Arkansas winters are unpredictable. One year we get a massive ice storm, another year we get 24” of snow in one day, and then another winter we get no frozen precipitation at all. This makes me think of that famous movie line, “You never know what you’re gonna get”.
In spite of all the unknowns, winter growing is an option here and a basic set up does not have to cost a fortune. Before growing outdoors over the winter, there are a few things you should know.
- Choose the right varieties- For winter growing, choose the most frost-tolerant varieties available. I have successfully grown and harvested kale and leeks outdoors over the winter with no protection. Other dark, leafy greens can be grown in low-rows, which I will cover later this week. Lettuces, broccoli, and cabbage can all be grown with a little protection.
- Don’t pull up the roots- Many leafy greens like kale, head and leaf lettuces will continue to put up new growth from the roots. Before the first hard frost, offer protection. They can handle the cold temperatures, but frost settling on the leaves might kill them. Which brings me to my next point…
- Keep those milk jugs- I like to make free mini-greenhouses for my small outdoor crops by cutting the bottom off a milk jug. I stick those fellas, spout side up, over my little lettuces and just remove them as needed to harvest. The leaves are protected, they get more intense sun during these short days, and I don’t have to water. I consider this upcycling at it’s best!
While it’s always exciting to harvest, it’s a little more exciting to harvest in the “dead” of winter. The unknown weather certainly brings it’s challenges, but it is nice not to have to deal with bugs, weeds or a watering schedule. There is almost no work involved in winter growing, and these warm fall days are the perfect time to get your winter system in place! Later this week I will discuss hoop houses and low-rows for winter growing.