How to Prepare Your Vegetable Garden for a Harsh Winter

According to Game of Thrones fans everywhere, winter is coming. And while this may mean snowmen, Christmas decorations and mulled wine for some, for the keen gardener it can mean fingernails bitten to the quick and sleepless nights worrying about cabbages.

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Image credit: vegetable garden

Well, maybe we wouldn’t go quite that far – but after all the effort you’ve put into your vegetables, you won’t want your hard work to go to waste for next year. Fear not – we’ve got a guide on how to make sure that your vegetable garden is both ready for next year and useful throughout winter. Here’s how…

Harvest

First things first, take in all of the vegetables that are ready to be harvested and make the most of them. Make sure that you cure and store your produce properly, and you might just end up with a stash that will last all winter long!

Clear out

After you’ve collected all of your delicious vegetables but before you get started on the chutney, it’s time to clear up your yard. If you’re tempted to put this job off, think of it as a treat for your future self when you’re planting more vegetables in the spring. You’ll be glad you put the groundwork in when May rolls around! While you’re there, prepare perennial vegetables for survival by removing old foliage and stems.

Make your garden useful throughout winter

Though it may seem like all plants are dead in winter, there are a few vegetables that will actually be ready for harvesting when it’s very cold outside, so with a little preparation and clever planting you can make your garden produce food until late in the season.

  • Carrots are actually sweeter when harvested after the frost. Plant them around late August or early September and cover them with straw for a little insulation.
  • Plant kale and collards in mid-August and harvest young leaves from October onwards.
  • It’s best to plant Spinach around four to six weeks before the first frost of winter – again, cover with straw, then harvest in late winter or early spring.
  • November is the ideal time to plant overwintering onions.
  • Don’t have space in the pantry for all of your produce? Don’t worry – your garden can act as a fridge. Bury cabbages, with their roots still attached and a marker in the soil above so you don’t lose them, and dig them up when you fancy bubble and squeak. Potatoes and carrots will also keep when buried in the garden, but add some straw over the top to protect them.
  • Give your vegetables lots of compost and a layer of mulch, for nutrients and protection. And, while the soil is a great protector for vegetables – especially root vegetables – it won’t hurt to give them a little water before a big freeze, when it may be difficult for your plants to reach water. However, be wary of over-watering, which can lead to cold, soggy roots and very unhappy plants.

Plant a cover crop

You may not be using your whole garden to grow overwintering vegetables, so to keep your soil ship shape and ready for spring it’s a good idea to plant a cover crop such as buckwheat or rye. These plants will suppress weed growth, feed bees and keep soil in place, then they’ll act as a ‘green manure’ for your garden by breaking down and providing your soil with lots of lovely nutrients.

About The Author

This guest post was written by Ricky Peterson. Ricky is a keen gardener and loves spending time outdoors, he works at Swallow Aquatics, who sell various pond and garden supplies. Ricky also likes to travel and loves hiking and climbing.

How to make fermented ginger carrots

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The end of this summer I planted a bunch of carrots one afternoon and I unfortunately pretty much forgot about them.  Without proper thinning I ended up with quite a few short and/or twisted carrots which I decided would be perfect to make some fermented ginger carrots.

Step 1: Clean and peel carrots.  Peeled and cut the ends off of the carrots and set them aside.

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Step 2: Shed the carrots.  With a food processor this speeds up the process significantly but you can also do this with a hand shredded or even some good knife work.  The smaller the carrots the faster the fermenting process will be.  After slicing place carrots into a bowl and mash them a little bit to get some carrot juices flowing.  (personally I use a piece of wooden dowel)  Finally toss in 1-2 tablespoons of fresh grated ginger.

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Step 3: Fill with brine and wait.  In a separate container mix 1 quart of distilled water with 1.5 tablespoons of sea salt and mix until dissolved.  Pour over brine over carrots and cover jar with some cheesecloth.  Typically with fermenting I would have to construct something to keep the vegetables from floating to the surface but I have found with carrots they are pretty good about sinking to the bottom on their own.

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You can let them ferment on a warm counter for a few days or up to a week and a half.  Then move them into your refrigerator where they will continue to ferment at a much slower rate until all are consumed.

Beware of toddlers and seeds

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Tip to gardeners with two year olds, don’t keep you seeds on the counter within some little hands reach.  I was at least happy she was nice enough to bring the seeds from the kitchen counter to the kitchen table to open and pour them out…much easier to clean up than rubbed into the carpet.

Happy seed starting…