How to start a winter garden
Even with a lack of sun at this time of year, a garden is not only for summer, but also for winter. With the right supplies and the right knowledge, planting a winter garden can be easy and rewarding.
Lori Ann David of Aurora Farms said: “Starting a garden gives you exercise, nutrition, independence, a first source of organic nutrition at your fingertips, literally everything good and complete. in and with nature. It reduces stress, promotes community, builds self-esteem and confidence. It also improves memory, helps you sleep better, and provides incredible nutrition for your body. So many things!”
Henning Sehmsdorf, who lives on Lopez Island and has been farming for 50 years, also argues for the benefits of growing your own food.
“In 1957, I came to the United States from Germany and started working in a meat processing plant,” he said. “It was then that I decided I was either going to go vegetarian or grow my own food.”
What Sehmsdorf saw in the meat packing plant changed the way he ate forever. He witnessed the addition of oils and other fillers to the meat to give the plant more bang for its buck, as well as the cruel treatment of animals. It moved him enough that he still keeps that promise 63 years later.
Sehmsdorf moved to Lopez Island in 1970 with the intention of growing food for himself and his family, he said. Since then, he has always achieved this goal, because his farm allows him to be 100% self-sufficient. He grows his own vegetables, fruits, bakes his own bread, makes cheese, milks his own cows and uses meat from his own cattle.
Not only did Sehmsdorf’s acuity for his 85-year-old self prove the benefits of a life of his own, he also recounted his sister-in-law’s experience when she came to live on the Sehmsdorf farm. When she arrived, she brought with her a box full of prescriptions, he said.
“By the time she had been here for a while, eating our food, she was able to get rid of all of her pills,” Sehmsdorf explained.
Sehmsdorf has spent a lot of time cultivating his craft, so don’t expect it to be a breeze after starting the first garden, but he also urges you not to get discouraged.
Now is the right time – and one of the last chances of this season – to directly sow crops or transplant them.
Alice Deane, a master gardener who helps grow produce for the Friday Harbor Food Bank, said she strongly recommends investing in a hoop house, which is simpler and cheaper than a greenhouse. When the weather starts to get colder, a hoop house can be used to transplant outdoor crops into the hoop house.
“In November, I’m still growing summer tomatoes in my hoop house,” Deane said.
David said proven winter crops include spinach, carrots, chard, kale, komatsuna, mustards, tatsoi, mibuna, mizuna, cap, bok choy, Italian parsley and the beets.
Escarole and chicory will also grow in cold weather, and you can help them stay protected with a floating blanket called remay, she said. Broccoli can also be grown because its leaves are the most nutritious part and will grow through the winter.
Root crops are the most difficult to grow, as the soil needs the right nutrients and the right soil profile for proper formation.
Herbs that are still growing since the summer to watch out for include chives, sage, love, summer savory, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, cilantro, oregano and dill. There are also several types of edible flowers, including calendula, borage, nasturtium, and chrysanthemums. They all produce very good healing properties, she said. Many of these herbs can also be grown successfully in indoor pots during the winter.
If you’re growing outdoors in an unprotected garden bed, David said to make sure you mulch with thick leaves, well-composted hay, or straw with no weed seeds. This will insulate and protect the garden and add nutrients to the soil as they break down.
She also explained that a crucial task for a winter garden is to make sure that you turn off your irrigation and that there is no standing water in your garden.
One of the most important aspects of gardening is paying attention to the weather, moon cycles, farmer’s almanac, winds, and local topography.
While the frost hasn’t quite hit yet, now is the time for David to prepare his garden for the frost.
“As farmers and gardeners, we always watch the weather, in fact, more like calculating what to do,” she said. “You learn to read all kinds of signs. “
One of those signs David is taking note of is to watch out for the September full moon, as she said after that the weather starts to change. She said that with every full moon after that, the weather gets colder.
A full moon that she calls the “big” marking a major change in frost occurs on November 19. “It’s coming SOON,” she exclaimed.
This marks the time to harvest any remaining summer plants, cutting off perennial flowers and covering outside greens such as lettuce, arugula, broccoli, and kale with a floating blanket to keep out the cold and keep the heat moist.
Cool weather crops such as cabbage, broccoli, kale, carrots, many green salads, Brussels sprouts, leeks, beets, turnips, green onions, parsley, cilantro, and spinach can withstand freezing, she said. Some will be quite hardy and will survive temperatures well below freezing; others can be damaged by temperatures below 30 ° F.
As long as a winter garden is well attended, it can last until early spring, she said. When that time draws near, she recommends venturing into a spring and summer garden and planting disease-resistant varieties of peas for early spring mulch.
To help start and maintain a year-round garden, Shemsdorf’s recommended books are Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman.
“Be patient – things grow slower – plant what you eat – skip the rest,” David said. “Don’t forget to close the garden gates, the deer are hunting! Take care, work in the garden every day, eat healthy food and have fun!