Planting a winter garden is a great way to keep the fruits, veggies, herbs, and flowers growing when most other gardens are out of commission. Knowing that you’ve still got crops on the way despite the cold weather is a great feeling, and although working out in the garden will certainly require some extra layers of clothing, other than that, maintaining a winter garden can be just as easy as gardening during any other time of the year. With that said, here are 5 excellent tips to help you get the biggest yields and the best flavors and aromas out of your winter garden:
Build a Walipini Greenhouse
A regular greenhouse can hold some heat and make the environment more hospitable for plants, but a Walipini greenhouse (one that is dug into the ground) is even more effective. The ground temperature below the surface is warmer, so the plants are surrounded by a thermal mass that can be up to 10 degrees warmer than the air temperature on the surface. According to My Gardening Network, the shape of the structure also means it requires less heat from the sun to stay warm. Plus, since the walls are made of the surrounding compacted dirt, Walipinis are remarkably well-insulated and are therefore good places to use solar-powered space heaters for additional heating, especially when compared to the insulation qualities of traditional greenhouse walls.
Select the Right Plants
Plant selection is also crucial, as choosing the wrong plants will lead to unnecessary losses due to certain varieties not being able to withstand winter weather conditions. Winter friendly vegetables include kale, brussel sprouts, spinach, mustard greens, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, carrots, rutabagas, radishes, turnips, beets, and cabbage. Keep in mind that there aren’t many fruit varieties that are winter garden friendly, but if you’re using a Walipini as recommended in tip #1 then you should be able to get by with cold weather cultivars of blueberries, grapes, peaches, apples, and strawberries, depending on how cold your winters get.
Manage Soil pH Level
Test the pH level of your soil and make sure it’s between 6.3 and 6.9 in your winter garden. If the soil pH is 7.0 or higher, then that means it’s too alkaline, whereas a pH below 6.3 indicates excessively acidic soil conditions. If the soil is too alkaline (high pH) you can amend it with elemental sulphur or sphagnum peat moss, or if it is too acidic (low pH) then you can amend it with lime.
Establish Plants in the Fall
Instead of throwing small seedlings and juvenile plants out into the cold of winter and expecting them to thrive, why not start them indoors or in a greenhouse during the Fall instead?
Use Plenty of Mulch
Finally, mulch helps the soil and root systems retain warmth and should therefore be used generously in any winter garden.
Preparing Ahead of Time is Key
Some of the tips mentioned above will require a bit of planning and researching, so it’s a good idea to start getting your winter garden in order during late Autumn when the temperatures are bit friendlier. By starting the winter season with a solid strategy and an ideal environment and nutrition for your plants, you’ll be in the best position to pull an impressive harvest that you’ll be proud to show off.