As the gardening season draws to a close, many of us have resigned ourselves to spending more money on groceries. While there are many good sales this time of year, the increased spending can still hurt the family budget. Fortunately, it’s not always necessary to accept this situation. Here are a few winter gardening tips that will help you to dramatically cut your food bill.
Know Your Zone
Depending on your area’s agricultural zone (US and Canada), you may be able to grow certain foods during the winter. For example, in many cold regions, cabbage, kale and collard greens are considered winter vegetables because they’re so cold-tolerant. Indeed, winter weather can bring out the best in many vegetables, including root vegetables like turnips, parsnips and carrots. Cool temperatures trigger the starches in the plants to convert into sugars, making them deliciously sweet.
Fresh and dried herbs are expensive if you buy them from the store, but they are a necessary part of cooking that few people want to forgo. If you have an outdoor herb garden, you may still be able to harvest herbs well into the winter depending on your region. Things like thyme, oregano, mint and sage are surprisingly tolerant of cold temperatures.
In many cases, the aromatic foliage will continue to grow beneath the dead plant matter and under snow accumulation. If this isn’t the case for you, however, you may want to consider planting some herbs in a sunny window of your home. Potted herbs don’t just provide you with fresh, nutritious seasonings. They also go well with nearly any kitchen design to enhance its aesthetic appeal.
If you’re a hardcore gardener at heart, then the idea of a cold, unproductive winter might leave you feeling unsatisfied. Fortunately, hydroponics can fill in the gap. If you have the space and enough money for a modest investment, it’s easy to set up a basic hydroponic system to grow fruits and veggies indoors. With this method, you can grow anything your taste buds desire. Tomatoes, fresh greens, root vegetables, herbs, peppers and even melons and squash are all possible and easy to grow hydroponically.
Using cold frames in the garden is an age-old trick that you can use to have fresh produce throughout the winter. The idea is that the enclosed space absorbs sunlight and holds in the heat, which warms the soil underneath. Best of all, they are simple to make using a wooden frame and a sheet of clear plastic or glass. Crops that do well in cold frames include lettuce, carrots, beets, radishes, greens, herbs and cabbage.
If you don’t want to invest the money and effort on setting up a hydroponics system, you can always take the more old-fashioned route and use plant stands. All you need area few grow lights and some shelving. Most greens and herbs do very well with this type of setup, allowing you to enjoy an array of fresh veggies and seasonings all winter long.
It should be noted that the lights you use will have a significant impact on your success. Regular fluorescent plant lights, when placed only a few inches above the soil surface, will do fine if you just want baby greens. However, if you want to grow taller, more robust plants, it is better to get stronger lights. Some of the more popular options are high pressure sodium, metal halide, mercury vapor and halogen.
About the author
Alex is a blogger, husband, father and aspiring slipstream fantasy novelist. When he isn’t writing for HomeDaddys or completing chores from his “honey- do” list, he’s most likely spending quality time with his wife and kids or working on his novel.