We started homesteading in December in the mountains of Utah but I still wanted to have a garden. I searched online but most of the cold weather gardening tips I found required I started before the frost. Oops! So what do you do if you are like me and starting a garden in the dead of winter?
If you have a large window that you can plant things in front of you are golden. Some people will tell you that you need a window that faces a certain direction. Honestly my window garden is in a west facing window (the worst one to use) and I still have nicely growing plants there. The key is to get them as close to the sunlight as possible. I used a broken baby gate with some cans under it to raise my plants to the same level as the window. These helped them get extra sun.
There are some plants that grow well even with a short amount of sunlight. These include but are not limited to lettuce, onions, garlic, spinach, kale, chives, swiss chard, and carrots. My first try at an indoor garden we planted lettuce, spinach, and onions. Plant what you will eat but know some things won’t grow without lengthened sunlight time and artificial heat.
Use bowls, pots, or whatever you can find. Put some potting soil in if you have it or harvest some dirt from outside and bake it for 15 minutes at 350 before planting. This will ensure the bugs stay outside or are killed before you have spiders all over your house. Water daily or as the soil needs moisture and watch your plants grow!
Cold Frame Gardening
If you have a handy husband or are good with tools you may want to try cold frames. These are simply growing beds made from scrap wood or 2x4s covered with some type of glass. This may include table top glass, old glass doors, or windows. Whatever free or cheap glass you can find, use it. Make a raised bed the same size and you have an instant cold frame. You may also want to find some wood to prop open the frames when necessary.
You can transplant either starts from your indoor garden or starts from a local nursery. Keep in mind plants must be extremely cold hardy to survive outside so pay attention to what grows in your agriculture area and select cold hardy plants.
Lucky for you plants grown in a cold frame require very little water and you should only water enough to keep the ground moderately moist. Any more than that may rot your plants in the ground. Since nobody likes moldy lettuce I suggest you water once a week.
To harvest wait for the warmest part of the day then open your cold frame. You may need to use an ice pick to break off any ice sealing it shut. Open the cold frame and harvest just as you normally would. If you need to harvest just before a meal don’t fret it just won’t be as easy since the sun won’t be on your side.
For those that have a little more time and money greenhouses are nice for boosting temperature and allowing for more growth. There are a couple types of greenhouses. Above ground greenhouses are popular and can be purchased in a kit from your local hardware store. Geothermal greenhouses require a bit more planning and digging but can produce higher temperatures without artificial heat sources. We have yet to have a greenhouse but I would like to try a geothermal one once we get sufficient funds for its creation.
Go Forth to Garden!
I hope you got a few ideas on how you can create a garden even if it is the dead of winter and how you can expand that garden as it grows. If you need seeds I always recommend non-hybrid Heirloom Seeds that can pollinate themselves. Have fun growing and harvesting your own crop!
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