GROW: The Book
How do you grow food in the winter time? What ideas do you have, what have you tried, what works?
For those of you in the southern hemisphere the answer is easy! LOL
I use cold frames, hot beds, winter sowing and a greenhouse that is heated naturally. (The greenhouses here are new this year - I volunteered at greenhouses before at other places
My winters are unpredictable. I live in the foothills so I might have a mild winter or get snow all the time. I have top be prepared for anything.
Winter sowing in milk jugs is easy and takes little space. It has worked well for me. I start about 30 jugs. They do very well!
Cold frames are used for my cold weather crops. I can have greens all winter long. (I also grow herbs and some greens on my windowsill) My cold frames usually do very well. I have blanklets to throw over them on really cold nights and ocassionally use water jugs to try and keep the heat up when its pure torture outside
Hot beds are for those horrible cold winters where I need all the help I can get to have fresh veggies. I cannot stand store bought lettuce so I have to find a way to at least grow that. So far the hot beds do ok but I need more experience with them
This year will be my first greenhouse set up here so it will be a learning experience. I want to grow to sell plants and also teach so I start a lot. I have a small portable greenhouse I plan to set up for those plants that need warmer nights. My large greenhouse is 15 foot by 45 foot
Cold frames don't need much space. Mine are only 3' x 6' each, and I have only two.
I use cold frames into early winter, but once snow falls and hard freezes hit, I stop harvesting from them. It's too big a pain to dig all the snow around the beds and get into them, and harvesting frozen plants can turn into mush when brought inside.
However, the plants will stay alive all winter in the cold frames, so early next spring I'm able to open them up again and harvest lots of salad greens while other gardeners haven't even planted their lettuce and spinach yet. This year I was giving away piles of claytonia to friends and neighbors long before spring-planted gardens came up!
In the depths of winter, I grow my salad and sandwich shoots and sprouts inside under lights. I have a couple of shelves on a former bookshelf that has been converted to growing area, with lights suspended above them. In past years I've used simple cool white fluorescent tubes, which are good enough for sprouting greens but probably not enough light to start more demanding plants. This summer I bought grow lights that cover more of the spectrum, and I'll be using them this winter.
Even if you have no outside land at all, you can grow a continuous, year-round supply of green salad material in a small apartment on a couple of shelves 3 or 4 feet long.
I haven't figured that one out yet so I don't think I'll be growing anything this winter unfortunately. This was the first season I tried my hand at vegetable gardening. Up until then I only had grown herbs. We don't have any land of our own to grow on so my garden is contained in pots on our porch. That works ok in the warm months but it gets very cold here in the winter. Any ideas for me?
I just prepared a quart (liter) jar of sprouted organic green lentils. With a room temperature of 60F the green lentils took one week to form small pale leaves, then I placed them in the fridge. In a warmer room the sprouts take 3 or 4 days to mature, so that is a quick crop! A generous handful of beans soaked for eight hours, then rinsed daily, makes a jar full of sprouts. After sprouting I placed the jar in the fridge. I am cooking the sprouts, until I build up my confidence about eating them raw. These are said to be more nutritious than just the lentils and are a fresh food. The sprouts are fairly large, being slightly smaller than the bean sprouts that we find in Chinese restaurants. Those would be a good large juicy sprout too.
We have two 4-shelf wire racks of the type used to store canned foods in restaurants. We suspended solartube grow lamps from each rack to shine on the racks below. One rack of shelves resides in our south-facing enclosed front porch where the temps are warmer and the sun shines in strongly and that works really well for starting "hot" garden veggie crops in the spring. The other rack is on our unheated north-facing back porch. It works great for cool crops in the spring, and I'm going to try growing flats of babyleaf lettuces there for salad cutting through the winter. The greens from the grocery store, even the organic ones, often are overpriced and not even that good. I'm dreaming of our own fresh lettuce twice a week or so throughout the winter. That would be such a treat!
I have a 5 greens seed mix I use for constant greens and salads all season long. They can easily be grown on a windowsill or under a small set of lights. I usually use a windowsill. I just can't eat greens from a store.
I grow sprouts and microgreens in the house. I do use lights for that but I have a friend who just uses a windowsill and they thrive
I have one tomato plant I had pollinate for mini tomatoes all winter long
I do use cold frames and hot beds for crops. The greens and carrots are harvested in winter and other seeds have been started but kind of set dormant until my weather will warm up consistantly (my winters are cold!)
I do plan on setting up and using a greenhouse but that is not always an option for everyone
A windowsill can definitely work. I don't use one in winter because I fear that our frequent below-zero night temperatures would not be for the plants. Even frost-tolerant plants have their limits.
Yesterday evening we had our first snow of the year.
Now that we've had several frosts and a 4-inch snowfall, it's time to start moving the growing inside.
The circular plastic pot is growing perennial onions in a cut-and-come-again method. The other pots hold buckwheat, daikon radish, sunflowers, and scallions.
Notice the two squirt bottles underneath. The clear one on the left is tap water (yes, it's chlorinated), the one on the right is tap water mixed with Sea-Plus 3-2-2 fertilizer. The plants are sprayed about twice a day with water, but the fertilizer is seldom applied to sprouts and shoots, and only occasionally to perennials or future transplants.
There's no window nearby, so grow lights are used.
We're looking to fresh, healthy sprouts all winter! I've been doing this for years, though the replacement of cool white fluorescents with grow lights is new this year.
Are the grow lights LED? Heard that LED is not a good option because of the Blue light it emits.
I think these are LED. They give off a purple light, which is supposed to be a blend of the red and blue/violet that plants want.
(I am no expert on this, but green leaves means that plants reflect green light, so the light they absorb is everything-but-green. So grow lights tend to have a peak low in the visual spectrum (red) and high in the spectrum (blue).) The net effect is that they look sort of red-purple.
The perennial onions I am growing under the lights shoots up like a rocket, so it clearly finds the light satisfying. I can cut it down to the soil one day, and the next day it's already starting to grow upward again from the roots.
This is a really good book for those who are new to sprouting or those who are looking for new recipes to use up the overproduction of sprouts that can occur.
Add a Few Sprouts - To Eat Better for Less Money. Martha H. Oliver.
Even though I am in the south we still occasionally get a frost which can stunt seed germination and why I may try a suggestion from Melissa Norris and to use plastic bin turned upside down which collects heat during the day and keep them warm enough to germinate. The problem in So. Calif is the weather can be so unpredictable - one day it can be in the 80's and the next in the 60's (which just happened last week).
has anyone raised quail in an apartment for eggs? they are small and quiet. Not a huge amount, but at least its something. If cared for properly I think the smell could be managed without issue... Sort of like keeping a parrot or other big bird?
I think it is possible indoors. I've raised them outside easily enough. And I'm wondering if anyone has experience raising them indoors? We definitely need more solutions for growing food in apartments - I get questions on that all the time.
How big of a cage would you need for a pair? Then there would have to be a grow-out cage if raising them for meat instead of eggs. I am looking for something I can raise in an apartment. Guinea pigs are an option, but I might prefer quail. Is there a possibility for the Academy to offer a course on raising quail?
I just found an answer. "Quail are a rather underrated animal. The most common breed, the Bobwhite, can mature in 16 weeks and start laying after 24. Quail can also live in a fairly small area, as long as it’s covered and kept clean. “A 2’ x 2’ x 8’ pen could comfortably house 20 to 25 quail,” Carla Emery notes in her classic book, The Encyclopedia of Country Living (Sasquatch Books, 40th anniversary edition, 2012). Quail will not likely brood their own chicks in captivity, however, so it’s a good idea to have an incubator if you plan to earn a profit from your endeavor. Some quail breeds, such as the Coturnix, can produce four to six eggs a week, which can sell for up to 50 cents an egg, suddenly making quail a profitable fowl for small spaces."
I have brought some herbs in for the winter from the deck garden. They sit in a sunny window that has been winterized with plastic sheeting. My oregano plant is three years old at this point.
@NarjissMomOf3 @VermontCathy I have used LED lights in the blue / red color spectrums for growing seedlings from seeds and it turned out very well.
@Denise Grant if you have any suggestions for building a greenhouse I'd greatly appreciate it thank you.
@Marjory Wildcraft I am going to experiment this Winter by trying to grow indoors a few of my gathered seeds that already germinated. For example, a few of my magic apple tree seeds already germinated. I'm going to plant them indoors and try to get by with south-facing sunlight for them to grow into happy young seedlings I can then plant in larger pots and set outside come spring. Also, I super want to start experimenting growing chia indoors. Thanks for the great topic of discussion and any advice from you is always appreciated!
We have a green house for warm weather crops that we just have to have - cantaloupe anyone? :)
We have sweet potatoes out in the field that we are going to put some very small hoop houses on to see how well they come out this year. Wouldn't have tried it, but we had a neighbor give us the slips. Just had to try it!
Other than that we focus on our cold weather crops that do well in 8b.
Quail do better in small spaces so indoors is a great place for them. I keep some in the basement. My pen area is 2 by 6. I love quail but they do like to get out and if they do you rarely get them back. I have a double front to prevent this problem
@Denise Grant Thank you. How many birds do you have and much food do you go through in a month? I don't have space inside, but my landlord is quite accommodating and would probably let me use the protected area below.
I am going to try to grow mushrooms inside this winter. I haven't ordered a kit yet. Still contemplating which kind to try. I think this will be an excellent way to supplement our winter food supply.
I will post results once I get started.
@torey I also plan to grow them. I want, of course, to find the cheapest way to do it.
I need to know more about the different varieties of mushrooms
@Tave I have 35 birds right now. They eat about 20 to 30 ounces a day. They are really good about eating what they need and not throwing it around and being wasteful.
Its important to have a high protein feed, around 20%. I really want to start to make my own food for them
What are you looking for? I'll start a new topic later today. My building of greenhuses is always with recycled items, usually free.
I am putting up a trampoline greenhouse this week. Right now I cannot put photos on the computer but I will explain the best I can and try to get photos up asap
Recycled window greenhouses, pallet greenhouses, leanto against a house greenhouse are also relativley easy to create and since I cannot nail a nail straight for the life of me - they have to be easy
Underground greenhouses are also nice for colder area (even good to helping with heat in hotter areas). The problem with them is you need a bank unless you have access to a backhoe. A trampoline makes a fast semi simple underground greenhouse.
I am really interested in this new product called Gardyn ( https://mygardyn.com/ )
I'd really like to invest in one...but, they are so expensive!
Anyone have experience with these? TIA
@Ruth Ann Reyes No kiddng, EXPENSIVE! I have never had one of these, but did have a somewhat similar unit about 20 years ago. I am sorry to say that it did not perform as advertised and we didn't get much harvest from it. Definitely wasn't worth the investment. And it used electricity so that added to the cost. From the website, it looks as though you have to buy extra items if you are using your own seed. I would want to know the cost of the fertilizers and all the extras before investing. There doesn't seem to be much info on the website as to cost and ordering of parts, new seeds, fertilizers, etc. I think you would have to grow an awful lot of produce for you to recoup your investment and for it to be economically feasible.
It definitely wouldn't work for people who are off grid as it seems to be hooked up to an app on a smart phone and requires a regular power source.
Personally, I don't like the idea of a membership or subscription and that seems to be what this company is about. However, for some people, this might be exactly what they need to get started growing their own food, especially in an apartment or other small living space. Maybe things have improved over the years and this is a more efficient product than the one I had. I would be interested to hear from someone that actually has one, not just comments from their website.
wow, that looks really cool! I wonder how smart the AI is... definitely could be a solution for northern growers... living in apartments or condos. Thanks for brinign this forward @Ruth Ann Reyes
Great! Thank you so much for the information.