Monday, 15 November 2010

Trying my Hand at Winter Gardening

by Chiot's Run

I'm lucky that we have a year round farmer's market that opened up last year. I can now find local produce all winter long, which is wonderful in our cold climate. Last winter I happily purchased all kinds of wonderful vegetables from various local farmers to get us through the winter. I'm always trying to expand my gardening so I can produce more and more of our food. Since we live on a small lot and don't have much more gardening space, I'm starting to expand the seasons that I grow. I installed hoops over my raised bed specifically for protecting crops from our cold NE Ohio weather. A few weeks ago I covered my raised beds with greenhouse plastic in my efforts to grow all winter long.
Four Season Gardening
Most everything in these beds were seeded in early October, and they seem to be thriving in the cool fall weather. They do take longer to reach maturity, mostly because of the reduced daylight hours not as much the cold. I have 3 raised beds at my house and 2 in my mom's garden. They're filled with cold tolerant lettuces, spinach, bunching onions, leeks, cabbage, broccoli, celery, arugula and kohlrabi.
Four Season Gardening
I searched out cold tolerant heirloom varieties of vegetables for my experiment. I'm hoping that eventually I'll be able to provide a lot of my own vegetables (mostly greens) during the long cold winter months. (If you want to learn more about four season gardening I'd highly recommend Eliot Coleman's book The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses)

Have you tried winter gardening? What do you use to protect your crops?


Sandy said...

You've inspired me! I may give this a shot too. I'm in NE PA; I just ordered the book you mentioned. We'll see where it goes.

All Natural Mama said...

I also am a 4-season farmer. We built a large hoophouse this summer. It's amazing how well crops grow under cover.
I am a huge fan of all Eliot Coleman's books! He has taught this organic farmer a lot!
my blog:

louisa @ The Really Good Life said...

I'm trying "all year around" salad leaves and cold tolerant lettuces here ("winter gem") in an unheated greenhouse and an unheated (single glazed) sunporch on the front of our house. Last year my winter gems didn't do much during the coldest period but we were eating full heads of lettuce from March, which is better than nothing.

It's also not in-the-garden gardening but I'm hoping to sprout beans too, to fill out our salads and save us having to rely too much on flown-in produce.

Anonymous said...

We just make a hoop greenhouse. We use sink heat and christmas lights to heat our house. For extra light, we took out some of the color lights and put LED lights in.

emilysincerely said...

I am in south Texas so we don't get real cold here. Last winter I grew cabbage, lettuce, chard, and spinach throughout the winter and things did fine. We did have an unusually cold winter for our area and had a few days of 12-14F (rare for us). I did create some hoop-type covers and things did really well. This year I have planted a lot more, adding broccoli, cauliflower and kohlrabi. I will have the hoops standing by in case I need to use them. Sincerely, Emily

bldrnrpdx said...

I don't bother with the covered beds - I mostly take the season off. I just make sure the onions & garlic are in the ground, I leave the horseradish to do its things, and some years, we plant parsnips and other stuff that can sit in the ground through the winter.

Diāna said...

I live in Europe, in Latvia, and I don't believe it could work half as well as in Great Britain (I watched Victorian Kitchen Garden on youtube, I highly recommend it) where they were able to grow some things all through the winter. It's 1-2 feet of snow for 3-4 months every year and sometimes even longer, so I don't suppose it's possible to grow anything at all as the soil freezes approximately a meter deep. But a great idea though. I can only wish for a winter garden, perhaps a glass terrace or something like that.

Kristina Strain said...

I rely on my cold frame to extend my growing season into the colder months. I wrote about my experiences building a cold frame from salvaged materials here.

Anonymous said...

I've used a cold frame but used plastic instead of windows. The experience was a great success. Remember though that a cold frame must be vented at times. We used black spray painted milk jugs filled with water for heat. We were eating beets, turnips, parsley, carrots and a variety of greens until around January when we had the flu and didn't vent the frame for a week. Everything died but the greens came back in March. The winter lows around here are -25 Fahrenheit with snow. If we could do it, nearly anybody can.

Tripp Fenderson said...

We have a similar setup in our back yard that's allowed us to eat fresh greens for two winters in a row -- lettuce, spinach, radish, carrots, beets, cilantro, parsley, and chives.

Not the best photo but:

For hoop support, I drove rebar into the ground next to the beds, three bars per side.

The hoops were constructed from 96" lengths of standard, plastic water pipe that can be picked up at any hardware store.

The hoops are covered with a medium weight poly sheet, cut to length and held in place with a brick at each corner.

Winters in central VA are hit or miss in terms of cold and/or snow. On warmer days, I open the beds up and let the plants take in full sun.

Temps usually stay a good 10-15 degrees warmer under the hoops.

frazzledsugarplummum said...

I put some bamboo stakes in the corners of my high raised beds and slipped black plastic hose over them to make hoop covers for Summer shade cloth, bird netting or plastic for Winter. It works a treat. I also use some little greenhouses and coldframes that also work wonderfully.