Winter crops are usually cold weather crops that tolerate frost. They are planted late in the summer or early fall to grow through autumn, be harvested before it gets too hard, and have enough time to mature before winter comes. If increasing your vegetables is not new to you yet, you understand it’s one of the best parts about living off-grid. But when it comes to gardening in the winter, this might seem like a daunting task; but don’t worry, there are many options for harvesting fresh vegetables even when there is snow on the ground.
This guide is here to help give you some good ideas on how to get started with growing your winter crops.
Start With Prepping The Ground
As with all new plantings, make sure the ground is prepared before you get started. This means clearing out any debris that might be in your garden and digging up or turning over the soil to loosen it up. If grasses or weeds are growing in your garden, they will need to be eradicated; otherwise, these plants will compete for water and nutrients with your winter crops. It’s also good to mix some compost into the top 6 inches of your soil to add nutrients back into the dirt while maintaining moisture-retaining properties. If you live in an urban center, Gina from Harper’s Nurseries recommends the best urban gardening gear composting in your backyard if you have the room. This way, you don’t have to worry about your nutrients being too low.
Select Vegetables Wisely
The first question you’ll want to ask yourself is will your garden be indoors or outdoors; this depends on available space, sunlight exposure, and temperature control. Many cold-weather veggies grow best in the fall after frost has hit, like cabbage, kale, broccoli, turnips, carrots, parsnips, and Brussel sprouts. When it comes down to brass tacks, there’s not much you can do with a few carrots and potatoes in the middle of winter if they aren’t ripe; because by the time they are ready to harvest, the outdoor garden is buried under a foot of snow.
Get Your Crops Extra Protection With A Greenhouse
A greenhouse is the most effective way to extend your growing season; it’s also very economically friendly if you can get one for free or on sale. For example, Sears will often run an end-of-year sale where you can buy a greenhouse with free shipping and then use your in-store credit card (if you have one) to make more savings on the purchase price. The more expensive greenhouses are not always necessary; some farmers buy large clear tarps and plastic instead, like this 12 mil thick tarp which lets 90% of the sun’s rays through but is still wide enough to last several years since it won’t degrade as quickly as thinner tarps.
Plant Your Crops By The Moon
Moon planting is an old Chinese tradition designed to get the best results from crops without pesticides, but this method can also be very beneficial even if you don’t use chemicals. The idea behind moon planting is that different crops should be planted during different moon phases to get their best harvest and prevent pests because of fluctuations in gravitational pull. For example, we will plant warm-season crops like beans and tomatoes during the waxing moon (the first and third quarter) because they need plenty of water and sunlight, which will help them grow faster despite lower levels of gravity pulling them down at this phase.
Just Make Sure You Keep Them Covered
Another helpful trick for growing your winter crops is to build a temporary cover out of chicken wire and PVC pipe – this will help protect your plants from hail, frost, and predatory birds that like to eat ripening veggies. If you don’t want to construct the structure yourself, there are ways to buy greenhouses online; but make sure you’re getting one that comes with covers for at least half of the greenhouse roof (like the one pictured above), so you can take it down when needed and not worry about damaging any of the structural features or plastics.
No matter what type of garden you’re growing in; summer, fall, or winter, your plants will be healthier if you work with the natural process of the seasons. This will give each plant a better chance at surviving, which in turn makes it easier for you to do your part as well. Use these tips and learn from what you’re doing because every year, there are new challenges that might come up depending on weather conditions, diseases, or specific pests that thrive during certain times of the growing season. A little bit of effort goes a long way when caring for your winter crops.