For many of us, the words “winter” and “gardening” don’t really go together. Folks in the southern United States can grow things year-round; the rest of us, however, spend our winter poring over seed catalogs and anxiously waiting for spring while staring out the window at yet another foot of snow.
Winter gardening, however, can be a thing regardless of where you live or how much snow you have. It just requires a bit more preparation and a few extra supplies. Here are some ideas for a winter garden that can help sustain you in cold weather.
Perhaps one of the most obvious answers to snow outside is planting inside. If you have a few critical supplies, you can grow anything from your garden inside your home — yes, even those big, fat tomatoes of which you’re so fond. It’s basically container gardening in your home, and with a little work you can have all sorts of veggies and even herbs.
In order to pull this off, you’ll need the following:
- Pots big enough to handle the plant you’re growing. You might chuckle at that, but you’d be surprised at how many people try to grow tomatoes or large vine-type plants in pots meant for kitchen herbs.
- A sunny place in your house — or a few grow lights. You can get pretty deep into grow light types, but to get started you really just need some basic lights that will provide the “sunshine” your plants need. Make sure they’re actual plant lights; don’t just pick up fluorescent lights on sale at Home Depot.
- Good soil. To get the best results, mix your own, but you can also buy excellent formulas that will give your plants a great start.
Speaking of chamomile, let’s talk medicinal herbs. While you certainly don’t want to replace modern medicine, it’s a great idea to have some herbs on hand for minor things or even preventive care. They can be grown in small pots in your kitchen, harvested and processed right there, and stored in a cool, dark place like a cabinet.
Peppermint is our go-to for upset stomach, and chamomile is a great calming herb (and can be used to mask the bitterness of other plants in teas). We also keep a toothache plant; the “flowers” have antiviral, antibiotic, and antifungal properties that can help calm a toothache or abscess, buying you time until you can get to a dentist.
Don’t just go out and buy a bunch of seeds; think about what you and your family might need. You might want to look into plants like echinacea or eucalyptus to help with winter colds. If you have gastrointestinal issues, look at ginger. Trouble sleeping? Try valerian. Alternatively, go all out and set up a whole garden of herbal remedies to handle all sorts of issues. Again, make sure you have lighting to get your plants through the winter.
Winter Gardening Outdoors
If you really want to go all out and are willing to put the time (and money) in, you could even try gardening outside in a greenhouse. You can build them for very little money, and even heat them with compost or other permaculture methods.
If you choose this route, you may want to start with hardy varieties that don’t like hot weather. That means maybe more greens or carrots, and less hot peppers and tomatoes. That way, your plants are a bit more forgiving while you’re getting your heating system optimized for your situation.
If you don’t live in a winter wonderland six months out of the year, you might be able to just use cold frames. They can extend the growing season several months past its typical end or get you started in the spring a lot earlier.
While these cold frames are available in the UK and are probably not something you’d want to ship to the United States, looking at the photos can give you some idea of a.) what you need and b.) how you might be able to build them yourself.
If you’d rather just buy one here in the United States, Gardener’s Supply has a great variety of materials and sizes that you can get delivered to your door.
There’s no reason why you can’t have fresh vegetables or even medicinal and cooking herbs year-round, no matter what kind of climate you live in.
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