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By Pamela Cooke

Winter Gardening Do's and Don'ts

Winter Gardening Do's and Don'ts

In today's age of living in concrete jungles, gardening is the surest way of enjoying fresh, organic produce and getting some contact with nature. Moreover, innumerable surveys have established the therapeutic attributes of gardening and the joy and satisfaction many derive from it. Sadly, most people find it a challenge to keep their gardens thriving and productive in the winter. This pause in productivity should not be the case as long as the right strategies are implemented. Below are activities that should be done, and those that should be avoided, to ensure garden productivity throughout the cold months.

The do's

  • One should determine the growing zone so as to choose the most appropriate crop to grow during the cold months. The key lies in going for plants that can withstand zone-specific winter conditions. Cold-hardy crops include varieties of lettuce, spinach, salad greens, bok choi, endive, chicory, arugula, kale, turnips, radish, chard, leeks, collards, scallion, cabbage, beets, brussel sprouts, onions, parsnip, carrots plus many others. As is evident, there is no shortage of nutritious winter-tolerant plant varieties.
  • Get in touch with and form a rapport with the local extension service. Extension officers are experienced, always willing to help, and full of helpful ideas and relevant information.
  • Add a layer of compost that does not exceed 3 inches to provide beneficial organic nutrients to plants.
  • Mulch the garden with hay, wood chips, wood clippings, leaves, or any other organic material to offer a layer of protection to the soil and help mitigate the adverse effects of temperature fluctuations.
  • Follow weather forecasts to know when to expect brutal conditions so as to prepare adequately on how to avail extra protection for the plants. Knock snow off leaves and branches after storms.
  • Raise the garden to facilitate proper drainage. Otherwise, excess water might freeze in the soil causing damage to the roots.
  • Protect plants from frost and winter winds using cloches, cold frames, row covers, or greenhouses. Make sure the plants are well aerated.
  • Comprehensively water the plants once a week since watering needs are diminished during the winter. Also, contact your county extension officer for zone-specific watering details. To be on the safe side, feel the soil frequently and water when you detect dryness.
  • Harvest during the afternoon when temperatures are more tolerable. Once harvested, immediately put produce in a protected environment such as a covered bucket since plants lose the ability to withstand freezing conditions once uprooted.

The don'ts

  • Do not leave protection equipment on the crops when temperatures increase. Excessive warmth affects plants more adversely compared to extreme cold.
  • Do not spray pesticides often since most pests and bugs hibernate during the winter.
  • Do not add fertilizer as it will spur aggressive growth only for the tender shoots to be killed by the harsh weather.

The benefits of gardening are undeniable, and bountiful winter harvests can be a reality with little effort. Furthermore, winter gardening equipment such as cloches and cold frames can be cheaply constructed at home. Coupled with the fact that local extension services are an ever-present source of gardening help, there are plenty of valid reasons to be a winter gardener.

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