Winter is Coming

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Now is the time to start preparing your fall/winter garden

By Melinda O’Briant, Adult Education Manager

HBO’s “Game of Thrones” kicked off its seventh season this week, which in turn kicked off yet another round of “winter is coming” references.

While July may have you singing the songs of fire, not ice (that’s it, no more Game of Thrones jokes), it’s time to start planning and preparing for your fall and winter garden now.

To the uninitiated, growing in the cold, dark days of late and fall and winter sounds like a task best left to the pros, who have access to greenhouses and high tunnels. But with enough planning and a few tricks, a home garden of any size can be planted for a successful yield through even the worst parts of winter. The slower pace and lack of weed, pest and disease pressure make the coldest parts of the year ideal for even novice growers.

What can you grow in your fall and winter garden?

Carrots                        Garlic                          Leeks               Mache

Spinach                       Chard                           Parsnips          Claytonia

Lettuce                        Cabbage                      Kale                 Arugula

While cucumber beetles and powdery mildew can’t survive the cold, you will have a few more natural enemies. Chickweed loves the cool, dry air of winter and will find its way into your growing space. Low temperatures can be worked around using buffers such as cold frames, low tunnels and mulch.  These buffers also help prevent desiccation (dryness), which is an often overlooked enemy. Lack of sunlight is a hindrance that requires proper lead-time for planting and patience when the darker days set in.

Growth is very slow in the winter, so make sure you’ve planted lots of everything you want to eat. Once a plant reaches maturity, you can take your time harvesting it as long as it’s properly protected from the elements (don’t let your veggies “cook” inside cold frames and low tunnels—make sure they are allowed to breathe and cool off.). Once the daylight drops below 10 hours a day, plant growth will almost completely stop, so make sure you time your plants to reach maturity before the “Persephone Days” begin (around November 24 here in Ohio).

Still have questions? I will be teaching a class called Start Your Winter Garden Now at Turner Farm on August 16.

Also check out:

The outstanding winter-growing website Mother of a Hubbard

Plan the timing of your seeding with this hardiness zone map

Eliot Coleman’s “Winter Harvest Handbook”

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