Winter Gardening


Over the past couple of days we were hit with a big snowstorm.  I think we got about a foot or so of snow, strong winds and single digit temps.    Today was sunny and 15 degrees so it was a great day to make a video today of some of the things I have going on in the way of winter gardening:

Last year I built an insulated cold frame in a woodworking class with an old window.  I used it to start some seeds in the late winter, which worked out pretty well.  It’s keeping some arugula, beets and spinach alive right now but I think it doesn’t get as much sunlight as it should for a few reasons.   Either way, it’s working


Petco had a sale on aquariums earlier in the year so I picked up a 40 gallon one for as many dollars.   Honestly, you can probably find used aquariums on Craigslist or whatever for dirt cheap but I figured the price wasn’t too bad and if I did decide to do an aquaponics system, I could use it for that during the other three seasons.    I like the idea of using an upside down aquarium for a greenhouse because it’s really simple AND effective.


Close up of arugula and spinach under the aquarium

The greenhouse I’m using is this one:

So far I’m into it.   It’s a little over $200 (Amazon’s free shipping really feels like a deal on this one), 8′ x 6′ and 7′ high.  It was easy to put up and it held up just fine with the heavy snow on it and the winds blowing.   I bought the stakes and put a couple of them in.    I need to put a thermometer in there, but it definitely feels a lot warmer in there than it does outside.   I have 4′ x 8′ garden beds and it fits comfortably over one of them, with enough room to move around on one side.  You can enter from the front or the back, so it’s easy to get around.

I’ve got snow peas, pac choi, turnips, beets, carrots, spinach, lettuce and radishes as well as some random dill, cilantro, onions and some kind of brassicas.

I go out and check on the plants just about every day, but I think I could get away with letting them go for a week or so between visits.   They don’t need much water because the covering keeps a lot of the moisture in.   The greenhouse is very humid and the aquarium always has condensation.

We’ve had some warm days this winter and some cold ones that probably would’ve killed these plants if they weren’t protected, but from what I read solar exposure is the key factor for winter growing over warm temps.   My plants are growing slower than they would in the spring, but that’s because the days are so short.

I read this book a month or so ago, which gave me some good insight on winter growing as well as some interesting history about market gardening and great photos:

I think it’s geared towards commercial growers over backyard growers, but there’s still a lot of good info in this one.

I’ve been using what I’m growing very sparingly, just because it’s not growing very fast.   I’ll have a small salad every now and then or a few leaves of kale with a stir-fry.  Oh yeah, I’m still using kale and collards from the garden, but that will be gone in a matter of days.   The arugula tastes really good right now, the weather makes it a bit milder.   The stuff that we had growing through the summer tasted like gunpowder.

Leafy things are doing better than roots.   I thought my radishes would do better, but they aren’t.    The spinach looks great and I’ll probably start eating it next week.   There’s quite a bit of it too, so if the sunlight picks up I might be able to make it until spring.

It will probably get consistently colder from here on out, but since today was the winter solstice we’ll get a little more daylight each day.   My original goal was to at least make it to the new year, but it looks like that shouldn’t be a problem.   Maybe I’ll check back in later in January.

So that’s what I have going on right now.    It’s nice to have something to tend to during the winter and to be able to go out and see that vibrant green in the middle of the snow.   EAD, Jack Frost.