Extending the Growing Season in Winter

Our test garden team has a few ideas on how to beat those winter blues with winter greens! Here are a few options to keep you growing with us all winter long.

Planted Member’s first fall planting.

To be a successful gardener in the winter there are a few things to know. Locate your  Planting Zone with the Old Farmer’s Almanac here. Depending on the severity of your winter weather and temperature range, you can extend your growing season with several options.

Mild Winter Climates

You experience the occasional frost around 30 degrees but not consistently freezing night temperatures.

Create a Warm Micro-climate by Clustering Plants Together

If the temperature is going to dip towards a frost, cover tender seedlings with row cover or DIY cloth with clothespins. Remove in the morning and let the sunshine warm them up.

Insulate Your Plants with a Mini-Greenhouse or Cold Frame

If you have a deck or patio, a cold frame or outdoor greenhouse is an effective and affordable solution.  These options are a great way to extend your growing season on a porch or patio near the kitchen. They allow you to continue growing your plants year round, insulating the seedlings against all sorts of inclement weather, harsh rains and pests.

Cold frames are similar to mini-greenhouses but have a thicker plastic or glass for better insulation. These can be helpful in zones that get freezing temperatures consistently. Close these up when the temperature dips below 45 degrees during the day and keep your plants warm inside overnight if temperatures hit freezing.

Planted Member in Portland, OR growing in a portable greenhouse on the balcony.

Sunny Windowsill

If you have south-facing window that gets good sunlight you can grow in that space easily on a windowsill or table. Friends over at Modern Farmer suggest growing herbs such as mint, basil and oregano indoors. They do require a couple of hours of direct sun daily, and usually need a consistent room temperature of around 60 degrees. Your options aren’t limited to just herbs however.

Harsh Winter Climates
Add Grow Lights

Indoor Gardening with grow lights is a great solution for the winter when the temperatures dip below freezing consistently and snow falls. Grow lights allow you to grow in any room of the house. Options are available in a range of price points. It is important to consider the specifications required and terms that matter when selecting a quality setup. Lights should be full – spectrum and over 200 PAR value. According to PAR Rating Guide, PAR is the amount of light that’s usable to plants- those wavelengths that will be used for photosynthesis.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac encourages us to grow in the winter and explains the importance of the right light spectrum to grow inside.

Edible plants that are grown purely for their leaves—such as salad greens and herbs—can be grown under bulbs that primarily emit blue light, as this encourages chlorophyll production and foliar growth. Plants that are grown for their fruit or flowers require the addition of red light, which encourages blooming. For the healthiest plants, use a combination of both blue and red lights—or a full-spectrum bulb, which emits both wavelengths of light. 

The Old Farmer’s Almanac

LED lights are the most efficient. The Full Light Color Spectrum of light is important. Blue light is important for foliage growth in leafy greens and red light is important for fruiting plants to develop strong growth. Ideally grow lights should provide light for 12-14 hours per day. The lights should be within 1-3 feet above the plants in order to provide sufficient coverage.

If you use a garage or shed, consider adding a heater set on a timer in addition to grow lights. If you have the space and want to create a more industrial set-up, you can explore more robust lighting systems such as these suggested by MRS.

For a home gardener we recommend this integrated system from Gardener’s Supply. It is designed to fit in your home with a reasonable price point, good value, simple aesthetic, tray, and grow lights. We checked the lights and they meet the specifications and meet our standards for output.

Integrated Shelf System with Shelf and Grow Lights

Advantages of Container Growing

Growing in containers or vertically allows you to control the environment a bit more. You can move your plants to protected areas from the cold of night or use the additional winterizing options mentioned above.  Our Planted Box and Planted Wall subscription box memberships have been designed for just this! Our Planted Box starts you out slowly so that you can get the basics down and we introduces different planting projects monthly so that you’re growing with the seasons.  The Planted Wall is for the more adventurous gardener that is ready to jump in and start growing an entire wall of leafy greens and herbs.  It’s been architected to be self-contained with a self-irrigating system intact and takes up the space of a person standing.  Planted Box members can easily grow into the Planted Wall and take their containers with them – they fit nicely into the proprietary wall system.   

“What to Grow in Winter” highlights the top 5 edible you can grow in winter and the special nutrients in each that keep your immune system firing and your health in tip top shape. 

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