Welcome to this month’s garden tour! Learn why you should grow a winter garden and how. I’ll also share our winter garden harvest and which winter garden plants you can expect this time of year. Let’s get into it!
In our garden this month, we are fixing the garden beds outside, planting our very first seeds indoors (including onions from seeds) and finishing up the new doors added to our indoor greenhouse.
What is the point of a Winter garden?
The point is that you can extend your food source throughout the year.
We are fortunate to live in an area where this an be done quite easily. Although, if would like to harvest food year round, you can do the same with a few simple tricks.
Winter garden plants
Many crops can grow in the wintertime. This month, we harvested many crops that grew throughout the winter.
- brussel sprouts
Although winter garden plants grow a bit slower, still they grow. If started early enough the previous season, you can have a bountiful harvest even in the wintertime. Learn how we plan our garden calendar here so that you can also harvest winter garden plants and their crops in January next year.
How to garden in the winter
In some areas, covering isn’t needed. We just plant our crops early enough in the fall to grow throughout fall and winter. These crops are all frost hardy and in most cases taste even better after frost or snowfall.
The Epic gardener has great information on their YouTube channel and blog about creating cold frames in which you can plant cold season crops for a winter garden. Read about their 26 Cold Frame Plans For Your Winter Garden here.
A greenhouse will extend your season by another month or so, which can be helpful for those living in extremely cold areas. I’m a fan of the Boot Strap Farmer because they make great quality garden products. They also sell professional greenhouses and some a little more down scaled parts for the backyard gardener. If you are interested in building your own greenhouse, you can buy some of the parts from them and build the structure yourself.
You can extend your season on the back end and frost end with heavy duty frost blankets. These can protect your last growing crops for a few extra weeks in the fall, but also protect your crops early spring while you wait for the frost to pass.
Last month (December), we planted our garlic at the start of winter. Yes, we planted late. Usually, garlic is planted around October/November for our area.Thankfully, we will still have enough of a cold season with frosty mornings and a snow fall here and there that will help these plants establish well.
We will just have to leave the bulbs in the soil a little longer than others who planted in a few months earlier. My hope is that they will be able to grow strong until our rainy season coming in October 2023. That gives these garlic bulbs a good 10 months of growth.
This year, we created two trench lines in our 24 x 60 foot bed. We planted 175 garlic cloves roughly 4-5” apart. That should give us ample garlic for the next year.
Garlic Winter Predators
When the garlic finally sprouted, one day I arrived at the beds to find several garlic bulbs plucked up. Probably due to our late season planting, a predators took an interest in our garlic sprouts. Probably thinking that it contains a tasty snack.
So I planted the garlic bulbs that were plucked out, thankful that it wasn’t all 175 of them.
A week (or something like that), more bulbs were plucked out. This time, about double the amount the amount as last time. I also identified the predators as the two crows hopping around the beds.
When I told Walter about it and he said we need to protect them with chicken wire. Thankfully, that did the trick. We laid a strip of chicken wire over the bed, and that solved the issue.
Studying and Reading Books
In January, we also took some much needed rest. And read gardening books, lots of BOOKS!
Walter picked up a line of books for me at the Vancouver library:
- The No-till Organic Vegetable Farm (see https://amzn.to/3YL74lI): A wonderful resources for organic planting practices on a large scale, although also applicable for anyone wanting to grow a high production garden. I especially loved the information about cover crops and how to work it into the timing of your plantings in every season.
- Companion Planting for Beginners (see https://amzn.to/3E185yb): tips on a healthy garden and companion planting practices to attract pollinators and deter pests.
- Will Bonsall’s Essential Guide to Radical, Self-reliant Gardening (see https://amzn.to/3IgGhZ9): I’m still reading through this book before it’s due back.
Planting Onions from Seed
The first seeds we plant each year is our onions. The varieties we are growing this year are specifically with storage in mind. These varieties include:
- Yellow of Parma (see: https://www.rareseeds.com/onion-yellow-of-parma)
- Red of Florence (see: https://www.rareseeds.com/onion-red-of-florence)
- Yellow Sweet Spanish (see: https://www.rareseeds.com/onion-yellow-sweet-spanish)
- Globo (see: https://www.rareseeds.com/onion-globo)
- Brunswick (see: https://www.rareseeds.com/onion-brunswick)
- Wethersfield Red (see: https://www.rareseeds.com/onion-wethersfield-red)
Short day and long day onions
Before you purchase any of the varieties above, make sure you find out if you need short day or long day onions.
Depending on where you are located in proximity to the equator, you will need either short or long day onions. Johnny’s Seeds has a great map to determine what kind of onions you need. To find out what kind of onions you should plant, read here about Long Day and Short Day onions.
Our Aboveground Garden Beds
Leaving plant matter and cleaning
We started cleaning up the garden beds. It was good that we left some of the plant matter behind for the winter to protect and keep the soil throughout the rainy winter season. I’m trying to leave in as many of the root systems so as not to disturb the structures and animal life that has made home underneath the soil. This will be very beneficial for our season ahead, so the less I disrupt, the better.
Also, it was much easier removing the plants from the arch trellis and other trellises once the winter got to them. The plants are dead black and totally brittle, and come off very easily.
We harvested some of our carrots and beets that were left in the ground for winter. We can eat these until we have vegetables again in the spring.
I just found it is easier to prepare the beds when all the crops are out of them.
We will be able to snack on these for the next few months until we have our new spring crops.
Heaping garden beds and our irrigation
The beds need to be heaped up just a little bit for us to plant seeds and seedlings into. The beds’ structure and downward sloping edges will help the water drain and the roots sit a bit higher up while they grow.
I moved the irrigation pipes to one side, weeded any plants that shouldn’t be there, and used a rake to heap up the beds.
We also trimmed our perennial bushes like lemon balm and spearmint. They will come back strong with a good hard pruning early in the season.
Plans for Next February Garden
Stay tuned for next month’s garden tour! The plan for February is:
- check up on my onion seedlings and replant what didn’t sprout, as well as
- show you how I plant my peppers and a bit more about my plan for our peppers this year
- and my final garden map, which will explain to you my companion planting strategy