If you are a dedicated gardener, then chances are you probably hate the winter. Not only do the cold and icy conditions kill any plant life you are growing, but they can also harden the earth and make growing fruit and veg almost impossible.
When it comes to preparing for winter, you probably feel like there’s nothing you can do to combat the icy weather and keep your garden thriving. But did you know that there is a way to make sure you can keep gardening well into the winter months?
Keeping a winter garden has become the perfect outlet for gardeners who feel like the season greatly limits their gardening time and capabilities. By using cold frames and hoop houses, you can keep your produce safe and contained long after the first winter frost has set.
But when is the best time to start planting a winter garden? And what special equipment do you need to keep your winter garden alive? All these questions and more have been answered in our following step-by-step guide.
If you want to know everything about planning and organizing your winter garden – then take a look down below and you’ll find all the information you need about the process.
What Is A Winter Garden?
A winter garden is a method of gardening that allows you to grow produce during the winter months. This is usually accomplished by moving your garden indoors, or by housing portions of your garden to protect it from the cold.
Winter gardens date back to the 17th and 19th centuries when the European nobility would construct large conservatories to shelter various subtropical plants.
However, most modern gardeners now use winter gardens to grow and sustain vegetables throughout the winter season. Or at least to grow simple plants that will act as a living decoration throughout the year.
Keeping a winter garden can be a trying and complicated experience, as you have to meticulously plan the gardening process, from the planting to the harvesting.
We have detailed the process down below in a series of informative steps so that you can consider and outline your winter garden plan.
Step One: Best Time To Plant Your Winter Garden
When it comes to planning your winter garden, the first and most important step is to determine the best time to plant your produce. Although winter gardens are utilized during the winter, you may be surprised with how early you will be expected to plant your seeds.
To assure winter growth, you have to plant your seeds or seedlings as early as two months before the first frost settles. Some vegetables may even need to be planted 10 weeks before your first frost date, to assure they can grow to their full potential.
To determine your planting date, we suggest opening your computer and utilizing Google to discover when your average first frost date will be. Once you have this information, outlining the planting process of your winter garden will be a lot easier.
If you are finding the information hard to find, then you can always engage with your local gardening community to see if they have the answers you are looking for. Once you have obtained your average first frost date, count back 8 weeks and you will have the target date for planting your winter crops.
When you have determined your planting date, then you can allow yourself a two-week window to your seeds in the ground. Anything planted after these two weeks may not be ready in time for the harvest and will need extra care during the winter.
Step Two: Best Crops For Your Winter Garden
Winter gardens are now primarily used by modern gardeners to grow crops during the winter. And there are a variety of vegetables that can thrive when grown in a wintery setting.
These vegetables are often categorized as cold weather produce, which means that they don’t require a hot climate to grow. So when it comes to planning your winter garden, you need to make sure that you are planting vegetables that can be sustainably grown in cold weather.
Commonly these will be vegetables that grow either in or low to the earth, so don’t bother trying to grow tomatoes or corn because they will not survive in cold temperatures.
Instead, your winter harvest will consist of vegetables such as carrots, lettuce, spinach and radishes. What you prefer to grow comes down to your personal preference, although we do believe that lettuce and swiss chard can be some of the best produce grown in a winter garden.
We advise purchasing the seeds for your garden in July, as a recent rise in winter garden popularity has led many seed companies to produce many varieties that can be specifically grown in cold weather conditions.
Always make sure you use high-quality seeds when planting your winter garden, so as to make sure that your produce is as good as it can be.
Step Three: Best Protection For Your Winter Garden
As Fall slowly transforms into Winter, you will need to start finding ways of protecting your produce from icy weather conditions. Of course, this is primarily for those gardeners who have chosen to keep their winter garden in their outside space.
Currently, two methods can be used to protect your winter garden from the cold. Both come with their positives and negatives that we have detailed below:
Cold Frames: A cold frame is a box that is usually made from wood and glass, which can be placed over vegetables that grow low to the ground. They are inexpensive and simple to make and are particularly good for sheltering produce in your winter garden.
However, it can be difficult to regulate the temperature of a cold frame, and because of this, they are not hot enough to sustain more tropical varieties of plant life.
Hoop Houses: A hoop house is a cost-effective way to grow crops during the winter, and all year round. Similar to greenhouses, they usually take the form of long tunnels made from pipe and sheet plastic.
Because of their size, they can provide plenty of room to work in and are especially good at protecting produce from rough or cold weather conditions. However, hoop houses are not considered permanent structures and may have to be erected each season.