Can’t contain the itchiness of your green thumb to grow new life in your garden? The dreary winter chill often makes some gardeners much-needed respite from all the groundwork and tending of plants, fruit-bearing trees, and flowery blooms. To prolific green thumbs, however, winter is a season to get creative in your garden. When thinking of satisfying your mood to enjoy the wintry fresh air, these winter gardening tips can be of help.
1. Plant winter-savvy produce in your vegetable garden. Broad beans, broccoli, cabbage, beetroot, garlic, kale, onions, peas, silverbeet, spinach, mizuna, celery, coriander, peas, carrots, and even potatoes can be grown during this time of the year.
Let’s take a closer look at the best vegetables you can grow in winter.
No winter garden is complete without kale. As the temperature starts dropping in late autumn, the flavor of this hardy plant kale, improves. Kale can be grown in two ways – as a mature plant to be used in soups, or for sautés and chips and as a baby green plant for use in winter salads.
Winterbor , which is one of the most winter hardy Kale grows to a beautiful and delicious plant that grows uoto three feet tall with deep curled blue-green leaves.
You can also growing ‘Red Russian’ Kale, which is a classic variety with purple stems and gray-green leaves which is best variety for Kale chips.
Lettuce is one of the best vegetables to grow in winter. Choose to plant hardy varities of lettuce like ‘Winter Density’, ‘Red Salad Bowl’, and ‘Winter Marvel’. You can also try planting Salanova® lettuce varieties.
These are baby-sized lettuces which form a dense rosettes of green, red, or burgundy leaves. They’re amazingly tasty, and thrive pretty well even in unheated winter polytunnel.
Like kale, leeks, and many other winter crops, the flavor of carrots improves after a few frosts in late autumn as they become sweeter to taste. It is best to sow seed for your winter carrot crop in middle of summer, and deep mulch the bed during November with shredded leaves or straw.
This will insulates the layer which should be further topped with a cover or bed sheet to hold all in place. When you want to harvest the carrots, just pull back the fabric and mulch and dig as many sweet roots you need. Best variety of winter carrots are ‘Napoli’, ‘Mokum’, or ‘Bolero’.
Scallions are the cold season superstar plant. They are extremely hardy and produces long green tops with tender white stalks.
It’s a good strategy to directly sow the scallion seeds in September, and you are likely to get the first harvest by mid-November. With proper protection you can harvest scallions throughout winter .
Spinach thrives well in the cool, shorter days of autumn and then in winter. You can sow the seed in polytunnel during late September, and even in open garden beds if winter is not very harsh in your region.
Howeve, these beds should be later covered with polyethylene topped mini hoop tunnels when winter sets in at end of autumn. ’Giant Winter’, is a great variety to breed for winter harvest.
Other winster spinach varities you can try are ‘ ‘Melody’, or ‘Winter Bloomsdale’
Root crops, however, must be carefully sown on garden beds to prevent lumping of soil. Do remember to stock up on slug and snail control like the Monterey 704601 Sluggo Snail and Slug Pest Control. These pests can easily munch on your vegetable seedlings.
2. Don’t let frosts wreak havoc to your crops.
To protect plant during winter you have several options like – warming the soil, wrapping a shrub, blocking the wind and so on. Here are some ideas you can choose from to keep your plants happy in the cold, winter months:
Place them in portable containers. With this, you can easily move them around to allow catching midday sunshine.
Have a cloche or growing tunnel like the Agfabric Heavy Floating Row Cover and Plant Blanket below. Aside from frost, this row cover is great for snow and hail as well as protection from insects and birds during the growing season.
Agfabric Heavy Floating Row Cover and Plant Blanket
Burlap Potato Sacks 22 Sandbaggy
Burlap bags are great for potted plants cover in winter if the sack is padded with some staw or leaves as a buffer against the cold winter winds.
You can use black growers cloth or get a black sunlight absorbing cover like this one here to keep the soil warm.
Use fleece jackets like above which can protect plants from the cold frosts. Use double for better protection.
Hoop houses like above are of course another great way to protec plants from winter harshness.
3. Add around 5cm layer of mulch around your plants, when you’re trying to grow seeds. This green mulch from Jonathan Green helps to provide a protective barrier for your plants from the dreary cold spell. It helps to trap moisture and bring in more nitrogen into the soil.
Jonathan Green Green-Mulch Seed Establishment Mulch
Those mulches which have somewhat coarse texture are best for winter as they provide an insulating blanket of protection while still allowing sufficient air and water to flow through. For example, straw or hay along with pine or evergreen boughs and other fibrous organic mulches can protect plants in winter and insulate the soil without forming a compact under weight of snow or ice.
Here are some other great mulches for winter:
Bark chips: These are durable, slow to decompose mulching option that are generally available chipped or shredded. However, i is best to avoid using chips or shredded bark from bark woods that has been pressure-treated.
Shells of Nuts like walnut, pecan: The sharp edges of these nut shells prohibit the activity of slug and snails. These are slow to decompose but availability is somewhat limited.
Pine needles: These works best as a winter mulch for ornamental beds and shrubs, and are excellent option for small fruit plants. They retain moisture, are lightweight and durable. Pine needles decomposes slowly and have an intoxicating frgnance that keeps many insects and bugs away.
Branches of Evergreen Trees: Since they are lightweight and are easily portable it is an ideal insulator for mulching tender shrubs. They can also insulate the tender shrubs without balking down under the weight of snow. If you opt for this option of muclhing for winter, remember to remove the branches in early spring.
Shredded leaves: Shredded leaves provides a good winter cover but they are quick to decompose. They are best for mulching ornamental and vegetable beds. Shredding the leaves before applying them will prevent matting and so will keep mulch in place.
4. Consider feeding plant tonic to your garden produce at least once a month in the winter. Tonics like the Grow More 7436 Jump Start Plant Tonic contain compounds, micronutrients, and vitamins to stimulate faster growth and a strong root system. Like vitamins to the human immune system, these plant tonics allow plants to cope with extreme temperature and strengthen cell walls making them resistant to pests and certain diseases.
Grow More 7436 Jump Start Plant Tonic
This particular tonic works amazingly well as it contains a naturally occuring source of Triacontanol from Alfalfa meal. By the way, triacontanol is a chemical found in beeswax that has a great effect on plants as it helps in better photosynthesis & increases budding & flowering sites.
Use drops of this per gallon of feed and you will see visible result in weeks if not in few days.
5. Winter is the best time to plant deciduous fruit trees such as apples, apricot, peaches, plum, persimmon, nectarine, and so on. This is also the best time to harvest kiwi fruit, mandarins, oranges, lemons, and grapefruit. Strawberries are great to start during winter, too. The idea is to plant with a specially concocted garden mix like the Miracle-Gro Expand ‘N Gro Concentrated Planting Mix to hasten growth and provide added protective barrier from extreme weather conditions. For grown trees and shrubs, make sure to apply layers of mulch around them.
Miracle-Gro Expand ‘N Gro Concentrated Planting Mix
6. When snow and ice crop up on trees and plants, just gently brush them off. Don’t shake as branches can easily break with the frost and cold. When it’s frozen, allow it to melt naturally to prevent damage.
7. Don’t let your flower beds go to waste in the winter. Plant winter-proof blooms like pansies, snapdragon, nemesia, poppies, and viola. New season roses, camellias, gerberas, azaleas, and orchids are also great during wintertime. Pruning those perennials will also be best at this time of the year. Don’t forget to lay a layer of 6 to 8 inches of wood chips or straw over perennial and flower beds.
Do make sure to shelter those beds with a row cover and apply insect control like the one below from Bayer Advanced Rose & Flower Care, and the likes. It is not only an excellent fertilizer but also helps prevent Black Spot and insect damage as well.
8. A few weeks before winter is the best time to check fences, gates, shades and other structures in your garden. Repairs must be done ahead of the snow and hail to keep your plants protected. Getting rid of weeds, leaves, and moss must also be done at least a week prior to an incoming winter spell. Aside from garden structures, giving sheds, greenhouses and garden tools a good scrub and de-cluttering also work best prior to the onset of the cold and the wet.
Dig up all invasive weeds and put them the trash or burn them on burn piles. Most invasive weeds remain viable in a compost heap or weed pile, so do not give in to the urge of simply shifting them to another part of your garden. Burning them or removing these invasive plants completely is the only way you can prevent these plants from sprouting all over again and disrupting your next year’s crop.
9. Winter is the best time to start a compost bin. You can visit a local garden center to ask for wooden pallets and start one on your own. Or you may purchase a Yimby Tumbler Composter, fill it up with leaves and other disposed cuttings. With this handy tool you can avoid digging and mixing your compost pile by hand. It’s tumbling design makes the mixing process easy and efficient. Once you have put everything in, just close the door and turn it 5-6 times every 2-3 days. In case you have few hours of sunny conditions this machine the job can be finished within as little time as two weeks.
If you already have a bin, giving it a good long stir is only fitting.
Yimby Tumbler Composter
10. Don’t forget to water your evergreens. The frozen ground should not be an excuse to keep that watering can sitting in a shed. Evergreens keep those needles even in wintertime and can lose water that way. Water on a weekly basis and not daily though. A good rule of thumb to follow to understand whether your evergreen needs watering in winter is as follows: Check if the ground is frozen or not. If it is not frozen and your area has not got any precipitation for a week, surely water your evergreens. Give them a slow trickle from your garden hose during mid day when the temperature is on the higher side. And of course, remember to unhook the hose and drain it afterwards so that nothing freezes in it and breaks when the temps drop again!
These winter gardening tips are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to satisfying your green thumb. The main contention during the winter season is to protect plants from pests and the cold. If you take these steps now, it will not only help your spring and summer garden run more smoothly, they will also help to improve your yields over the long term.