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Winter Is When All Great Vegetable Gardens Begin
Monday, 24 February 2014 00:00  |  Written by Amy Kaplan | Article

Vegetable Garden photo by Southern Foodways AllianceGrowing your own food is one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways of living a more environmental existence. Vegetable gardening allows you to forgo chemicals and use time-proven natural methods for producing the most organic food possible. Through composting and mulching you can recycle portions of your and your neighbors' household waste to the benefit of your garden.

When harvest time comes, you will have the opportunity to enjoy, preserve and even share your bounty; believe me, you will have surplus! One of the joys of gardening is learning about Mother Nature’s generosity.

Here are some key actions you should take during the winter months to get yourself and your garden ready for warmer days:

  • Winter is the perfect time to add organic top dressings to your garden; they will be incorporated into the soil by winter’s rain and snow.
  • Take advantage of winter downtime to clean, repair and organize both your tools and yard. Take an inventory of seeds, and indoor and outdoor plants, then decide where and what you want to plant, as well as what you want to remove upon warmer weather.
  • Begin a garden journal to organize for the growing season’s busier months. You can plan crop rotations, mulching and fertilizing, planting schedules, note what seeds to order, organize your seeds and plants, and sketch and plan both your garden and other backyard projects. Some people like to take before-and-after pictures of their gardens and include them in their journals. They are also good places to keep recipes for garden-based dishes, and tips for gardening, canning and preserving.
  • Late winter is the right time to start indoor seedlings; plant summer blooming bulbs, tubers and more outside; feed roses, shrubs and fruit trees, and spray with dormant spray (which fights fungal infections and keeps destructive insects at bay); plant potatoes; begin to rejuvenate annual flower beds; continue planting cool-season vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, kale, lettuce and onions (if your winter isn't prohibitively cold); and plant bareroot fruit trees and roses, pruning them when the weather permits.

Use late-winter doldrums for lots of happy dreaming about sunny days, good eats (perhaps canned from the previous year's garden) and taking this major step toward going green.

Seedlings photo by Hardworking HippieAnd certainly, if you have some gardening tips of your own—particularly, but not exclusively related to wintertime preparations for gardening—please comment below so that other EcoHearth readers can benefit from them. And be sure, when you collect nature's gifts at the end of the growing season, to be generous with the fruits of your labors. Your family and friends will be very appreciative. It's also great to share your gardening wisdom with your neighbors. The more gardens in the vicinity, the more vegetables that can be given away and traded--all the better for your health and that of the planet.

Additional resources:
What To Plant: Plan Your Early Spring Garden
The Many Merits of Mulching
How to Compost and Build a Compost Heap
Canning Basics: How to Can Tomatoes and Vegetables

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