Unlike our cousins the hibernators, we humans need food all year long. This is one of the reasons why winter gardening is so important. In an economic sense, winter gardening is important because it helps people to lower the cost of their food supply. On a healthy note, winter gardening is important because it allows people to have complete control over the environment in which their food is grown. Also, winter gardens produce some of the most vitamin rich foods available. Both aspects help us live a healthier lifestyle. On an environmental note, winter gardening reduces the carbon usage by eliminating the transportation factor of produce that would otherwise be purchased at a supermarket.
Winter gardening and Fall gardening are an extension of the same concept. Gardens are successive in that they carry over from one season to the next. With a little planning, gardeners can either extend their growing season or enjoy the benefits of gardening all year long.
Garden design and function
Gardens can be grown just about anywhere. Some gardeners grow their gardens directly in the ground. Others gardeners use containers to grow smaller gardens in smaller spaces. Many gardeners use a raised bed garden which is a combination of in-ground gardening and container gardening. For truly organic type gardening using a container or a raised bed may be necessary. I grow my garden in all three formats. I use containers in smaller spaced to keep certain types of plants off of the ground. I also like containers for herbs, and flowers. I use raised beds in places where I have not yet amended the soil to my satisfaction, and I use raised beds if I think there may be contaminants in soil. I grow most of my garden directly in the ground. I had the soil tested for heavy metals and toxins, to make sure growing food in the ground was going to be healthy.
Choosing the garden design is a personal choice that is sometimes impacted by function or location. Raised beds and container gardens are fairly to construct. I have built raised beds, and If I can build a raised bed, so can you. I would recommend that before you decide about which type of garden design to use that you give yourself a little time to think about what you will grow and how you will utilize your garden.
Fall and winter gardens are wonderful but only if you use what you grow. A gardens function is basically about how you will utilize the growing space. Make a list of vegetables you buy at the grocery store or farmers market and then compare this list to the space you have available. Sometimes it is cheaper and easier to buy certain vegetables at the farmers market. Potatoes are sometimes a good example of foods that are best purchased. Though there is great fun in both growing and harvesting potatoes, they take up a lot of the room in a small garden and are fairly cheap to buy.
- Understand your gardens function/what are the goals of your garden.
- Choose your plants/plan your garden.
- Choose your garden design/in ground-container-raised bed.
- Dig in nutrients such as compost and manure.
Amending the soil based on your garden style
Soil: Soil is extremely important to gardening. Good soil makes gardening easier, and poor soil will cause gardeners to utter swear words like a sailor who just missed his boat. For new gardeners, take the time NOW to set up your soil. Gardeners will thank yourself a million times for their great success in gardening if they amend the soil before they start. Below are some tips and advice on how to amend soil for different garden designs.
In-Ground-Gardening is fairly easy and straight forward. I usually just dig in several bags of steer manure and a bag of peat moss or other humus type organic matter. The goal here is to build a rich and crumbly soil that holds together when wet, but does not become a brick when it is dry.
Soil used in a container garden is a little bit different than soil that we use in raised beds or in-ground gardens. This soil needs to be just a little more sandy, but not much more. Soil used in containers should hold water through absorption but not form a brick either.
Recipe for container garden soil
- 50% top soil.
- 25% compost.
- 15% potting Soil.
- 10% vermiculite.
In colder climates replace potting soil with an additional layer of compost on the bottom of the container. This will provide some warmth for the plant’s roots during the colder part of winter.
Raised Bed Gardening: Soil for raised beds is a combination of container soil and in-ground garden soil. A good recipe is Top soil (50%) Compost(35%) and Vermiculite/Perlite (15%). The soil for raised bed gardening can dry out quickly in the summer, and not drain well enough in the winter. TIP: To solve these problems, we add in vermiculite as an agent of absorption and perlite for added drainage.
Planting Seeds rather than Seedlings
There are benefits to choosing either seeds or seedlings. Seeds are extremely economical and can be harvested and saved for the next year’s garden. Seedlings give the gardener a head start and make crop harvest come just a little bit sooner, but they cost money and that lowers the cost savings of growing your own food. I happen to use both. New gardens should start with seedlings and then progress to growing seeds. Seeds need to be kept moist, and if they dry out just once they will not sprout into plant. Some seeds are easier to grow then are others, but as gardeners get use to gardening the option for either will become easier.
Gardeners who plan ahead can have seeds planted and seedlings ready when the gardener needs them. This is primarily what I do. I plan ahead by planting seeds 4-8 weeks before I will use the seedlings. By planning, I have maximized the amount growing time from seed to harvest. For example, a row of lettuce that is harvestable by November then In the first part of September I will start broccoli seeds. This allows my lettuce crop to mature and be harvested at the same time it gives the broccoli a one month jump on growing. If the gardener waited until the lettuce was harvested and then planted the broccoli seed, they would be one month behind the time it would take to harvest the broccoli.
As gardeners plan their garden, they will come across a few types of plants that are harvestable all year long. Onions are once such plant. To keep the garden producing onions all year long plant onion sets or start seeds every three weeks. Because non-commercial gardeners do not want 80 onions to be ready for harvest at the same time, gardeners can spread the planting out over the whole year. This allows the gardener to have five or six onions ready for harvest each week. This also allows the gardener to utilize their garden space more efficiently. As gardeners harvest they should replant, in doing so, they will have onions all year long. This is the basic form of successive gardening. This works well with Carrots, beets, broccoli, cabbage, kale and salad gardens.
Successive gardening extends the growing season for many areas and works well for people who garden in the high-altitude garden situations. Using successful gardening techniques can help gardeners to maximize the production of their gardens. The more gardeners grow the more they save, and the better it is for their families health, and the environment. These are not always easy methods for beginner gardeners to grasp and pull off, but they should still try. Even if they fail completely, the next time they garden they will grow from this experience.
Gardens are easy to grow, if gardeners remember that a gardener’s job is to encourage the plants the gardener want to grow and discourage the plants that the gardener does not want to grow.
TIP: water in the evening where the weather is HOT in the daytime. Water in the morning, where the weather is cool in the day time. I water by soaking the ground and not by spraying the plants. Water that sits on the leaves will burn the plant in hot weather and cause mold and mildew type pest problems in cooler weather. A small trench along your rows will easily fill with water. Deep watering less often is best for all plants because it allows the root structure to grow deeper looking for water. Avoid watering every day unless watering seedlings transplants.
Gardening is not difficult. It requires a little bit of planning, some work, and the determination to be successful. Gardeners work because they enjoy gardening.
To be a successful gardener, plan out your garden by deciding which type of plants to grow. Consider growing some flowers. Flowers work to attract the pollinating bees and insects and those in turn help your garden to grow.
Decide what type of garden structure in which to grow the garden. Containers make great gardens for small spaces. Raised beds and in-ground gardens are also beneficial venues for growing your garden. Choose based on the needs of your plants. Remember that plants need light and that most plants love sunlight.
Prepare and build your ideal soil and match it to your ideal garden container/bed or plot. Utilize the objects around the garden to save money and recycle. Milk cartons, cut in half vertically make great beds to start seedlings. I find old terracotta pots at garage sales all the time. These make great container gardens. Old fence board (non-pressure treated) work well for building raised bed gardens. Home Depot has redwood fence boards for about $3 each. for under $20, gardeners can build your own raised bed. Look at the pictures throughout this hub for examples of how to build a raised bed. You can do this!
How to find your USDA garden zone