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Winter Gardening to Extend the Harvest

written by: rhwriter13•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 7/2/2013

Instead of closing the garden when the last tomato is picked, try extending the family's fresh food season by planting crops that can be harvested throughout the winter. The fresh blast of flavor and nutritional punch will help ease the bleakness of the long, cold winter.

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    Don't Put the Garden to Bed Just Yet

    When the morning air begins to nip at the nose, people trade in their flip-flops for sneakers and take out their bulky sweaters and winter jackets. After raking the leaves out of the yard, they put away their rakes and don’t think about their garden again until spring. Unfortunately, a terrific opportunity for self sufficiency goes by the wayside every autumn when people assume their gardening chores are over until spring.

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    Indoor Garden Plants to Easily Grow Indoors

    To some extent everyone is capable of growing their own food, even if only on the window sill in the kitchen or on the apartment balcony. Herbs will thrive in small containers in a sunny window, and sprouts and lettuce also do well there.

    For gardeners with a yard of any size, some type of vegetable will grow all year round. Many leafy green veggies and root vegetables can be left in place long after the peppers and tomatoes are tilled under. A simple cold frame and bale of straw can keep the garden growing until the ground thaws again.

    Plants That Can be Grown Outdoors in Winter

    Some plants typically grown in the early spring can be planted during the late fall and will continue to produce all winter long if adequately protected. Rather than paying the high store prices for food shipped cross country, harvest your own arugula, dandelion, spinach and mache for a gourmet salad; simply brush away the snow and pluck a few leaves.Kale, chicory and chard can be grown all year and are vitamin and mineral powerhouses.

    Cold Frame Cover the carrot patch with a twelve inch thick layer of straw or leaves, and the carrots can be harvested all winter long. Beets, radishes and Jerusalem artichokes are also root crops that can be left in the ground, under protection, until they are eaten. If they are left in the garden until the following spring, they will sprout again and go to seed.

    Several herbs can be harvested through the winter and require no protection at all. Parsley grows through the winter, and thyme, mint and oregano also offer a fresh blast of summer flavor. A winter garden is much more than a convenience. New winter-hardy varieties should be tried every year because the new tastes will excite the tongue and revolutionize the family menu.

    Depending on how cold it gets in your area, you may need to invest in a cold frame to protect the plants.

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    Photo Credit

    Indoor Garden: http://www.flickr.com/photos/spullara/3644138261/

    Cold Frame: http://www.flickr.com/photos/22748341@N00/2037791036/