Is your green thumb itching to get back to your garden? Despite the warm weather, it’s still winter in Colorado. Take advantage of the season by planting winter vegetables and using containers or covers to protect your garden. Stephanie Smith, Lawnstarter, offers tips for winter gardening in Colorado.
Winter Gardening Tips
Colorado winters don’t usually bring to mind a successful gardening season. However, winters in the Centennial State are a great way to grow vegetables that love the colder temperatures. Follow these simple tips in tending to your winter garden:
Know Your Cold Weather Vegetables
There are many vegetables that actually prefer the colder temperatures of fall and winter. These plants thrive in winter and stop growing all together once hotter temperatures arrive. Broccoli is notorious for loving colder climates and will continue to grow shoots until the broccoli head is harvested. Onions are another cold weather vegetable. Green onions and leeks can grow well all throughout winter, but bulb onions do best when planted in February. Lettuce, kale, and arugula are other great options for winter vegetables that can also grow in shallow containers.
Transition to a Container Garden
According to the USDA Plant Zone Hardiness Map, Colorado has quite a spread in the degree of winter temperatures. This ranges from the -45°F 2b Zone at the top of the Rockies to the 5°F 7a Zone of Grand Junction. It’s no news to any Colorado resident that winter brings frozen temperatures. Therefore, it is likely that the ground will be frozen for much of the winter season. Choosing to move your winter garden into containers allows the soil a greater chance to stay warmer and provide nutrients to cold loving plants.
Any old container will not hold up to Colorado winters. Make sure to get solid and heavy containers that will not only hold your plant but also guard against freezing. Think about how you will tend to a plant during the impending Colorado snowstorms and place containers in an easily accessible area. Putting containers near your door and somewhat protected by a screened in porch or overhang can help your winter plants thrive despite the colder temperatures.
Install Row Covers
If you already have raised beds consider installing row covers that will prolong the likelihood that your soil won’t freeze as quickly during the winter months. Floating row covers are made of lightweight fabric. This allows rain and sun to reach plants, but will keep out hungry animals and protect against cold winds. The covered rows will be better insulated as they will capture humidity and raise the air temperature around plants. Adding wires or hoops to provide more air space within the plant area is a great way to keep the fabric from touching the plants.
Consider Cover Crops
For those gardeners who don’t necessarily want to spend a lot of time outside during a cold Colorado winter, consider planting a cover crop that needs little to no attention. Cover crops are a great way to infuse nutrients back into the soil. The nutrients help prepare your garden beds for a productive spring planting season. Rye, wheat, or fava beans are all good choices for cover crops that will release nitrogen and give your spring planting a firm foundation of healthy soil.
Winter can still be a productive plant season despite the cold Colorado temperatures. Don’t be afraid to utilize the season by planting a variety of cool weather vegetables. Provide your family with healthy and locally grown food throughout the winter with these helpful winter gardening tips.
Stephanie Smith is the regional marketing representative of LawnStarter Denver, a stress free online platform that connects homeowners with lawn care professionals for convenient services.