Cold Weather Gardens

In North Carolina, fresh garden produce can be enjoyed year-round.  Spinach, kale, broccoli, collards, cabbage and other vegetables can grow through winter with a little extra care.  Early Spring gardens can begin being planted as early as January.

Commercial growers need big, expensive greenhouses for their cold-weather plants, but that’s not necessary for home gardeners.  If temperatures get unusually cold, cold frames can be used to cover a garden bed, letting sunlight in to warm the soil while keeping cold air away from the plants.  Our winters are not brutally cold as they are up north, so plants need just a little protection.

If you build wooden frames around your garden beds, you can simply build a cover to place on top of them in cold weather.  Make a wooden frame of 2x4s and staple plastic over top of the frame (see image).  Set it on top of the bed frame and place a few bricks or large stones on top to hold it down.  If rain is in the forecast, just stick a block under one side of the cover to allow water to run off the other side.

In colder places, hotbeds are used for winter growing.  A hot bed is made by filling the bottom of a raised with fresh horse or cow manure and covering it with decomposed manure or good garden soil/compost.  As the manure begins decomposing, it will give off heat, warming the bed and allowing vegetables to grow despite the cold weather.  If you get a chance, take a trip to Colonial Williamsburg in November or December–or check out this article.

So, if you are eager to get gardens started, don’t think you need to wait until March or April. You can get started any time here in North Carolina.

Bill Michael
Michael Family Farm



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