Growing Winter Crops

These days, people are more conscious than ever about what they’re eating. More and more people are opting to develop their own sources of fresh food that they can feed their families. Growing winter crops is a great option for people all around the country. Whether you live in Minnesota and you want to make the most out of the colder months of the year or you live in Florida and are interested in extending your growing season so that you have year-round crops, a greenhouse is a great way to make growing winter crops a reality.
Designing an indoor garden for growing winter crops is not all that different than growing an outdoor garden. You still have to consider the sunny areas, the shady areas, what to do about bugs, the temperatures that work best for your given crops, and whether or not you need to add light. Thinking about the following factors will get you on your way to growing winter crops in a greenhouse with success.

Plants that do well in cooler weather are a great choice for winter gardening. If the temperature in a greenhouse is below 50 degrees at night, you still have a warmer environment than you would outdoors in many parts of the country, offering a wide variety of plant choices. Flowering crops are the toughest to grow in winter, because they need additional light. If you would like to grow flowering plants, plan to provide supplemental light.
Leafy crops, such as kale, lettuce, and Swiss chard, are relatively easy to grow in winter. If you’re looking for additional food to grow, think about beets, celery, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, carrots, turnips, garlic, radishes, onions, and Brussels sprouts. Many herbs also make great winter plants including parsley and cilantro.

The Right Soil
Always use sterile soil for your winter greenhouse garden. Never bring soil in from an outdoor garden because many insects are soil born. The last thing that you want is to ruin your winter crops by bringing in white flies or mealy bugs. It is also important to remember to make sure not to compact the soil and give your crops roots space for water and air circulation to ensure healthy growth.

Every conservatory or greenhouse has its own lighting needs. How much shade do neighboring buildings and trees provide? Is your greenhouse oriented for more light in the morning or afternoon? What happens to the low sunlight during the winter? Be realistic about the lighting that you get so that you can provide adequate supplemental light sources. Even if you have great natural light, you will need some sort of additional light source to raise edible crops in your conservatory in the winter.
Blue spectrum light is ideal for leafy growth, such as lettuce. Red spectrum light is better for flowering plants, such as tomatoes. Keep in mind that plants need a minimum of six hours of darkness for respiration. As such, don’t leave plant lights on all night. Install a timer so that your plants get just the right amount of light.

If you’re ever in doubt about growing winter crops or any other aspect of gardening, talk to family members and friends who also garden or consult with your local nursery. Getting the advice that you need can save you hours of frustration.