How to Extend Your Garden Season Throughout Winter

While I am thankful to live in Georgia where winter comes late in the year and the minimum average temperature still is reasonable, there are many that don't have that luxury. Getting a longer growing season can be possible with just a few adjustments. In addition, it is a nice way to have your garden plot pulling double duty, with a spring bloom and a winter crop as well. Following these easy steps can have your garden working overtime for you. Tips will be included for both food crop gardens and flower gardens.
  • Mark the Calendar - Whenever you go to plant your winter garden, keep in mind when your city's first hard frost is. You will need to pick plants and vegetables that reach their maturity date before this frost date. For example, for areas that have an October first freeze, crops that take 90 days to mature like the globe onion will need to be planted by July 15. With a 60 day maturity, turnips need to be in the ground by August 15.
  • Make a Windbreak - According to Ed Hume Seeds, windbreaks can add 10 to 15 degrees F of heat to your garden. One way to do this is by cloches. They are portable greenhouses, using items like glass panes or plastic to keep the heat in.
  • Mulch - The benefits of mulching your crop or garden are immeasurable. Mulching can insulate the plants and help the growth of the plant by masking weeds. If you live in an area like I do where the majority of the rain comes in the coldest part of the year, mulch will help keep your soil loss from erosion at a minimum. Mulches that will break down in the garden and help the soil include sawdust, bark, peat moss, and shredded newspaper.
  • Rotate, Rotate, Rotate - Make sure that all your winter crops are not planted in the same spots as they were the year before. This keeps the nutrients from being continually drained on the site. It also keeps disease and insects down.
  • Garden Journal - Keep track of what plants you tried and where you tried them. That way you know the following year, what worked and what didn't.
The winter season does not have to be time spent looking out the window, you can get out there and garden still. You can be working on improving the soil and location for the spring season, or be working on fine vegetable garden to feed your family through the cold months.