Some winter crop protection to protect from cold, wind, and snow will certainly increase success for winter gardeners. We recommend the use of raised beds whenever possible, as they provide extra drainage, and will warm faster in brief winter sunny periods. Raised beds are easy to modify for use with cloche greenhouses, wind protection, and heavy row cover. Used in combination, these methods can ensure a bountiful harvest of fresh vegetables all winter long.
Even just planting against a south-facing wall can offer enough reflected/radiant heat and wind protection for many winter vegetables. Our customers have spoken of brushing snow off of unprotected Mizuna and finding it completely healthy and ready to eat. Imagine showing up at Christmas dinner with a fresh salad that you harvested that afternoon!
When growing carrots and other root vegetables over winter, consider planting in raised beds and adding a bit of straw around them for further insulation from hard frosts. Beneath a heavy row cover, their green tops will continue grow quite happily, and their roots will become sweeter with the cold – all with no threat from pests.
Heavy row cover acts like a blanket – storing heat in the air and soil beneath – and can add up to 5° Celsius to planted rows. Its benefits will increase if it is used in combination with a dark mulch – black plastic or landscape fabric will absorb more of the sun’s energy during the day, so it will take longer for the ground to cool down at night. It can also be folded or used in two layers for further protection, although light penetration will be reduced.
Even in the short days of winter, you can eat local and grow food!