The joys of fresh veggies in February
We have been enjoying fresh produce from our garden almost every dinner. With a little forethought throughout the year, you too can feast on fresh vegetables in February. If you’re not a winter gardener, let me tempt you with visions of fresh produce that you can grow in your own yard.
If you had planted parsnips in your garden last May, you would be digging and enjoying the sweet roots from now until mid-March. If you had planted collards, kale and broccoli last August, you would have been harvesting and eating these from soon after the first frost in October until now. Had you sown seeds of carrots and beets in mid-August, you would be feasting on tender carrots and beets starting in early December and through most of the winter.
These cold-hardy vegetable crops are an excellent source of fiber and vitamins, and their quality is enhanced by cold temperatures.
The variety of vegetables we can harvest in winter increases when we use unheated cold frames or greenhouses. Vegetables such as Great Lakes or bibb lettuce, arugala, spinach, radishes, green onions and walking onions can grow here in Southern Maryland without using other sources of energy. Low cold frames built three feet tall on the north side and 18 inches on the south side, in an area of full sun, will provide adequate light for growing these vegetables.
Build a cold frame using discarded sliding glass doors and thick wooden walls, two by six inches or two by eight inchs. Using poly-carbonate in place of glass to cover greenhouses is an excellent alternative for making them more energy efficient. Keeping the windows closed during cold days helps to store heat in the soil. Open the windows only on warm days. Keep the soil moist at all times because moist soil retains more heat than dry soil.
Trap heat during the day by placing several 50-gallon barrels filled with water in the greenhouse. Stored heat releases at night and during cloudy days and keeps plants warm. You can increase the heating efficiency of the water-filled barrels by placing large rocks in them before filling with water. Store even more solar energy in your greenhouse for night and cloudy days by building the north wall with stone or cement block, painted black.
With greenhouses, gardeners enjoy nurturing, harvesting and eating vegetables all year-round even in the winter.