The leaves are changing (or gone!), our lawns are freezing, and the days are noticeably shorter. Such are the indicators of autumn’s reign and the foreboding of winter’s return. Just because the season has changed doesn’t mean you have to quit your garden. Did you know you can grow plenty of your staple vegetables during the winter in Colorado? Especially along the front range where daytime temperatures still reach well into the 50’s, 60’s, and sometimes 70’s even in the heart of winter. Let’s look at some great ways to keep those leafy greens and hearty veggies sprouting, growing, and flourishing during our coldest months.
Indoor Winter Gardening
One of the easiest ways to keep greenery growing around you is to move your garden indoors. Not literally, of course (that much soil inside might cause structural issues…). You can create an indoor garden in two ways:
- Find your largest, south-facing window and place a wire rack in it. Make sure to include plenty of space between the shelves of your rack (about 2 feet). Your plants will love the winter sun streaming and the ambient warmth of your home.
- Find any space in your house that isn’t being used and place either open shelving, wire racks, or a table or two. For this method you’ll need some grow lights. You can easily find small grow lights on Amazon.
For the best results, it may be best to keep your plants in a south facing window with a grow light supplementing sunlight in the twilight hours, both morning and evening. Growing plants indoors can have tertiary effects as well, especially in the winter. The green, the growth, and the routine of care can break the winter blues, seasonal depression, and sense of confinement. Indoor plants also act as natural air purifiers and help increase your oxygen supply. It’s almost like having your windows open in nature, rather than in the middle of a city.
Even if you don’t want to grow your garden throughout the winter, it’s smart to get your starts ready for the coming growing season indoors. You can simply use your window sills instead of setting up a complete growing area! It is best to start your seeds in February or March so you can plant decent sized starts come Mother’s Day (our traditional planting day).
Outdoor Winter Gardening
You may find it surprising that plants can thrive outdoors during the winter months. They just need to be the right plant and need a little help. Again, there are two ways to grow outdoors that garner success in Colorado.
- The first is the simplest and only requires a few materials to begin. All you need is a patch of ground, a garden bed, or a large pot in a place that receives a lot of sun, a few stakes and a plastic sheet. Make sure your stakes reach about 2 feet off the ground to allow your greens to grow. Then drape your plastic sheet over the area and weight it down with stones or stakes.
This space between the ground and the plastic sheet allows the sun to warm up the air to a higher temperature than the air outside, and holds the radiant heat throughout the night. You’ll also hold more moisture in this space, allowing your plants to grow in a humid environment during the dry winter.
- The other method is to buy a greenhouse. You don’t need a big one, either. A small space, maybe 3 feet by 5 feet, will allow plenty of room to grow leafy greens and root vegetables throughout the winter! Choices abound for greenhouses. One way to help maintain heat in a greenhouse is to put large water bottles of warm water inside as the sun sets. The radiant heat will help keep your greens alive. The benefit of having a greenhouse for the winter is having the greenhouse for the rest of the year! You’ll be able to make starts for your garden, and maintain a high-humidity environment for specific vegetables in the summer.
A Wise Tip for growing during the winter: water after the sun starts hitting your greenhouse area. Don’t water too early, and definitely do not water as the sun sets or later.
What Plants To Choose
It’s essential to pick plants that can handle a chill in the air. Here’s a short list of plants that are successful in our Colorado Winters:
- Collard Greens
There are several other varieties of leafy greens and vegetables that grow through the winter, but this list will provide a plethora of food grown right in your yard.
Do you have any winter gardening tips? Put your tips and tricks in the comments below. Let’s turn Longmont into a gardening community again!