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6 Ways to Keep Your Edible Garden Going Until Spring

1. Figure Out Your Garden’s Specific Climate

So much depends on when the first hard frost hits in your area, so it’s important to be aware of your backyard space’s microclimate. Start by consulting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s hardiness zone map.

You should also consider which sections of your garden get the most sun, wind or shade. This information helps determine which plants are likely to do well in colder conditions and what you need to do to protect them.

2. Learn About Season Extenders

You can stretch planting and harvesting seasons — or get a super early jump-start on spring harvesting — by using cold frames, mini hoop tunnels, row covers, mulch, portable greenhouse structures, or a combination of several.

In colder climates, cold frames are your best bet. They’re basically a bottomless wood or polycarbonate box with a clear top designed to capture solar energy. You can pick one up at any garden center, and it acts as a mini-greenhouse, fitting right over your garden beds. Pair up your season extenders to protect your crops even more: Place a polycarbonate tunnel over the top of a mini-hoop tunnel on your beds, for example.

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3. Focus on Just a Few Crops

If you’re a small-space gardener or are trying winter harvesting for the first time, choose just a few of your favorite crops to try. Baby Japanese turnips, beet greens and other salad greens can usually be planted until late fall, depending on where you live.

It’s best to get a head start by calculating when your veggies will be close to fully grown and back-timing that from your area’s frost predictions. You can plan your winter garden now by doing this simple math and also focus on extending this year’s harvest for plants you already have in the soil.

4. Warm Up Your Soil With Lots of Mulch

For root or stem crops that are already in your garden, keep them cozy by deep-mulching them now with at least a foot and a half of shredded leaves or straw. Use a row cover, bed sheet or garden fabric weighed down with rocks to keep the mulch from blowing away. Mulch also smothers weeds, keeps moisture in the soil and prevents erosion.

When you’re ready to dig up some radishes, just remove the cover and mulch, pull up what you want and replace the insulation.

5. Reduce Wind Exposure and Protect Your Plants With Layers

Wind is just as bad as frigid temperatures when it comes to gardening, so if your edible beds are in the middle of your yard, you’ll want to put up a mesh fence around your crops and some polypropylene garden fabric or burlap. You can also use a staked and secured tomato cage covered with plastic over the top of your plants. Adding insulation barriers like plastic will allow you to garden even in the coldest months.

Bonus: Protecting your crops this way will also deter pests from chomping on your harvest.

6. Resist the Urge to Water

Unlike growing edibles in warmer months, you can put away the hose and watering can for now — your season extenders act as terrariums, providing enough humidity to keep your thirsty plants hydrated. Plants won’t be actively growing in the winter months, so they’re not releasing water that needs to be immediately replaced.

On warm, sunny days during the winter, any moisture let off by your herbs and veggies will be trapped in the cold frame or hoop house and then recycled into the soil. Most gardens won’t need to be watered between late November and late February. Also, during winter when your root crops aren’t growing, they don’t need the sun to photosynthesize. Layers of snow will insulate and protect your edibles.

There’s nothing quite like the taste of home-grown produce picked straight from the garden. Now that the seasons are changing and colder temperatures are in the cards for parts of the country, you may think your yummy salad days are over. But guess what? There’s no need to put your garden to bed just yet.

You can enjoy root crops like carrots, beets and celery root, stem crops like leeks, Brussels sprouts and hardy greens way into the winter months. We’re talking Christmas carrots straight from the garden. You can even plant some especially tough herbs and other edibles right up until the soil freezes. Here’s how to turn your edible garden into a year-round food factory — even when your yard is piled with snow.

This content was originally published here.

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