Winter Vegetable Gardening

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The onset of winter means the end of the growing seasons for most gardeners -- planning for spring and pining for warmer weather -- but an increasing number of gardeners are using inexpensive, innovative methods to extend the growing season, allowing them to harvest through the coldest months of the year.

What You Need to Know
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Plants stop growing when there are fewer than 10 hours of daylight available. The key to winter gardening? Know what to plant at what time of year.

Vegetables and herbs that can survive over the winter (overwinter) for early spring harvest include garlic, leeks, thyme, sage, carrots, spinach, and kale. Plants like broccoli, cabbage, beets, and arugula are suited for late-fall and winter harvest.

Fabric row covers, cold frames, and bottomless boxes with clear tops are just some of the tools used to protect plants and to extend the growing and harvesting season.

Another option is to install a hoop house or mini tunnel and to cover the structure with plastic sheeting. This allows light to reach the plants while protecting them from frost, snow, and wind.

In the Pacific northwest coastal region, where we are, the climate conditions can mean an even easier time gardening through the winter.

Tips to keep your garden going through winter

Add protection: Make sure your vegetables are protected from the cold.

Change the climate: Winter crops thrive inside an old-fashioned cold frame, which is essentially a bottomless box with a glass top that you can build yourself or purchase ready-made.

Double up: As temperatures drop, or if your area is particularly chilly, you can add a greenhouse to your cold frame.

Sow now, reap later: Vancouver tends to have a moderate climate, but for other areas, winter crops should be sown by mid-October at the latest.

Keep plants young: Younger plants are much stronger than older ones in cold growing conditions. Keep greens young by trimming the outer leaves and harvest in the middle of the day, when plants have defrosted.

Move indoors: Sprouts and herbs will do fine on a sunny windowsill, but most houses are too warm to grow other crops in natural light. When it is cold, plants tend to grow slowly. Fluorescent grow lights are a good option to ensure that your plants are getting enough light.

Make sure that plants are not sheltered in more than two layers of protection -- this cuts out too much light and can affect plant growth.

With preparation, you can continue growing through many chilly months. Planting winter vegetables right after the summer harvest -- and some hardier crops until September end -- will ensure that there are vegetables around when winter hits.

"Last chance! 8 veggies to sow now", BC Living

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