WINTER GARDENING TIPS

Don’t have a garden but want to start one this spring? Then get started this winter! Go ahead and plan and plot where your garden will be. Winter is not an off-season for avid Kentucky gardeners. Which tasks you undertake depends on your answer to the question: to grow or not to grow?  The key to growing in the winter is to only concentrate on plants hardy enough to withstand cold temperatures – forget about tomatoes and corn until late spring.

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MAINTENANCE IS THE KEY TO MIDSUMMER GARDENING

By this time of year, you should be seeing some returns on your efforts at vegetable gardening. Now is the time to be vigilant and keep diseases and pests at bay.  One of my big bugaboos, especially for my vegetable plants such as cucumber, squash and melon, is powdery mildew. This is a fungus that infects many plants, from different types of roses to the aforementioned vegetables. It looks exactly as it sounds, the leaves of your plants become covered with a powdery fungus that eventually kills off the plant if left unattended.

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Clover and cereal grains can be grown together or alone. Another nice winter-cover crop mix is cereal grain(s) and legumes such as cow peas. Avoid planting ryegrass because it is difficult to eradicate in the spring. Cover crops should be fertilized at planting time and maybe once again later in the season if they need a boost. Come this spring, you’ll have nutrient-rich soil to work with for your garden.

Don’t have a garden but want to start one this spring? Then get started this winter! Go ahead and plan and plot where your garden will be. Winter is not an off-season for avid Kentucky gardeners. Which tasks you undertake depends on your answer to the question: to grow or not to grow?


The key to growing in the winter is to only concentrate on plants hardy enough to withstand cold temperatures – forget about tomatoes and corn until late spring. There are plenty of plants well-suited for winter growing. Cold-tolerant plants that can withstand even temperatures in the teens include brassicas – kale, bok choy, kohlrabi and most mustard greens. Fava beans are hardy enough to survive temps of 10 degrees F. They are also a good winter nitrogen fixer. Root crops such as carrots, beets, rutabaga and parsnips are perfect for winter – just be sure to plant them in a low tunnel or with a thick layer of mulch. Low tunnels can protect against drying winds or compression from heavy snows. The cold temperatures yield sweet-tasting vegetables.


The biggest challenge to winter gardens is temperature fluctuations that go from very warm to extremely cold. (After all, this is Kentucky.) The warmer temperatures can encourage premature blooms and bring pests and diseases, but sudden freezes can halt development. Coverings for particularly hard- freeze nights can be purchased or even improvised

WINTER GARDENING TIPS

quickly with an actual blanket. Hoops with wire at intervals helps keep any covering laid on top of the crop area from touching and weighing down on the plants. When the freezing temperatures pass, remove the cover. The plants will look droopy and limp at first. But as the sun warms them, the intercellular water circulates and drains and in time the plants will perk back up.


Winter is a good time to test your soil’s nutrient levels. Leafy green vegetables require more nitrogen than winter peas, carrots or broccoli. The pH level of soil is the most important factor. During the winter time, the pH level should be adjusted to a range of 6.2 to 6.8. It’s also im- portant to remove any remaining summer vegetables and add them to the compost pile.


If you don’t wish to grow anything this winter, plant cover crops. Cover crops are also called “green manure” because while they act as a covering for the soil, they also prevent erosion and provide nutrients for the soil when tilled. Red-flowering clover is an ideal example of a cover crop that can help build and protect the soil in gardens or areas of a garden that are not actively growing a vegetable, root or herb. Cereals such as wheat, rye, buckwheat or oats are also great cover crops.

ANGELA S. HOOVER

Angela S. Hoover is a Staff Writer for Living Well 60+ Magazine

more articles by Angela S. Hoover