A mild Winter can bring considerable reward to any gardener. Although straying away from planting plants of more tropical variety is probably the more reliable strategy, a wide variety of crops can be planted that tolerate light freeze.
With a little diligent care, there are many plants that produce throughout the cold season. Take a second look at warm season-loving tomatoes and kale with these tips on keeping them alive.
Plants ordinarily respond to colder weather by running sugars and amino acids into their vital tissues. This gets them only so far through chill days of early Autumn prior to serious freeze. When it gets too cold, their cell walls rupture due to bursting, and the plant loses its ability to host further growth at the stem and typically dies.
Nevertheless, some plants and varieties of vegetables are known to survive even the harshest winters somehow. Alliums and some plants of the cabbage family are some the most popular crops to grow at this time. They tend to survive through snowfall and freezing temperatures.
Not all garden plants can flourish in gentle Winters, even if they survive early freezes and are put on life support. Still, the hope that they can survive until the spring promises that they will produce earlier than any other variety.
The use of row covers, hoop-houses, and/or cloches may be trialed in hopes of keeping them alive for the upcoming growing season. These techniques keep out harsh winds and establish a greenhouse condition to trap heat flowing out of earth’s crust. Sunshine adds additional heat.
The newer methods of growing seedlings works well for mild winters but potentially for any Winter. Quilted row covers yield freeze protection down to 24°F and offer durability, accepting 60% of light. That should be plenty of protection for a mild Winter.
Using cloches means placing transparent cones over vegetables to prevent direct exposure to wind. These are typically aerated with a small hole and held into place. Some cloches are crafted with glass.
They effectively create a greenhouse-like condition for the plant while protecting it from harsh winds. They also help protect the plant in the event of an ice storm.
If you have the means, a traditional greenhouse is an excellent habitat for your winter plants and in the even of a mild winter, greenhouses perform even better and often help you produce very early Spring crops.
Although a mild Winter is best used for starting a second growing season in August and particularly favors gardening in the deep South, the hoop-house has the potential to overwinter many crops effectively and with estimable sure-fire results.
The hoop house is basically a recent agricultural development and inexpensive to assemble. It’s a readily-accessible method of all-season farming that may be useful to experiment with during a mild Winter.
In the hoop house, raised soil beds are employed with plastic mulch just tucked underneath, and trenches are dug to 3′ x 3′ then filled with mulch and manure. The bed is then covered with plywood or carpet to serve as walkways. This serves as an organic method of getting free heat out of the composting process to make it work all winter long.
When more heat is desired, simply lift plywood and turn over the compost in the pit with a manure fork. Add worms for plenty of fishing bait when warm weather once again prevails.
Nonetheless, the facts are that a number of crops will endure throughout Autumn and Winter until Spring. Some crops must be covered at least until February, while other crops can simply handle the cold.
So, why not try out your green thumb this winter if the temperature allows? You may be rewarded with some lovely early greens to enjoy!