Creative Gardener or Cheap Gardener?

Make-shift, early-winter gardenEarlier this year, my husband and I put in two raised garden beds. Our normal garden, on the other side of the shed, was getting less and less sun as the years went on and the trees around it grew bigger. This side of our property had more light.

The new gardens went way over budget, so there was no room left for extras like greenhouse plastic. But I wanted to experiment with winter gardening a bit to see how it worked and if it was something we could try more seriously next year.

The final decision was to use garden fleece, a total of two packages that were already two years old and had been used quite extensively in the garden, clothespins, large pieces of concrete edging, and trellises. Oh, and some of the framework from a “greenhouse” with cheap plastic that couldn’t go below freezing (so it lasted me one season). The fleece only protects plants underneath them until about -1˚C outside. However, I’d planted some carrot seed in August or so (I never keep track of these things) and wanted to simply see what would happen.

Carrots harvested at the beginning of December in a Zone 5 garden.What happened was that I had two more small harvests in December! (I’m in zone 5.) I had to dig in frozen ground for the first harvest. That wasn’t fun. A few days later, though, we had a warm spell, and temperatures climbed to 11˚C. I ran to the backyard after work and dug out whatever decent-sized carrots I could find. Many are still left in the ground, but I understand they’ll grow in the spring, as soon as the ground has warmed up. I believe they’ll also go to seed. I don’t know if that’ll affect the flavour of the root, but at least I’ll get tons of fresh carrot seed next year.

This make-shift garden does require maintenance, and I doubt it would keep animals out if it were on the ground. However, it didn’t cost me anything extra, which was the point of the exercise. That, and I wanted to see how things fared under this kind of cover.

The garden fleece won’t last the winter, I’m sure. I may try and pull it up in a few weeks before it gets really cold, or I’ll just let it slowly deteriorate. I may buy more next year, partly because it’s pretty cheap and it’s definitely useful, or I may look into greenhouse plastic at that point. I do know that we don’t get any sun back there in the dead of winter, so a true winter garden is out of the question. But if I had something set up that extended my growing season from March to December, I’d be ecstatic.

Whenever you’re in an experimental phase of a project, really try and work with what you have. Using that constraint forces you to think creatively, and you may be surprised by the outcome.

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