Can I Start Gardening Now:

Starting a Garden Now

You look out at the dead of winter and wonder, can I really start gardening now? The answer is yes! With the right approach, planning, and protection, new gardens can be launched at nearly any time of year. Don’t let the calendar stop you from getting growing. This guide provides tips for successfully starting a garden now.

Introduction

For many, gardening is strictly a spring and summer activity. But with the right techniques, the joys and rewards of gardening can be unlocked nearly year-round. This article covers:

  • The benefits of starting a garden now
  • Strategies for off-season planting
  • Crops suitable for fall, winter and early spring planting
  • Season extension tools to conquer cold weather
  • Prepping your planting space in winter
  • Sourcing seeds and transplants during the off-season

Follow these tips to start nourishing your own urban or backyard garden oasis now, regardless of the current season.

Why Start a Garden Now?

Here are great reasons to get planting even when it’s colder out:

  • Avoid the spring gardening rush and begin growing earlier
  • Extend your harvest into fall, winter or earlier spring
  • Gain experience and make mistakes before prime gardening season
  • Test different crops and varieties for your growing conditions
  • Build and develop garden infrastructure like raised beds
  • Spend time planning and designing so everything is ready
  • Beat the peak-season spike in prices for seeds and starts

With the right preparations, a garden started now can flourish!

Growing Successfully in the Off-Season

Several strategies make gardens possible year-round:

  • Choose cold hardy vegetables like kale, carrots, onions, and spinach
  • Start seedlings indoors to gain a head start before transplanting
  • Use protection like cold frames, row covers, and greenhouses
  • Opt for raised beds that warm more quickly in spring
  • Use wall-o-waters and cloches to protect individual plants
  • Improve drainage for enhanced winter survival
  • Use dark plastic or straw mulch to boost warmth
  • Monitor soil temperature and only plant when sufficiently warm

Best Off-Season Crops

Some vegetables thrive during cooler months:

Fall – Lettuce, carrots, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens, turnips, beets

Winter – Garlic, onions, leafy greens, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower

Early Spring – Peas, celery, potatoes, arugula, leeks, lettuce, carrots, radishes

Check each crop’s optimal soil temperature for planting and select varieties suited to your climate.

Season Extension Tools and Techniques

Special gear shields plants from cold extremes:

Row Covers – Breathable fabric laid over plants protects from frost and wind

Cold Frames – Bottomless boxes with transparent tops that harness sunlight

Cloches – Mini greenhouses that fit over single plants

Low Tunnels – Hoops covered in plastic that blanket entire garden rows

Greenhouses – Heated or unheated permanent structures allow earlier starting

Irrigation – Ensure consistent moisture needed for cool weather growth

Companion planting – Strategic combinations like lettuce underprotective Brussels sprouts

Preparing Your Planting Area

Even in winter, preparatory steps improve off-season success:

  • Remove weeds, debris, and spent plants from last season
  • Test soil nutrients and pH and amend if needed
  • Add compost, leaves, or other organic matter to enrich soil
  • Install raised beds for improved drainage and earlier spring thawing
  • Cover beds with plastic sheeting to solarize and kill weeds
  • Create or improve trellising and supports for vining crops

Finding Seeds and Starts

You can source off-season planting supplies:

Seeds – Order from catalogs or buy starter packs from garden centers

Seedlings – Visit local greenhouse growers for transplants

Online – Have seeds or sets delivered right to your door

Indoor growing – Start your own transplants under lights

Seed exchanges – Network with other gardeners to source unique varieties

Local events – Attend gardening swap meets and conferences

With the right mindset and preparation, gardens can be kickstarted at any time of year. Don’t let the calendar limit your growing possibilities!

Conclusion

A surprising variety of edible crops can be cultivated through the colder months or early spring with the help of season extension tools. Follow this guide to get a head start on next season’s garden or to simply extend nutritious harvests beyond the summer. With the right planning and protection for plants, a beautiful and productive garden is possible right now!

For more gardening tips and ideas, visit:

[Year-Round Gardening Guide] [Buying Seeds Out of Season] [Winterizing Your Garden]


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