A major task in my garden this week was planting seeds for a winter crop of produce.
I have a small, unheated greenhouse — sometimes called a high tunnel — that I built last year out of salvaged parts. That’s where I sowed my seeds. In our climate, most winters are too harsh for plants to survive without some kind of protection.
In years past I’ve harvested winter produce from simple homemade cold frames made from window sash, low, plastic-covered tunnels and other kinds of structures. The secret is to make sure the structure gets adequate sunlight and that it is airtight to keep frigid winter drafts from freezing the plants.
I was able to plant the entire floor area of my greenhouse with spinach, winter onions, radishes, beets and a couple of different types of lettuce — all cool weather vegetables. The seeds were left over from my spring crop.
When the really cold weather hits, those plants will hardly grow at all, even when protected inside a structure. By sowing seeds now, the plants will have plenty of time to get to a usable size before they go into hibernation. Once they are established they will gradually become accustomed to the falling temperatures and will be more likely to survive.
I’ve tried setting out transplants late in the season, they just don’t seem to be as hardy as plants grown from seed in place.
If you want to try this yourself, get a structure built and seeds in the ground. Time is running short.