The growing season is winding down and winter is on its way. You are probably wondering how to continue eating fresh produce like you’ve been for the last six months or so. Depending on your climate and how much room you have, there are several ways you can grow everything from microgreens to tomatoes all year. Now is the time to think about it and take some action!
You can erect a simple hoophouse to grow cool weather crops over winter. Carrots, lettuce, beets, kale, chard, spinach, Asian greens, and green onions can overwinter in a hoophouse or low tunnel. On very cold nights, cover the plants with frost cloth to protect them. In summer, these structures will protect crops from extreme weather and extend the season of warm weather crops.
If you own your home, consider adding a passive solar greenhouse on the south side. It will help heat the house, and you can grow a wide variety of warm and cool weather plants in beds and containers all year. You may need supplemental heat, or you can include a rocket mass heater for thermal mass and warmed growing benches.
Bermed Freestanding Greenhouse
This is an Earthship-style greenhouse, where the north side is buried into a natural or manmade hill (berm), and the roof and south side are glass or another glazing. Thermal mass, such as cob or concrete walls, and 55-gallon drums of water, maintains an even heat at night and on cloudy days.
A strawbale cold frame provides its own insulated walls. Top with a piece of double wall polycarbonate for light and added insulation. If you can heat this from the bottom, it would be suitable for a cold climate.
Indoor Growing Systems
Bring the garden inside with one of several growing systems. You can have fresh organic produce all year even if you’re a city dweller in a tiny apartment.
Grow without soil using a hydroponic system, where a nutrient solution feeds the plants. This is a great DIY project that does not have to cost a lot of money. You will be able to grow annual and perennial herbs, such as basil, oregano, and rosemary. You can also grow tomatoes, greens, cucumbers, and peppers – crops you do not expect to find indoors. That’s a pretty good size garden! Grow vertically to take up less floor space or cover a blank wall or a window facing the neighbor’s fire escape.
If you want to start small with microgreens, herbs, and salad greens, consider something like the Urban Cultivator. This is a dishwasher-sized appliance that fits under a counter. It is an automated mini-greenhouse right in your kitchen. Once you program it, the plants receive the water and light that they need. It comes with growing medium and organic, non-GMO seeds to get you started.
Another option is the Nanofarm. This is a counter top mini-garden, although four can be stacked for more production. Put in the plant pad with its embedded seeds, add water, shut the door, and wait for your greens!
These sleek, modern, self-regulating appliances are a great choice for people who are busy or don’t feel they have a green thumb. No matter how you choose to grow food year-round, always think of your needs, budget, and space considerations before starting.