Garden Forever

Winter Growing Abilities: Winter Gardening

A winter garden provides many benefits and is a great addition to every home. Many believe that gardening must cease once the first frost hits, but that simply is not true. There are several ways that gardeners can enjoy the wonders of gardening year round including the use of solar greenhouses, growing plants indoors with containers, and planting crops that do well in outside, cool temperatures. Gardeners may take additional steps to protect outdoor plants and crops from frost. Due to the variety of ways in which winter gardening may be accomplished, everyone can continue growing plants, vegetables, herbs, and fruit during the winter months. A variety of plants may be grown during winter and gardeners that take advantage of these opportunities enjoy many benefits. 

Benefits of Having a Winter Garden

There are several benefits to having a winter garden and these are health and emotional related as well as economical. Winter gardening is cost effective as those who grow their own herbs and vegetables can save on grocery store prices. During the winter months, most stores and fruit stands tend to increase the prices on herbs, fruits, and vegetables. You can stave off these prices by growing your own produce.

Another benefit to winter gardening is the added exercise. As most people tend to stay indoors longer in winter than they do during summer seasons, winter gardening is a good excuse to get outside and be active. Additional benefits have to do with the produce. Those who harvest healthy fruits and vegetables during the winter months are often eating more greens than those purchasing them at stores. The access to nutrient rich vegetables during the winter months can help ward off sickness, improve the immune system, and keep the body running at optimum level.

Winter gardening also provides emotional benefits. Winter gardening can add beauty and fragrance to the season. For many, the beauty of spring and summer consists of the abundance of flowers in bloom. When neighborhoods are blanketed by white snow and days are darkened, there is an increase for depression in some people. Adding flowers to the environment is pleasing to the senses and can help lift a dreary mood. Those with flowers in bloom in their winter gardens may choose to cut flowers and bring them inside or give them to others as gifts in what is truly an appreciated gesture. There is no questioning that the benefits of winter gardening are vast.


Plants for a Winter Garden

There are several factors to consider when choosing plants for a winter garden. As winter varies from one region to the next, what might be suitable for one person to grow in winter may not be a good choice for another. You may need to use a bit of science in order to determine which plants work best in your winter garden and this will depend upon the conditions you have established. Those growing winter plants in an indoor, solar powered or otherwise heated greenhouse are at liberty to grow anything they normally would plant. The same is true of those who bring their winter gardens indoors. With the use of indoor containers, you can virtually grow any plant indoors year round.

Some indigenous plants may do well in the natural winter environment, without any additional adjustments made. Others may need to implement what are known as season extenders to continue growing plants outdoors. These include covers for raised beds, frames, and items that offer plants protection from frost. Determine what plants are native to your zone and choose plants accordingly. If you use season extenders, such as covered raised beds, monitor the soil temperature to ensure your bed is not too cold for the plants. One advantage to winter gardening is that you will not need to deal with pests as you do during the summer months; however, this too depends upon region. Some plants that do well in winter gardens include ornamental grasses, ferns, herbs, and vegetables.


Flowers and Food for the Winter Garden

The greatest benefit of the winter garden is access to healthy, nutrient rich herbs and vegetables year round. Winter is also a great time to witness the first signs of blossoms as bulbs produce flowers. With indoor greenhouses, you can extend the season of your favorite flowers and enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables year round. Consider growing tomatoes, spinach, kale, carrots, potatoes, parsley, rosemary and more in your winter garden. You can continue growing fruits year round by choosing miniature or dwarf trees that may grow in containers. You may find dwarf trees in all fruit varieties, ensuring that you have plenty of vitamins throughout the cold, winter months.

Herbs may grow superfluously throughout the winter months and those who grow them outside should prepare for harvesting and drying methods. Herbs are full of wonderful minerals and micro-nutrients and are widely used for medicinal purposes. The person who has a greenhouse full of herbs during the winter months is wise and often has the remedy for a number of ailments at their disposal. 


Tips and Advice for Winter Gardening

Those new to gardening may feel a bit intimidated about trying their hand at winter gardening. Beginners may find it is best to start with plants that are native to the area and have a high tolerance for cold weather. Lettuce, peas, and broccoli are several vegetables that prefer cool weather and may be a good choice for beginners. 

An indoor herb garden is a good choice for beginning gardeners. Growing herbs indoors is relatively easy and is a good introduction for the new gardener into things such as climate control, temperature, and proper lighting. 

New gardeners interested in growing vegetables should consider planting carrots and radishes together. These two vegetables thrive alongside each other and help each other grow.

Those experienced with gardening may start with raised beds in which they grow pumpkins and winter squashes. Continue to monitor soils for moisture and stay on the lookout for pests. 

Cauliflower is often considered a difficult vegetable to grow and should be left for the more experienced gardener. In order to successfully grow cauliflower, the gardener will need to ensure the soil has been prepared and is very deep. You must ensure that the soil is thoroughly prepared and that you water regularly or else cauliflower will fail to thrive.

Only experienced gardeners should try their hand at growing artichokes during the winter season. Artichokes do not like cold weather and you will need to continually monitor the temperature to give artichokes their best chance. 

Regardless of whether you are new to gardening or an experienced pro, determine your local zone and choose plants accordingly. Plants that thrive in cold conditions will reward you with the best results for minimal effort.