Why I Just Can’t Let Go of my Vegetable Garden
For me, gardening feeds my soul. Of course it’s fun if it feeds my belly too, but getting my hands in the dirt, daily watering and fertilizing make up one of the pleasures in life that make my heart sing. So why should I give this up during fall and winter, a time when, frankly, my soul needs all the calories it can get?
Luckily, I don’t have to stop gardening during the winter, and neither do you. This year I am going to brave the winter vegetable garden, something I’ve never tried before. Living in Northern California in a USDA hardiness zone 9 gives me a slight advantage over half of the country. But with careful preparation, even home gardeners in New England and the frosty Midwest can enjoy fresh home grown veggies throughout the winter months. All you need are careful planning, thoughtful selection and the right tools.
First, Get Real about Sunlight – Even these cool weather winter veggies need at least 3-6 hours of sunlight per day. When planning your winter veggie plot, take into consideration the change in sun angle during the winter as well. Got 4 hours of sunlight? Try Chard, Lettuce or Spinach. 6+ hours of sun? Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kale and Brussels Sprouts are your winter buddies.
Second, Cover Cover, Cover – Gardens in every zone can benefit from some protection from harsh temperatures. Greenhouses and cold frames, which are simple to make at home from wood and plastic, keep the temperatures elevated to protect your plants.
Late to the Starting Gate? Never fear, you can grow several herbs indoors successfully. Just make sure to put them in a window that gets 6 hours of sunlight each day, and don’t over water. Better Homes and Gardens suggests Chives, Mint, Rosemary, Oregano and Thyme as good indoor herb candidates (sorry basil-lovers, that heavenly herb really is a summer treat).
And, as surely you can imagine, there are dozens of resources all over the web that are region specific. Start by looking up your plant hardiness zone by zip code at the USDA’s website.