DIY Steps for Putting in a Winter Garden This Season
7 Steps to Enjoying a Bountiful Winter Harvest
Finding a way to extend the growing season is something farmers have been perfecting for years, if not generations. Success is all about preparation and choosing the right vegetables to grow during the cold months of the year.
If you want to enjoy fresh-from-the-garden vegetables even in winter, then you’re in luck. Keep in mind that winter gardens require more preparation and even more maintenance than summer gardens because the risk of error is higher in winter. But, do it right and you’ll reap the delicious rewards. Here’s what you’ll need to do to create a hot-bed for a winter garden that produces, no greenhouse needed.
Dig a Trench 18” Deep
Creating a hot-bed starts with digging a trench that’s 18″ deep. The trench can be as lengthy as you want, or you can dig multiple trenches side-by-side. You’re only limited by the size and scope of your winter garden plans.
Fill the trenches with fresh manure from chickens, pigs, or horses. Fresh manure from these three animals heats the hot-bed the best. Avoid using manure from other animals or finished composted manure. Over the winter, the fresh manure will gradually break down into compost. Tamp the manure down and then top off the trench with finished compost or standard garden soil.
Choosing and Planting the Seeds
Winter garden vegetables must be able to weather the frost, so your options aren’t as abundant as in summer, but there’s still a good variety to choose from. Common winter vegetables include:
- Bok choy
- Swiss chard
When planting your seeds, leave plenty of room between them to allow for optimum air flow. This’ll help prevent possible fungal problems from developing on the plants.
Apply a Layer of Mulch to the Beds
Applying a layer of mulch will help keep the ground from freezing during the cold months. Use a mix of straw and manure from rabbits, llamas, or goats. The manure will continue to feed the plants as it breaks down. Just be sure to apply the mulch around the seed locations and not on top of them, so they can break through the surface easier.
Water the Seeds Well
Water the seeds well but be careful no to over-water them. The sun is not as intense in the colder months, so the water will stay in the ground longer.
Build the Heat-Sink
The heat-sink is the trick that makes this winter garden work. The black jugs will absorb heat during the day and emit it back to the plants in the evening. All you need to make it is some empty 1-gallon jugs and some black paint.
Paint the jugs flat-black and fill them with water. Leave some space near the top of the jugs to allow the water to expand and contract with the temperatures. Place two jugs on each end of your bed and place an additional jug every three feet over the span of the bed.
Create a Bed Cover
Your bed will need a cover to help retain its heat and protect it from snow. The cover should be at least two-feet high, so your plants have enough room to grow. It should also cover the entire length and width of the bed. Here are some instructions on how to build a hoop house, which works very well for a winter garden. Yours won’t need to be as large as the one mentioned, so adjust your measurements accordingly.
Water and Harvest as Needed
Condensation will naturally form on the inside of the hoop house, so you might not need to water your garden as frequently as you might think. But it will still need water from time to time. Check the soil before watering to make sure it needs water. When you do water the garden, use warm water.
That’s it. All that’s left to do now is to harvest your fresh vegetables when they’re ready to be picked. This winter garden should keep you stocked with fresh produce through January in most places around the country!