46 In Gardening/ Lifestyle

Starting A Winter Vegetable Garden

Here in zone 6a New England, the growing season is so short.  By the end of November, trees have shed their leaves and plants have gone into hibernation mode.  When the ground starts to freeze and the days become shorter, us gardeners turn to houseplants and planning next year's harvest.  Although that can be very enjoyable, I really wanted to try something new!  I decided to try extending my growing season deep into the chilliest months.  I grow vegetables and herbs during the summertime in a raised garden bed.  Adding a hoop house to this already built bed is rather inexpensive and relatively easy to maintain.  I spent some time doing research online and looking at some helpful books, and then dove right in!  Although I am unsure at the moment of the amount of growing success I will have, I've decided to enjoy it and just give it a try.  This is the year for trial and error with a modest budget.  If all I gain from this is knowledge, I will still be satisfied!

Building A Hoop House

My raised garden bed is 11 feet long and 5 feet wide.  The hoop house consists of four 10 foot 1/2-inch PVC conduit.  I purchased these at my local hardware store for $1.59 a piece.  PVC conduit is flexible and sturdy enough to prevent it from collapsing under the snow.  Luckily, I did not have to cut or change the original size in any way.  I then bent them into the position and shape I wanted.  After adding the PVC conduit, I prepped my bed by adding new soil along with fertilizer.

PVC Conduit Total Cost=$6.36

When prepping my raised garden bed, I added some fresh new soil and some Happy Frog Fruit & Flower Fertilizer. This mix contains bat guano, bone meal, kelp meal and feather meal!  I want to give my seeds the best chance to sprout into strong plants while fighting against colder conditions.  I'm hoping with extra care and nutrition, it will give them that extra push.  The wonderful thing about fertilizer is one bag can last you up to an entire year!  It lasts a long time when you have a small sized garden!

Fertilizer Cost=$12.50

I covered my newly built hoop house and baby seedlings in my raised garden bed with 4 MIL 10ft x 25ft clear plastic.  I purchased this at my local hardware store for $11.47.  I did some adjusting and cutting to size so it fits snugly.  I also purchased eight of these stone blocks for $2.28 a piece to hold it down and keep it from blowing away.  Nobody likes a rogue giant plastic tarp rolling through the neighborhood!  I also have some duct tape on hand for any holes or rips that may occur during the harsh winter months.  I may purchase an extra covering to have on hand just in case.

Plastic Sheeting Cost=$11.47
Stone Block Total Cost=$18.24

Here is the winter garden bed with its new plastic covering.  I will be closely monitoring the temps inside for the first week to see how warm it gets.  The weather really fluctuates here in New England.  One day it's 30°F the next it's back up to 60°F. I'm using an outdoor thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature inside my hoop house. 

Thermometer Cost=$5.98

So here is what it looks like on the inside of my winter garden hoop house.  I have planted many different greens, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, garlic, kale, leeks, onions, peas, radishes & turnips.  I found a great selection of cold tolerant vegetable seeds over at Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.  It's also good that most of the vegetables I have chosen are shade tolerant.  I know the sun isn't as prominent and strong during the winter months.  I find the thermometer very helpful so far, and I am hoping these seeds sprout into vigorous, full grown plants.

Thanks to so many great suggestions from gardeners on Facebook and Twitter, I decided to add a floating garden blanket for extra protection.  I purchased these Gardeneer by Dalen Harvest Guards 40 inch by 50 foot for $9.99 a piece.  I am only using one, but I purchased an extra to have on hand.  These covers trap heat and moisture as well as protecting against frost.  Since they are also good for keeping crops protected from insects and pests, I will be using these over my garden bed during the summer months as well.  I can't wait to see if this extra layer of protection helps!

Garden Crop Cover Total=$19.98

Starting A Winter Vegetable Garden | angiethefreckledrose.com
Starting A Winter Vegetable Garden | angiethefreckledrose.com

Here are my seeds staying toasty under their new garden blanket!  I have been monitoring my seeds growth, and now that I see some starting to sprout, I will be mulching in my bed this upcoming weekend.  After I mulch it in with leaves from my yard, I will cover the mulching with the garden blanket again. 

Total Winter Garden Cost=$64.54

Winter Crops

There are so many garden crops that grow well during the winter months.  I took my time researching which vegetables thrive in the cold, and narrowed it down to a select group I was interested in.  Over on Plantsmap.com, I added a winter garden collection.  Collections on Plantsmap allows you to keep track of the names of the plants you are growing, add photographs and also gives you a way to document and detail your growing experience.  If you wan't to see a full list of what I am growing, check out my collection here.  These are some of the greens I have picked to grow in my vegetable garden.

Arugula is one of my favorite greens with a spicy flavor.  Fordhook Giant swiss chard has large, crinkled leaves with ivory colored stems.  Amsterdam Prickly Seeded spinach is noted for being the hardiest of all the varieties. The sturdy plants have flat, tender leaves with red tinged stalks.  All of these greens are known to do well in colder temperatures.

Starting A Winter Vegetable Garden | angiethefreckledrose.com

Above are more greens otherwise known as "other greens" I am growing in my winter garden.  Morris Heading Collards has dark green leaves and is a variety that is slow to bolt.  Corn Salad produces flavorful, deep green leaves & is fairly cold-hardy.  Miner's Lettuce has a spinach like texture with mild tasting leaves.

You can find all the seeds I'm growing in my winter garden over at Plantsmap.

Learning & Growing

Building a winter garden has been a great learning experience for me.  I've received so many helpful suggestions to make it even more successful!  I am definitely going to be mulching it in to see if that helps trap in heat.  I also want add mulch to help with the moisture level.  Since it can get really humid under the tarp, with less sun in the winter it is the perfect environment for mold to grow.  I'm hoping to defend against that by not overwatering and also adding dry material to the soil.  I am going to be adding one more piece of PVC conduit across the top to add more support and to help prevent problems with the future piles of heavy snow.  When it does snow, I will be going out regularly to clean off the top to prevent it from collapsing under the strain of the weight.  I have also heard that adding Christmas lights to the inside of the hoop house can prevent plants from freezing, so I may give that a try.  Right now I am reading The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour.  It is such a great book full of helpful content!  Garden friends have suggested I look into reading The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman, who just happens to be from New England as well!  I'm hoping to purchase this soon for some helpful reading material. 

Do you extend your outdoor growing season into the fall and winter months?  What are some tips you have heard or have tried to ward off frost and a hard freeze?  Please share with me in the comment section below or tweet me @thefreckeldrose. Although I don't mind if Snow Miser brings us a white Christmas, I'm trying to prevent his friend Jack Frost from getting anywhere near my precious veggies!  Check back soon to see update from my endeavors into the exciting world of winter gardening!

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My raised garden bed is 11 feet long and 5 feet wide.  The hoop house consists of four 10 foot 1/2-inch PVC conduit.  I purchased these at my local hardware store for $1.59 a piece.  PVC conduit is flexible and sturdy enough to prevent it from collapsing under the snow.  Luckily, I did not have to cut or change the original size in any way.  I then bent them into the position and shape I wanted.  After adding the PVC conduit, I prepped my bed by adding new soil along with fertilizer.

 

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46 Comments

  • Reply
    Betsi OHara
    December 5, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    Very interesting article. Can’t wait to see how it goes!

  • Reply
    Lucy
    December 6, 2015 at 4:57 am

    I have been growing in water for over 20 years. next year start your water garden in early august for things like carrots and kale and plant in mid to late Sept for faster crops like lettuce and arugula. Planting in November means you do not have soil warmth or, more importantly, daylight to get the plants growing quickly so that they have a good root system to carry them through winter.

    For good growth you need at least 10 hours a day of light and in November we are getting under 8 hours so most plants are going dormant, even if there are warmish temperatures. There are some plants that do not care much about light. Lettuce and spinach are twi things that grow through winter, though very slowly. kale will as well.

    • Reply
      Thefreckledrose
      December 18, 2015 at 8:05 pm

      Hi Lucy! Thank you for the great tips 🙂

      • Reply
        Pamela
        October 30, 2016 at 12:58 pm

        I heard long ago about filling 5 gallon containers full of manure so the heat it gives off as it composts heats the garden in a greenhouse. I suppose smaller containers under a cloch or hooped winter garden might do the same, and then of course the manure can be worked into beds or the compost pile in the spring.

  • Reply
    Gemma Wiseman
    December 6, 2015 at 11:30 pm

    An intriguing post. A wonderful step by step guide for growing veggies over the chilly months.

  • Reply
    jandi @ohmydearests
    December 7, 2015 at 1:35 am

    what a wonderful post! we are experiencing summer now but i’ll store this away for future reference.

    • Reply
      Thefreckledrose
      December 18, 2015 at 8:08 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it Jandi! Enjoy the warm summer months 🙂

  • Reply
    Lea
    December 7, 2015 at 7:35 am

    An exciting experiment!
    Happy Frog! I think I would buy it if it were available here.
    Best of luck to you!
    Lea

  • Reply
    Cindy
    December 7, 2015 at 10:53 am

    So inspiring! A winter garden would be wonderful…maybe one day!!!
    Thanks so much for sharing at AMAZE ME MONDAY!
    Blessings,
    Cindy

  • Reply
    Michelle Ramblingwoods
    December 8, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    I will be interested to see how this goes..I also read the comment by Lucy.. Great information..Michelle

    • Reply
      Thefreckledrose
      December 18, 2015 at 8:12 pm

      Thanks Michelle! It is going really well so far, already have plants starting to sprout 🙂 I will be updating soon!

  • Reply
    Danica
    December 8, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    Very interesting post. I am excited to see the end result and know more about winter harvesting:)

  • Reply
    Joanna @ Everyday Made Fresh
    December 8, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    Thank you for joining us this week at The Wednesday Showcase Party! This is a great plan! I’d love to do something like this. We live in Florida, and have a very long growing season, but by doing this I may be able to make it year round!

    • Reply
      Thefreckledrose
      December 18, 2015 at 8:15 pm

      Definitely Joanna! It’s also a great plan for keeping garden critters at bay. I’m really enjoying it so far, it’s been doing really well! 🙂

  • Reply
    JES
    December 9, 2015 at 5:01 am

    Angie, looks like you have the perfect recipe for a wonderful winter garden. We have been planting in the autumn/winter for the last 4 years and I am still amazed at the best tasting cauliflower ever! I found you via Roses of Inspiration. Have a lovely week 🙂

    JES @ Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth

    • Reply
      Thefreckledrose
      December 18, 2015 at 8:16 pm

      Thank you Jes! I would love to see pictures! Always great to find fellow winter garden enthusiasts 🙂

  • Reply
    Villroses hage
    December 9, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    It will not freeze underneath?
    I have an arrangement like this for my summer crop. During this cold “summer”, the vegetables had a great time under the fabric. Even basil leaves sprouted
    Good luck!

    • Reply
      Thefreckledrose
      January 24, 2016 at 7:51 pm

      So far, no freeze! I’m monitoring it though to see how it does 🙂 Awesome to hear it worked well for you & thank you!

  • Reply
    Anne@GritandGiggles
    December 10, 2015 at 5:47 am

    I love you garden blanket! We have put up shade for ours.

  • Reply
    bettyl-NZ
    December 10, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    You’re certainly ready for winter gardening! Thanks for all the great tips and ideas.

  • Reply
    chickenruby
    December 12, 2015 at 4:34 am

    winter is the only time to grow things from seed really in Dubai, temps are similar to a European summer so it’s still rather warm and it rarely rains here either. I’ll check out Plantsmap, to document my growing times

  • Reply
    Jen
    December 12, 2015 at 9:10 am

    What an informative post! I thought about a winter garden, but then the time got away from me. I recently picked up a book about gardening in the south, and over my Christmas break, my husband and I are going to be making some plans for the new year.

    Thanks for sharing with us at Photo Friday!

  • Reply
    Coombe Mill - Fiona
    December 12, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    I hope your winter garden produces some great results, it looks so well thought out #HDYGG

  • Reply
    Hannah@SeeingtheLovely
    December 12, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    What a great idea! I’m fairly new to gardening, but I will definitely have to keep these suggestions in mind this coming winter!

  • Reply
    Katey
    December 13, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    Thank you so much for stopping by the Homestead Blog Hop!!

  • Reply
    Lyn (aka) The Travelling Lindfields
    December 14, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    Where I live (Sydney, Australia) it is summer and the problem is not keeping the vegetables warm but keeping the possums and bandicoots from eating them. Your hoop house, with a couple of alterations, looks perfect – I am just about at my wits end trying to keep my veggies from being eaten by the wildlife before they are ready to pick.

  • Reply
    Neesie
    December 14, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    I think this is exactly what I need to do in my garden. The growing season is quite short here too in Bonnie Scotland. I’m going back to reread your post and make notes.
    Thanks for sharing ;D

  • Reply
    Margaret
    December 14, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    Angie, what do you do if the inside of your little hoop house gets too cold?
    Also, when you water does it not just freeze??

  • Reply
    Kathryn
    December 15, 2015 at 12:45 am

    This is our first year trying a hoop house. I’ll have to give the blanket and the lights a try. Nice ideas.

  • Reply
    Annie
    December 15, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    It worked out so much cheaper than I would have though – what a bargain! Good luck with your growing.
    Thanks for joining in again lovely x

  • Reply
    Sharleen
    December 15, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    Very interesting! Thanks for linking up to Home Matters Party. #HomeMattersParty http://cu-rio.net/home-matters-linky-party-66/

  • Reply
    Amanda
    December 16, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Fingers crossed, sounds like you’ve done your homework! I think I need those blanket things for a few of our plants, I might just invest in a few.

  • Reply
    Floral Fridays
    December 17, 2015 at 3:17 am

    With the right preparation and care, even a tiny plot can be very productive, Angie.
    Thank you for taking part in Floral Friday Fotos meme.

  • Reply
    Ness
    December 17, 2015 at 6:54 am

    We’ve just got an allotment so everything is completely new to us. I like the idea of using covers. Next on our plans I think!

  • Reply
    Renee Fuller
    January 6, 2016 at 7:08 pm

    Great post on winter gardening.

  • Reply
    malena penney
    April 5, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    You are such an inspiration! I need to do this..we are just starting to get some icy mornings here in New Zealand…

  • Reply
    Sheena
    April 6, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    Love the idea of a hoop house! I may try this next winter… love ways to lengthen the growing season!

  • Reply
    wp.me
    April 14, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on this.
    And he in fact bought me lunch due to the fact that I discovered it for him…
    lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanx for spending some time to discuss this topic here on your blog.

  • Reply
    Chris
    October 30, 2016 at 10:55 am

    Several years ago, I got my tomatoes in waaaayyy late. My bushes weren’t full of tomatoes until late September and were still too small so I decided to extend my year by adding a hoop tent but I also strung old Christmas tree lights around it as well. These were just the thing to add a little bit of warmth when I needed it. We had fried green tomatoes for Thanksgiving and Christmas that year.

  • Reply
    Greg
    October 30, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    You could sturdy up that hoop house by adding another piece of conduit along the top to maintain the frame structure. I love the idea of adding manure pails to get the heat. I’ve heard of doing that with wood waste too, tree branches or brush that have gone through a wood chipper.

  • Reply
    Carol
    November 19, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    Fantastic! I pinned and shared your post.

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