s
1. Don’t Replace Native Soil
Keeping the native soil plays a vital role in bed preparation mix. Don’t completely remove and replace native soil unless you had some drainage issues when building raised beds.
2. Avoid Cultivating Wet Soil
Forking, digging, and tilling wet soil causes damage through compressing soil particles. When tilled damp, soil gets compacted, thus decreasing air spaces necessary for healthy soil.
3. Never Use Washed Concrete Sand, Pine Bark, Or Peat Moss
Natural organic choices are always preferable and more beneficial in keeping a winter garden bed healthy. Washed concrete sand, pine bark, or peat moss are problematic products that may prove damaging instead of making your winter garden thrive.
4. Don’t Use Toxic Herbicides
The use of toxic herbicides causes more harm than good. Never use toxic herbicides to get rid of weeds or dormant grasses because not only are they ineffective, they end up tainting your soil, resulting in a bitter harvest.
Winter Gardening Do’s
5. Garden Beds Clean Up
The garden beds can be in such a mess after the harvest season. It’s a mundane task that’s tempting to put off, but you can break up all the work over time and start working on one area or bed at a time until all beds are tucked and cleaned up.
Ensure the removal of all unwanted vegetation thoroughly and toss it into your compost pile. Removing weeds before tilling, helps ensure that the reproductive portion of weeds and grasses are not pushed down into the ground (which may cause even more weed growth in the future). Uprooting weeds are way better than using any herbicides to remove them.
6. Raise Garden Beds
Walls aren’t important. Ensure the top portion of the bed is flat and higher than the surrounding layers with inclined edges for proper drainage. This lifting occurs naturally when proper alterations are made to the native soil.
7. Get A Soil Test And Make Necessary Amendments
To ensure the healthy growth of crops, get a soil test done and determine if amendments are needed to add more nutrients and adjust the soil’s pH. A soil test will inform you the following:
- Soil’s lead content
- Level of organic material
- Levels of sulfur, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium
- Soil’s pH level
8. Moisten Garden Beds Before Planting
Moisten, not soaking wet. Garden beds must be saturated after preparation and before planting starts. Never plant in dry soil because delicate young roots will dry out quickly as they’re growing. Roots of any transplants must be soaking wet and completely hydrated.
9. Mulch Beds After Planting
Some cold-hardy plants love the frost and don’t want nor need much protection. Sometimes all they need is a layer of mulch. Make sure to use the organic options — like old newspaper, sawdust, straw, wood chips, or the like. For perennials and annuals, add 3″ or 4″ layers of mulch after planting. Don’t pile mulch near the plant’s stem.
10. When To Harvest
Harvest winter crops during the warmth of the day. Wait until veggies have had a couple of hours to settle above their freezing protected environment.
Top 5 Best Winter Hardy Veggies To Consider
- Chard – a profoundly cold tolerant plant that can even survive winter with any protection at all.
- Kale – some varieties are cold tolerant up to 6° and can even produce healthy leaves all winter long.
- Lettuce – may not be frost-tolerant, but does love the cold weather. Its leaves are hardier and can be cut multiple times.
- Carrots – the cold makes them even more delicious. Carrots can survive underground in an unheated greenhouse or cold frame.
- Parsley – the hardiest among the herbs, can sometimes grow without protection even in Zone 5. Parsley is a self-seeding biennial, so it will grow back if you leave it in one spot.
Need some winter gardening tips? Watch this video by GrowOrganic Peaceful Valley for more tips and tricks to help get your organic garden through the winter!
Winter gardening can be challenging. If you haven’t already considered having a winter garden and haven’t yet learned ways to make it thrive in the coldest weather. You will be rewarded as winter gardening can be as beautiful and bountiful as any other season.
Will you give winter gardening a chance this season? Let us know how it goes in the comments section below.