How to winterize your garden…or not

How to winterize your gardenEvery year I have illusions of grandeur for my garden.

I pictured myself sitting at our farmer’s market behind display baskets overflowing with a bounty of tomatoes, peppers and fresh herbs.

In reality, I sold leftover handmade jewelry, some divided perennials and enough herbs to season one big kettle of soup. I selfishly hoarded what little came out of my garden for my dinner table.

I still regret selling those precious bundles of lemon thyme.

Despite a couple inches of snow two weeks ago, this fall has been relatively mild. Right up until that snow fell, I was still grabbing mint, kale, lettuce and parsley from my yard.

On a few 60 degree days, I wandered about the yard and actually pondered extending the growing season by creating hoop houses over my raised beds or converting them into cold frames.

I wondered (out loud) if my husband could start on that cool tiered step container idea I saw.

He pretended not to hear me. I pretended I didn’t say anything out loud.

Call me lazy. Call me an amateur gardening fool who is completely missing this extended-gardening season boat. But if I strive to be a seasonal eater, why not a seasonal gardener? I don’t buy raspberries in February. I don’t start gardening projects in November. Zone 4b says, “I’m getting cold. Your plants are tired. Quit poking the ground and go inside.”

Some of you live in a milder climate than Zone 4b. Your gardening enthusiasm remains strong. Go for it. Some of you dwelling on the Frozen Tundra with me might be eager for a challenge. You are stronger than I.

Check out a few ways to extend your growing season. (aka, what Amy won’t be doing this season):

  1. Make a cold frame
  2. Build a hoop house
  3. Turn your garden into a winter wonderland

I might rake some leaves to use as mulch and add to my wet compost. I might grab a little manure from some horses I know and spread it on a patch of particularly sad soil.

But I will listen to Zone 4b and go inside. I will curl up with some chocolate mint tea and grab a good read to start scheming next year’s illusions of grandeur.

What are your winter gardening plans?

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About Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson is a freelance writer with nearly 20 years of experience in community health education, non-profit program management and mental health counseling. Amy works on projects that promote greener, healthier living through pragmatic approaches. She is an avid fan of reality therapy, small town farmers markets and dishing out home cooking with unsolicited advice. You can also follow Amy’s adventures in realistic wellness.

  • Mary Jo, Five Green Acres

    I find the idea of “putting the garden to bed” particularly out of reach for me.  I can’t even be bothered to get out there and harvest the last of whatever-I-burnt-myself-out-by-growing, much less take down my supports or *gasp* remove dead stuff.  I like to think of my garden, dead in its tracks, as a gritty, natural wonderland for the winter creatures.  Where would they perch, if not on dead tomato vines frozen to their net trellis?  Surely they appreciate me curled up inside ignoring it all, right? 

  • Jubes10

    I agree…run inside as fast as you can…leave the tumbled plants as cover! Makes me feel better about it anyway

  • Nancy

    My winter garden plans extend to eating preserved bounty, trying not to kill the rosemary and lavender plants I brought inside, and finally trying to grow micro-greens under grow lights – all while trying not to drool over seed catalogs.

  • Stacey

    Thanks for your honesty and humor Amy! We have Growing Dome greenhouses and will be doing both of what you talk about: growing with the seasons (cold hardy crops in January) and gardening all year long. It means no rest in winter, but going inside the greenhouse and experiencing green and warmth when there’s 4ft. of snow outside is definitely worth it!

    • Jeffrey Davis

      That sounds well worth the effort, indeed. Seasonal produce from your own garden, year ’round. w00t!

  • Mika Onida

    My idea of gardening seasonally is to get my plants off to a safe early start with hoophouses and the like, and to make sure some of my harvest gets frozen/canned/dried for winter. Instead if trying to hold off the snow, why not try to hurry the sun? :)