We all know our gardens slow down considerably in the colder months, but there is no need for our veggie patches to slow down. There are many vegetables that can tolerate cold and be classified as winter veggies, yes even minus degrees and light frost. With a few simple measures, you can have veggies all year around. And if you are a salad loving person, don’t fret, even your lettuce will survive with a little help. Protecting these with frost cover cloth or cloches, even plastic 2l bottles (cut the bottoms off and whalla! Or “Voila!” if you’re French), will ensure that your salad bowl is never empty. Just remember to remove the protection during the day so that these little guys can soak up the sun.
What about severe cold?
Should a severe cold spell be predicted, artichokes, beets, carrots, cauliflower and celery can be protected in the same way. If your cabbages have formed heads, no worries, they are now strong enough and the frost will not be a problem. Luckily for you, all other brassicas, garden peas, spinach, turnips and leeks can withstand heavy frost. Plant away!
How to lay frost cover (and how not to!)
When laying frost cover over your veggies, make sure that the cloth does not touch the vegetables. This creates a barrier between the cold and your greens. If the cloth does touch your veggies, you are sure to have frost burns on the plants. Save yourself a lot of disappointments and do it right the first time. Sticks and wire make an easy simple frame for you to drape your cloth over. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to build a frame! Bloudraad (wire) is as strong as an ox. Bend it to form small wire hoops and lay across your veggie beds. Cover with frost cover cloth. Ideally you should remove the cover every morning after your first cup of coffee, to allow sunlight. If the weather is dreary for a couple of days, keep it on. No one likes being outside in winter without a jacket. Taller plants? Use sticks. Place you sticks around the plant and wrap it with frost cover. You can leave the top open only if the frost cover is higher than the plant. Should the top opening be big enough for the plant to receive sunshine, you can leave it standing throughout winter.
Don’t forget to watch the weather closely
Frost occurs when temperatures reach zero or fall below, this also depends on dew and wind factors. Very cold winds can cause black frost. Following the weather man can save you a lot of trouble in trying to predict the weather yourself. Tune in and keep watch. Should you live in an extremely cold area, there is still hope of watching your winter crop grow. Plastic tunnels can be made by digging down in your beds and using wire hoops and plastic. Dig a trench on either side of your bed and place the hoops. Fill back the soil after you have placed the plastic over the frame. Remember to keep a side open for easy access to your growing veg. This will act as a mini greenhouse. Your spinach, beetroot and cabbage will thrive in this little greenhouse.You can even sow your salad vegetables in trays and place them in your greenhouse, germination guaranteed! Microgreens are jam packed with goodness and need little space to be successful. Mix up your lettuce, baby spinach and even herbs like rocket and coriander seeds.
Talking about little space…pots, pots and more pots
Plant up with thyme, parsley, oregano, chives and more coriander. Keep them in a warm, draught-free area. Pick at hearts content for those lovely winter stews. Beds that don’t receive enough sun in winter should be left to rest. Keeping some beds empty, allows for early planting in spring, especially in winter rainfall areas where the soil stays too wet. Simply cover with mulch and wait for the goodness to happen.