Growing a vegetable garden in the Maine winter? Some people might say that’s impossible, but many Mainers know better!
Winter gardens are not only possible, but they are a good way to supplement your food sources. And not only will they grow food, but they will also grow your gardening skills.
While there are various powered and non-powered options for winter vegetable gardening, we’re going to examine non-powered options.
Zoning in on Your Weather
You can plant anything in the ground but if you want something to come out, you’d better stick to plants that are built for the winter. More important, you’ll want to determine your area’s hardiness zone.
Hardiness zones will help you choose the plants that will perform the best in your climate. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has hardiness maps available, but remember that like weather forecasts, they are not perfect.
While hardiness zones vary somewhat in Maine, consider these vegetables for your winter garden, depending on your zone. According to HGTV:
“Hardy vegetables tolerate hard frosts (25 to 28° F). In other areas, you might need to provide frost protection on occasion throughout winter.”
HGTV continues by providing some examples of hardy vegetables such as “English peas, kohlrabi, leeks, broccoli, radish, turnips, and collards. Examples of semi-hardy vegetables include leaf lettuces, arugula, Asian greens, endive, beets, carrots, and cabbage”. They continue by noting that “semi-hardy vegetables tolerate light frosts (29 to 32° F).”
A vegetable’s ability to withstand cold and frost makes it imperative you are aware of the zone you are in and how often your locality varies from the average temperature. With our harsh Maine winters, this is not something to take lightly.
When to Grow
Your region’s hardiness zone will help you plan when to begin your winter garden. Consider both offline and online resources such as The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
How to Grow
There are different non-powered ways to grow your winter garden. Although this article won’t go into the nitty gritty details you’ll want to be versed in for each vegetable, we’ll give you a good idea of the various resources.
One of the essentials is covering your garden to provide protection from frost. For example, you can use mulch and/or blankets to lock in heat.
There are a variety of structures you can build to keep our vegetables safe. A common structure is the cold frame. A cold frame is a four-sided frame with a removable glass or plastic top. You can buy cold frames or go the DIY route.
Another clever way of protecting your garden is to use hay and windows:
Place old hay bales at the end of each row. Then place old windows over top of the plants along the row. This will draw heat during the day and keep frost off at night – a clever hack that’s been around for ages.
There’s nothing wrong with the basics either. A traditional greenhouse will serve you well for many purposes, even if it is not artificially heated.
A Hearty Challenge
Mainers are used to the rough winters and the vegetables we mentioned are as well. However, just like people, vegetables need to be protected from the cold.
Your winter garden will likely be the most challenging garden you’ve grown. Be prepared for the extra work including braving the elements to keep your garden going.
Making Winter Gardening Work for You
Whether winter gardens are a tradition you’re already familiar with, or one you’re looking to begin, these winter garden guidelines can get you started on the right foot. Seasoned Mainers know that our winters can be extremely harsh, especially in January and February, so it’s best to be prepared!
A winter vegetable garden can add a new twist to your landscape besides the wintery white covering we’re all familiar with and provide you with some home-grown goodies.
While you’re putting your land to good use, consider Davis Landscape for improvements to your home’s outdoor appearance. We’re proud to be a family-run operation that’s been in business since 1976 – nearly a half century.
Contact us for more information about using softscape and hardscape features to add functionality, form, and value to your property.