Winter Garden Update

iStock_000001276625XSmallFresh greens and herbs in January?  You can have them in Santa Fe. Winter gardening takes some planning in the late summer and fall to prepare a covered space for a winter garden.

A winter garden will save money buying expensive perennial herbs and cooking greens. Parsley, oregano and thyme can grow inside of a hoop house or cold frame to use in the winter. These are all perennial herbs that can live through frost and will live inside of a place with a warmer daytime temperature.  The herb starts are the best thing to plant in August to grow larger for the winter. A community garden has parsley growing and we do not have to purchase it at the grocery store.

Cooking greens taste wonderful as a side dish or mixed into soups. These include Swiss Chard, Kale, Collard Greens and Arugula.  Some heavier lettuce can also grow in colder temperatures. Planting the seeds inside of a hoop house or cold frame in August or early September will have them large enough to eat during the winter. January has less light so the greens do not grow as quickly, but late February and March are prime time to harvest these and save money from purchasing. Here is a great way to cook your greens.

Here are some tips to start your garden and updates on the community garden’s harvest.

1. Build a hoop house or cold frame in your yard.  Here are some tips.

2. Take the temperature. A simple thermometer that takes the temperature of your cooking turkey can be taken outside to measure the soil temperature. The soil can freeze and still have these plants live, but it should stay above 40 degrees for them to be edible. We have used a larger hoop house and smaller (2′ hoops and row cover) inside to keep the temperature higher this winter.

3. Use water to raise the temperature. We moved 55 gallon drums into the hoop house and filled them with water to keep a few degrees higher at night.  Take the temperature with your kitchen oven thermometer.

4. Keep the doors closed when it is cold.  These past few weeks have had a closed hoop house at the community garden. We open the doors when the temperature is above 50 degrees and close them at night.  You can also purchase a heat sync to open the windows without going to the hoop house each day.

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