For many of us, November signals the end of our vegetable gardening for the year. Frankly, I look forward to this time as it gives me the opportunity to focus on creating new recipes, baking bread, taking naps. Not that I don't take naps in the summer, it's just that I feel less guilty about it.
It really isn't difficult to extend your vegetable harvest to four seasons, particularly if you live in a milder winter climate. And if you live in a place like southern Florida, it is probably a better time to grow edibles. And before you say that gardeners living in the north just can't have edibles all year, let me say that you can. Sure the variety will be less, but many root crops and cole crops can be stored in ground (with the proper covering).
If you want to try growing winter vegetables and you are in a zone that has some form of winter, try thinking about it in terms of extending fall and starting spring early. In order to do that, you need to consider a few things:
- Type and Variety of Vegetables: This means broccoli, kale, cauliflower, carrots, turnips, rutabagas...but it also means choosing varieties of these veggies that are well suited for the cold.
- Warm the Ground: In both seasons, a warmer ground means edibles will last longer and start sooner. Try using mulch, clear plastic, cold frames and row covers to cheat the weather. If you live in a very cold climate, try storing root vegetables in place with a layer of plastic and about a foot of straw mulch on top.
- Container Growing: Grow vegetables in containers that can be brought into the garage or under the eaves to reduce frost.
- Greenhouse Growing: If you have a greenhouse, consider using seedling mats to keep plants warm instead of heating the whole thing. It will cost less and conserve energy. Or consider using a portable greenhouse that can be kept in a protected spot.
- Indoor Vegetable Growing: There are a number of systems available for growing edibles in winter. If you don't like the prepackaged variety, buy a set of shop lights and install full spectrum bulbs. Set aside a space in the house just for the veggies. Keep the light up close, the plants warm and the soil watered.