Friday, August 2, 2013

Winter Already?


Queen Composter shares ways to start a winter garden.

With the warm, golden days of summer in full swing no one wants to think about winter, but gardeners, like the fashion industry, must be working at least one season in advance. In the coming weeks I will be turning my attention to my winter garden. Actually, winter gardening is a bit of a misnomer, as it usually means a late fall harvest or an early spring harvest of an overwintered garden.
I found this beet, along with a few others, in my garden this spring
when I was cleaning up and preparing my garden. I planted them
last August and forgot about them.

A winter garden is a wonderful way to continue to have local, in season produce throughout the year. Depending upon where you live, it does require planning, but it is well worth the effort. My winter garden in past years has been limited, but I cannot express the satisfaction I felt at Thanksgiving and Christmas serving Brussels sprouts harvested from my garden that morning.
I have friends who call Brussels sprouts "green balls of death" but I like them
because they are a tradition in my family. This photo was taken Christmas morning.

A late fall harvest garden is a great way to start. I have planted many of the late spring vegetables that I enjoy. Beets, peas, carrots, lettuce, mustard, and other cool shade loving plants do well in the late summer and fall weather.
These are great cool weather plants and will be ready for a
fall harvest if you start them now.
Because I am a lazy gardener and I haven’t cleaned up my raised beds where the spring and early summer plants are finished, we have planted many of these vegetables in my daughters’ new mini-raised bed or in containers. These plants do not require anything more than thinning of the seedlings, weeding and watering.
My daughter's mini garden with lettuce, carrots, beets
and kale that we planted two weeks ago.
These fall harvest plants can be easily planted in containers and spaces of any shape and size. I have even seen an ingenious way to seed carrots in a spiral shape around a circular container. If you have wanted to get started with vegetable gardening and missed out in the spring, now is your chance to get going.
My broccoli growing in a container, planted two weeks ago.
The overwintered garden with an early spring harvest requires a bit more planning and preparation. I live in an area with fairly mild, wet winters (Pacific Northwest) so I do not need to do much to protect my winter garden from harsh winters.
One of three Brussels sprouts currently in my garden. Can you see the little sprouts
 starting to grow on the stalk? They are very slow growing and should be planted in the spring for a winter harvest. If you plant them now they will be ready in the spring.

I will be seeding hardy plants this coming week (should have done this a week or two ago, but remember, I’m lazy), making sure that the area gets at least some sun during the winter months. Once the weather begins to turn in the fall I will mulch around the plants with leaves or straw to protect them from freezing. I may cover some of the plants with plastic sheeting attached to hoops for additional protection.
These are hardy plants that will survive in cold weather.
In colder areas cold frames may be needed to protect the plant from extreme cold, which require carpentry skills or money to purchase premade frames. 
A cold frame in the lower right and hoops ready for plastic sheeting on the beds.
Image source: Linda N. on flickr
If you are like me and lack both skills and money, plant next to a home or building for warmth or plant in containers and bring them up next to a building and under an overhang. Just a word of advice if you try this – plastic cracks easily in the cold as the water in the soil freezes and expands, so try wrapping the containers to keep them warmer.

Vegetable gardening can be intimidating, and the information about it can be overwhelming, but honestly, to begin is very easy: just some dirt, some seeds and some water. If you have wanted to get started, jump in and try it now – it’s not too late! Just imagine how you will feel when you are enjoying a zero-mile diet when everyone else is buying imported produce.

5 comments:

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

So inspirational! Now if I could just figure out where to put a garden...

Christy said...

Betsy - start small with one or two containers on a patio or doorway!

Amber Strocel said...

I was just going to head to West Coast Seeds online to start planning my own winter garden. Clearly, great minds think alike!

robbie @ going green mama said...

I have a question..This is the first year I've planted brussels sprouts. Any advice?

Christy said...

Robbie, my first advice is patience. They are very slow growing, as in I plant them mid spring and I don't harvest them until late October to December. Also, the first time I grew them I had no idea what it looked like when growing (just what they look like on my table, lol), so I recommend googling them to see what they look like at various stages to know if they are growing properly. They require a large space (wide leaves) so give enough space to each plant. Check them periodically through the fall and winter for pests that might be happily munching on them when you are inside in the cold, rainy months.

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