If you are well-organised and prepared, you can grow food all year round – even in places where the weather is very cold in the winter. You may be surprised by how cheaply and easily you can grow food year round in a cold climate. To help you keep your growing efforts alive all through the coldest months, here are five ways to keep plants warm in winter:
Polytunnels or Greenhouses
One of the best investments you can make as an organic gardener in a cold or cool weather climate is getting a polytunnel or greenhouse. The good news is that you can source these structures for far less than you might imagine – you can even consider making your own, using plastic drinks bottles and a simple wooden frame, old plumbing pipes or conduit and a plastic cover, or reclaimed windows and other glazing. Whether you buy or make your polytunnel or greenhouse, it will help protect your plants from cold, wind and extremes of weather over the winter months.
Cloches or Row Covers
If you do not have space for a polytunnel or greenhouse, you can still consider creating smaller under cover growing areas. You can purchase or make row covers and cloches using everyday items – even household waste such as plastic drinks bottles and other packaging can be used to make cloches to cover delicate plants. Bubble wrap can be used to add an insulation layer for growing beds, and you can also drape horticultural fleece or scrap fabric over tender plants to protect them from frost.
Another way to protect plants during the winter is to surround them with a thick layer of straw, autumn leaves or other organic mulch. Shallow root systems can easily be damaged by frost, and mulches can help to reduce this risk, in containers, in raised beds or on the ground. Mulches will not only help protect plant roots from cold. They will also help to provide the nutrients plants need and keep them healthy over the winter months.
A hot bed was an extremely popular method for greenhouse horticulture in the Victorian period. A hot bed is a raised bed that takes advantage of the fact that organic material gives off heat as it decomposes. The heat from beneath can help to protect tender plants from frost over the winter months. A hot bed consists of a layer of a decomposing mix of straw and manure, topped by a thinner layer of growing medium into which seeds can be sown, or trays of seedlings can be placed.
Of course, another way to protect tender plants in the winter is to bring them indoors. Growing tender plants on your windowsills or other light, bright places in your home will help keep them safe from the worst of the winter weather. The main problem with growing plants indoors in winter is low light levels, but low energy LED grow lights can help to solve this problem.