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What is winter gardening?

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

You never know what will grow, especially when you try winter gardening

You never know what will grow, especially when you try winter gardening

Those of us who live in the colder climates are used to working with less than optimal weather for our gardening endeavors. We tend to stuff things in the ground despite the warnings on the seed packages and grow vegetables with little or no sun. You just have to try things and see what happens according to the local gardening wisdom. If you want to continue growing long past the usual gardening season, try some of these great ideas from weather-seasoned gardeners.

Put the summer garden to bed

Before you consider what is winter gardening, you should prepare the ground, especially if you have been growing things all summer.

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Pick up the brambles and pull the weeds so the ground is neat and the soil is pliable. It should be soft and workable in preparation for the cold weather — which can make the soil seem as if it is frozen and hard to dig.

Pull any annoying vines that have grown out of control in the warmer months. The winter temperatures will keep them from spreading until the warm weather returns.

Fertilize and Mulch

Winter gardening may not be about growing plants and vegetables, but about tending to your garden when things will not grow. Fertilizing and mulching your garden over the winter months is an excellent way to prepare for the growing season.

Throw in some fertilizer after you have cleaned up your summer garden. Chicken or cow manure mixed with water makes a great natural fertilizer for almost any type of plant. You can also spend the winter composting with a garden composter. This is a great way to use your organic kitchen scraps. Toss everything from potato peels to coffee grounds into the composter, follow the directions, and in the summer, you have your own homemade fertilizer.

This is also the best time to throw down some mulch to keep the ground warm. Your flower bulbs will be more prolific in the spring and summer if they have the time to develop during the winter. The mulch will help them stay warm enough to do this well.


Extend your plantings

Things like cabbage and root vegetables such as beetroots do pretty well while winter gardening before the hard frosts arrive. Arugula’s flavor gets a bit strong as it gets colder and the plant will get stringy and die off when it begins to get cold.

Travis Saling who writes The Westside Gardener  says he likes to thumb his nose at Old Man Winter by trying everything despite the weather. He is in Washington state and loves the idea of harvesting a carrot out of the garden in January. He posts an excellent list of what may grow during the winter in his area, so check it out if you want your own fresh carrot in the winter!

Inside is good, too!

All of this talk about gardening outside does not mean you cannot bring it all inside as well.

Gardeners often use peat pots and grow lights to coax seedlings inside in order to get ready for outdoor spring planting. You can do the same thing all winter long. Just make sure you have pots big enough to give plants enough room to grow and thrive once they mature.

Also make sure to alternate day and night by turning off the grow lights for at least 6-8 hours each night. Keep in mind that daylight lasts longer in the warmer months, so be sure to turn them off later in the evening and not when it actually gets dark outside.

Winter gardening is definitely possible with a little patience and planning. All you have to do is clean the garden, keep it warm and keep it fed. The best part is that you do not even have to worry about weeds during the winter because they do not want to grow in the cold. Choose hearty plants for your garden, but also consider throwing caution to the wind and planting whatever you want to plant.

You never know if you might be adding a freshly-grown carrot to your winter salad bowl!


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