Many people think that you can only grow food crops in spring, summer and fall. On the contrary, there are many foods that can be grown even in winter. The key is to plant in a cold frame, hot bed or greenhouse. Even if you do not have access to these, you can still successfully grow some crops outdoors in pots, even when there is snow on the ground.
Some crops such as Brussels sprouts and collard greens taste better when exposed to frost. If growing outside in your garden, plant seeds or seedlings in late August to harden them for the coming cold weather.
If you live in a region where there is snowfall, you can grow some crops as long as you plant before snow starts to fall. It is important to properly prepare the soil before planting and provide a protective cover of mulch to keep your plants from damage from the elements.
Prepare your soil in the fall for winter planting by adding a one inch layer of organic fertilizer such as compost or dried manure to the soil and mixing it thoroughly to a depth of about twelve inches. Crops grown for winter harvest generally require less fertilizer than spring and summer crops. This applies whether you use a cold frame or a greenhouse.
Some crops that can be grown in winter include Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, beets, radish, spinach, fava beans, spinach, collard greens, and turnips. You can also grow herbs such as parsley, basil, sage and rosemary in pots indoors on a sunny window sill. Carrots, radishes, onions and lettuce are also easy foods to grow indoors in pots. when growing plants in pots, it is important to use a good potting soil to provide nutrients and adequate drainage.
When growing in pots, be sure to add a small circle of small wire mesh screen or a few pebbles to the bottom of the pot to prevent the soil from draining from the pot during watering. Select pots with a diameter of at least six inches to provide room for root development and good air circulation.
If you grow in a greenhouse or cold frame, open the ventilation windows or door to allow for better air circulation on those warmer winter days. For the cold frame, situate your frame facing south for better sun exposure.
Insect pests are less of a problem when growing in winter in a greenhouse or cold frame. The most common problem is house flies and the occasional aphid. Growing inside or in a greenhouse cold frame essentially eliminates the need for pesticides.
An important advantage of growing inside a greenhouse is that you are better able to control the temperature. Many modern greenhouses are equipped with heaters. If your greenhouse does not have a heater , an inexpensive electric heater with a blower will improve plant growth. The cold frame helps heat the soil by means of the radiant energy generated by sunlight through the glass covering door. Adding a thin layer of straw mulch to the soil after the plants are about three inches tall. This helps preserve moisture and heat in the soil.
The air is often drier in winter. Water your plants adequately, whether growing outside, inside in pots, in a greenhouse or in a cold frame. Food crops need plenty of water, especially during flowering and vegetable setting.
Extend your growing season by planting crops in late fall for winter harvest. Enjoy fresh vegetables and herbs by planting crops outside in the garden, in a greenhouse , in a cold frame or indoors in pots.