In the Fall of 2011, we decided to try a winter garden since many of our neighbors were going to give it a try. We pick up winter hardy vegetables including chard, kale, Brussels sprouts, spinach, various types of lettuce, cabbage and carrots. In addition, we planted about 180 onions.
To protect the plants in the area outside our grown house, we built another, using PVC pipe to build the frame. We covered it with the same plastic used for professional green houses. Over the winter months, we had little rain and little sun (The sun was at a low angle in the sky and blocked by nearby hundred foot Ponderosa pine trees). At one point, we put 60W of light into each grow house which were on 8 hours a day. Unfortunately, the vegetables still didn’t grow much. Eventually, we took off the plastic and let nature take its course.
In March, things took off (probably because the plants were getting more sunlight since the sun was at a higher angle in the sky). Since then we have been eating wonderfully fresh salads and sauteed kale frequently. In April, we had a few snow storms. Regardless, the garden held up fine through hail, sleet and snow. This year’s winter garden was an experiment. Even though we didn’t harvest in January and February, we were still able to harvest in March and April – which is far earlier than we would have planted vegetables in the past. The garden handles freezing conditions and up to six inches of snow without much of a problem. Sunny winter conditions, like some of our higher elevation neighbors had, would have resulted in an earlier harvest. Given the conditions we had to work with, we’ve been delighted with the results. We will plant another winter garden this year.