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Don’t Squash Your Chance of Growing a Winter Garden

By Martha Michael

Grow Your Winter Garden

Winter is the season of snow days and stowing away boats and beach gear, but not everything hibernates this time of year. Certain plants come to life, particularly those supplying healthy nutrients for mealtime favorites. Whether you’re the ant or the grasshopper in Aesop’s fable about planning ahead, you can enjoy the fruit (and vegetables) of someone’s labor in the garden.

The Health Benefits of Winter Fruits and Vegetables

Whether you got your own hands dirty in early fall or want to purchase the right ingredients for a favorite winter dish, there are plenty of healthy choices this time of year. An article on Health.com lists some of the season’s most nutritious fruits and vegetables.

Brussels sprouts - They look like cabbage and are cousins of broccoli, but more importantly, they have antioxidants which contribute to a lower risk of cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Butternut squash - Its colorful and smooth texture adds to its appeal, but there are nutritional benefits to many types of squash from fiber to Vitamin A.

Cabbage - Another vegetable with colorful options, cabbage is low in calories and a great source of fiber.

Carrots - Known for a healthy supply of beta-carotene, this vegetable is good for bone health and boosts your immune system.

Cranberries - They’re not just for holiday mealtime. You can add cranberries to yogurt, oatmeal, salad, or ice cream to add Vitamin C and fiber to your diet.

Grapefruit - Recognized by its tart taste, this winter citrus can provide half of your daily need for Vitamin C with as few as 90 calories per grapefruit.

Pears - If you know Harry & David’s, then it’s no secret that pears are a holiday favorite. They are tasty raw or cooked, and they have properties attributed to a decrease in the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Tips for Preparing Plants for Winter

If you’ve got a garden of your own, having lush leaves and fabulous foliage isn’t limited to spring and summer months. Winterize your garden to protect plants and plan for holiday and new year beauty outdoors.

An article by GardenDesign.com has tips for preparing your plants for winter.

Pruning

If you design your yard with native plants and trees, you reduce the work involved in preparing them for winter. Young plants of all kinds, however, aren’t necessarily hardy enough to withstand winter conditions without a little help. Prune perennials that can turn black or those that attract pests and develop diseases in the winter. Plants that are better left cut back include:

  • Geraniums
  • Veronicas
  • Peonies
  • Bearded irises
  • Mint

Clean Up

Clear the area by removing debris from your lawn and garden beds to reduce the chance that pests can dig in. You can use the collected leaves in mulch by pushing your lawn mower over them or feeding them into a leaf shredder.

Water

Do a thorough job of watering before the first frost hits. After the ground freezes you can add mulch at the base of the plants for added effectiveness. For your most fragile foliage, make sure you have several inches of bark, evergreen boughs, or shredded leaves in the mulch.

Wind Protection

For recently planted trees and shrubs, get a piece of burlap to fill with straw or leaves and wrap them at the base. Breathable fabric shields evergreen shrubs from dehydration caused by dry winter winds.

Planting in Winter

If you’ve gotten the bug and feel like gardening now, get your gloves on. Depending on your USDA plant hardiness zone, there may still be time to plant winter vegetables, according to the Family Handyman website. Zones seven, eight, nine, and ten experience their first frost later in the year so you can plant through the end of November and into December.

There are 28 states in USDA gardening zone 7 where you can plant onions in November and asparagus as late as December. You can do the same in zone 8 where it’s warmer and includes mostly southern states.

If you live further south and west in zones 9 and 10, there are plenty of vegetables to plant at the end of the year.

In November you can plant:

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Onions
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries

You can wait until December and still plant:

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Onions
  • Radishes

How you tend your garden depends on where you live, but there’s no need to hide its beauty under a bushel. They can be lush and attractive to look at and make winter mealtimes tasty and nutritious. There’s no room for the grasshopper’s complaints when you have the kinds of options we do in America.

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