Your Winter Garden: From Season Extension to Microgreens

Learn how to best continue your garden into the winter months with these winter gardening techniques; from season extension to microgreens.


| Winter 2014-15



forcing bulbs

Spring-flowering bulbs can be brought indoors and "forced" to bloom during colder months.

Photo by Fotolia/Grafvision

Winter is a time of rest in the garden throughout most of the country. It’s a time when gardeners traditionally get comfy near the stove or fireplace, delve into the new season’s seed catalogs, revisit the last season’s triumphs and disasters, and plan for next year.

But sometimes, gardeners miss getting their fingers in the dirt. They miss those summer chores, and they miss watching green things grow. If you’re one of these gardeners, don’t despair—there are ways to garden right through the winter. At the very least, if you have an indoor space where you yourself are comfortable, you have a place where something can be grown; it’s amazing how even a few plants can lessen the winter blahs!

Outdoor Season Extension

Every plant needs suitable conditions in which to grow. Season extension means providing that climate before or after it occurs naturally. Usually this means protecting plants from wind and extreme cold. For any specific crop, you want to keep or create optimal conditions for as long as possible. This could mean extending the growing season further into winter than would be possible naturally; it can also mean warming things up early to get a jump on spring. Either way, the net result is to give you more gardening enjoyment and more great produce from your garden!

The English used heated glass structures to house orange trees and other exotics through the winter. The French used cloches, small bell-shaped glass domes, to keep vegetables warm until the weather was ideal. These days we have other materials that are much lighter and less likely to shatter from impact, though glass is still a viable option.

A wonderful material available today is called floating row cover. Brand names include Remay and Agribon. It comes in different weights for varying degrees of frost protection, the heavier weights offering the most protection, although arguably at a cost in light penetration. Water and air pass freely through this material, so you don’t have to worry about removing it on warm days, or do much watering unless there hasn’t been enough rain. Row covers also protect their inhabitants from drying winds. Sometimes only a few degrees of temperature can make a huge difference. The first time I used this material I was amazed at the rate of growth of the salad greens underneath. The heaviest grade claims protection from 15 degrees of frost. That’s quite a claim, meaning you could keep a frost-free environment when outdoor temps are dropping below 20 degrees. Such performance probably assumes the best possible configuration; I would expect more modest results in the rough-and-tumble of my own garden. Still the value and simplicity of this one single tool cannot be overstated.





elderberry, echinacea, bee hive

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