Step One: Create the Right Conditions
A raised bed is when a frame sits above the ground and is filled with soil. When the soil is elevated, the soil temperature increases by 8 o – 13 o F over in-ground soil temperatures.
A cold frame is simply a box with a transparent lid. Cold frames protect plants from damaging winds, killing frosts and help to retain heat.
Mulch discourages weeds, helps to retain moisture and helps to increase soil temperatures by 15o-32o F depending on hours of sunlight.
A hot bed is invaluable in cold climates. A 3 ft – 4ft hole is dug and an 18 in. – 24 in. deep layer of fresh manure and straw mix is laid down in September and a 12 in. – 24 in. deep layer of soil is laid on top. As the manure decomposes, it produces heat; a lot of heat. The hot bed’s temperature will be between 50 o and 72 o F depending on how deep the manure layer is, how often the bed is watered and the insulation factor of cold frame and outside temperature. If laid down in mid to late September it will steadily heat the soil, and the entire raised bed and cold frame until mid to late March. No electricity required!
Step Two: Select the Right Varieties
- Globe Onion
- Bunching Onion
- Swiss Chard
- Brussels Sprouts
Flowering, Fruiting & Seeding Vegetables
- Fava Bean
- Broad Bean
Step Three: Plant Early and in Succession
Yes, I’m sorry, you will have to start planting in late July or August to capture enough sunlight to give your plants a chance. As daylight hours decrease, plant growth slows. It will take your vegetables longer to grow and reach a harvestable size. When your thoughts are geared towards summer harvests, you will have to begin planting again. But it is enjoyable labor, right? Right.
To ensure that you will have fruit and vegetables throughout the late fall and winter seasons into early spring, plant in succession. Each week plant a little more.
Step Four: Apply Lots of Patience, Water Frequently and Harvest Quickly with a Foot of Snow on the Ground!
The decreased amount of daylight hours makes the plants grow slower. It will make you antsy – at least it makes me antsy. You will initially feel like your timing is off. Do not panic. All will be well.
Watering your garden beds is more difficult in the winter and motivation for watering is also low. Do not stop watering though! Hot beds require sufficient water to ensure decomposition and to maintain heat levels. Your plants also need water in order to grow. Keep this in mind when you are lugging out your water in -15 o F.
Know what you will be harvesting before you open the lid of the cold frame so that you do not expose the plants to freezing temperatures and let out all of that retained heat.