Gardening doesn't have to be reserved for spring and summer. Winter gardening can be just as fun as harvesting a bounty during the summer.
It might be snowy and downright cold outside, but gardening truly can be done year-round. Where you live determines what kind of gardening you can do. Between container gardening and traditional outdoor gardening, there's always an option for someone who wants to exercise her green thumb.
Each part of the country has its own zone, with hardiness for plants varying per zone. There are 11 zones in total in North America, and each zone is 10 degrees warmer or colder in an average winter than its adjacent zone. This helps you determine which plants will grow well in your particular climate. Find your zone here.
Now that you know your zone, do some research to find out which plants work best for you. According to the National Gardening Association, winter is cool-season crop time. In some regions, greens such as arugula, spinach, lettuce and kale thrive. Root crops, such as carrots, beets and onions, grow well too, and even legumes like beans and peas flourish.
Depending on where you live, though, some plants might be better suited for early or late winter. In the Pacific Northwest, for example, greens do better with late fall/early winter planting, according to the association.
No matter where you live, container gardening is always an option. According to Purdue University Extension, it's easy to grow any type of flower or vegetable no matter what type of space you have available. All that's needed is a container, moist soil, draining holes in the container, water and sun.
Some examples of great plants to container garden include herbs, tomatoes, squash, lettuce, greens and a variety of flowers. Container gardening also provides a great opportunity to be creative — try using old whiskey barrels, homemade boxes and old milk jugs, just to name a few, as the containers.
Soil can play a crucial role in the success of gardening, no matter the time of year. With outdoor container gardening, in particular, winds can cause soil to need more watering than if the plants are located in a garden bed. In general, because plant roots need oxygen, soil should be porous. Depending on where you live, however, your soil type can vary. Sandy soil requires more frequent watering, while clay soil will stay wet longer.
Winter gardening has many benefits, including providing much-needed exercise during cold winter months. But it also has another benefit. Each time you garden, it enriches the soil for the next time planting occurs — giving it a boost of nutrients and minerals it might not otherwise have.
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