Saturday, March 1, 2014

Early Planting: Plants that love cold weather.

There are two big things that winter gardens need to grow well - warmth and light.   I thought you might be interested to know how to deal with those things in order to get a 12 month garden.  We'll talk about temperature today and  light tomorrow.

Some plants just don't like the cold and you'll never get them to go through the winter, even if you can keep the temps above freezing in your greenhouse or hoop house.  Basil is a good example.   It spots and pouts if the temp gets down near 40 degrees.    Not to worry!  There are plenty of plants that love cold weather.

Good cold/cool weather plants are:
  • lettuce
  • arugula
  • spinach
  • maiche
  • endive
  • claytonia
  • carrots
  • radishes
  • scallions
  • sorrel
  • watercress
  • leeks
  • chard
  • beets
  • turnip
  • mustard
  • pak choi
For specific varieties,  check out Eliot Coleman's The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses [also in the book list on my sidebar.]    The book is fantastic and he's trialed many varieties.

Plants that must have very warm soil to be happy are:
  • squash
  • melons
  • eggplant
  • sweet potatoes
  • basil
  • red long beans
In other words, don't plan on keeping these happy in a hoop house over the winter.    I don't even plant them until well after the last frost date, in very warm soil.   In the fall, these things are the first to keel over and die when it gets close to frost.

By planting things during the right season, you can double or triple the production of your garden.   Plant carrots and lettuce under cover now, then harvest it in early May, when you can pop some melons and basil in that same bed.   Then when you harvest the melons and basil, you can plant a winter garden and have radishes, carrots and arugula all winter long.





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