Wow… February in short sleeves in North Carolina, Zone 7A! Oh sure, we’ve had some winter cold and snow earlier on, but these mid-winter warm spells can instill false hopes and trigger buds to break and even trees to flower. By mid-February, we’ll soon be back to winter and relatively harsh cold.
Speaking of relatively harsh cold, at the end of January I spent a long weekend in Edmonton Canada (high temp was -16 and lows down to -25, not including 20 MPH wind chills)! Talk about taking one’s breath away!
Brrrr! That’s Zone 2A territory with a short growing season averaging 120 days. You folks in those zones have to be a hardy breed!
The day after returning home, our local high temp hit 72 degrees! We took off the covers and let our winter crops bask in the warm sunshine.
Changes in latitude, changes in gratitude!
Gratitude is Always a Good Thing
Speaking of gratitude, here’s what our “girls” have been up to: my wife, LeAura and daughter, Devani have been busy creating art, kindness and writer’s challenges through their iCreateDaily brand. In addition to podcasting, authoring and publishing wonderful journals that are now available on Amazon, including a Gratitude Journal, so please check them out!
When gardener’s can’t garden, they create things!
Meanwhile, back to winter garden plants.
Winter Garden Plants
So, how’s the garden faring in the midst of these extremes? These are doing really well… just wish I’d planted more!
- Swiss chard
So our cole crops, arugula, and swiss chard appear to be holding their own and then some. The broccoli is heading up nicely, and the collards are looking sassy.
The downside? I wish I’d planted more earlier and more a bit later. That way we would have more to harvest throughout the winter. In gardening, as in life, we learn something new each season, and keep on growing and improving. #SeasonsOfLife!
The benefits of cold-weather gardening include very few pests and minimal weeding or watering.
Row Cover Tips for Winter Vegetables
- Fall Row Covers – thinner gauze row covers
- Winter Row Covers – thicker blanket frost covers
We use the gauzy (thinner) covers as the colder temps begin. Once the lows begin to drop below freezing, we change over to heavier frost cloth covers, sometimes referred to as frost blankets. More protection comes with a price though.
Be aware: thicker row covers mean reduced light penetration.
Here’s a handy chart from the AgFabric folks that can help you determine the level of protection and how it affects light transmission. .
Row Cover Frames
For support of the fabrics we use a variety of row cover frames:
- Jute twine strung between posts – tent style
- Hoops – store bought or homemade
- PVC pipe
- Stout fencing wire
The simplest is a doubled length of jute twine stretched between two posts. The cover drapes over like a tent and the edges are pinned with landscape fabric “staples”.
It’s fairly easy to adjust the height over a single row, and easy to unpin one side to uncover for warmer days, cultivation, or harvest. It’s not so good with snow cover or taller plants, and the twine does stretch, so you’ll want to tie it in a slip knot so as to easily tighten it as needed.
The next method uses hoops, either store bought or home made designs made of pvc pipe, bamboo, or stout fencing wire. The best way we found to attach fabric to the wire is using document binder clips from the office.
Our stoutest supports are made from concrete reinforcement wire and cattle panels. The latter can also be shaped into stand-up cold frames and covered in poly.
It’s best if you can design covers so they can be handily removed for the occasional warm sunny day, to tend your crops, and for easier harvesting. Of course, climates and wind velocities can vary widely so having ample anchorage to keep the fabric pinned down is also important.
Extend Your Growing Season
The use of row covers and support frames not only protects winter garden plants, but can get your spring garden going much earlier. An extended growing season means extended harvests, and in some zones—even some of the wintery ones—that can mean year round growing!
Winter Landscape Plants
One bright spot in our winter landscape is this wonderful Arnold’s Promise witch hazel tree.
The frilly, lightly scented blossoms are a “promise” of a new season of life bursting forth. Meanwhile, we shall enjoy the weather with its ebbs and flows.
For 30 years, our Arnold’s Promise witch hazel tree has bloomed every February like clockwork.
We appreciate sharing our experiences and ideas with our fellow garden enthusiasts, and hearing yours!
If you have anything to share about the topic of winter gardening, you are most welcome to post on our Facebook page or send us a message. We’d be glad to publish your experience and photos on this or other garden related topics.
?Let’s keep on growing!?
G. Coleman Alderson is an entrepreneur, land manager, investor, gardener, and author of the novel, Mountain Whispers: Days Without Sun. Coleman holds an MS from Penn State where his thesis centered on horticulture, park planning, design, and maintenance. He’s a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and a licensed building contractor for 27 years. “But nothing surpasses my 40 years of lessons from the field and garden. And in the garden, as in life, it’s always interesting because those lessons never end!” Coleman Alderson