Winter Gardening: Growing Vegetables

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The climate you live in dictates how you can grow edibles in the winter. In warm areas, vegetables and fruits can happily grow as part of the usual landscape design. You can integrate them in flower beds or keep them in their own vegetable garden.  In locales where late autumn brings in hard freezes, outdoor growing pretty much comes to a halt until springtime. But that only means you need to adapt your edible gardening to a more sheltered environment.

I live in a warm-winter area so I can continue with edible landscaping year round. Cool-weather vegetables like brassicas–cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, and Chinese cabbage–peas, chard, fava beans, lettuce, carrots, beets, onions and radish thrive in my winter garden and shun the heat of the summer.

Where temperatures grow too cold for outdoor gardening, even a small, inexpensive greenhouse will extend the growing season. A heated greenhouse will allow cultivation all winter long. With short daylight hours, some supplemental lighting will help plants thrive in the greenhouse. Place your greenhouse where it will get the maximum amount of sun.

If it’s too cold to play in your garden and you want to keep your indoor growing simple, cultivate some herbs on your window sill. Most herbs stay small and will grow in a sunny window all winter. Other edible plants that may do well with at least a half day of sunshine are potted dwarf citrus trees, radishes, dwarf carrots and some types of peppers. In the brightest indoor exposures, try some of the patio or hanging basket varieties of tomato.  Avoid cold drafts and blowing air from heating vents. Adding a grow light will increase your chance of success.

There have been huge advances made in indoor cultivation kits, making it possible to grow vegetables exclusively with artificial lighting. Hydroponics (growing in water rather than soil) have benefitted from new types of containers and supplemental lights, too. Setting up indoor growing systems can be pricey, but the results have been impressive.

When growing your edibles in windows and glass doorways, dress up your presentation. Add colorful pots or set plants on ornamental stones, upside-down baskets or other decorative displays to create a miniature indoor landscape.

Choose the best winter-growing option for your climate, budget and lifestyle. Growing vegetables in the winter can be a fun and rewarding project.

Photo credit: Jane Gates

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