The view out your window may be filled with snow and ice, but you can still get your garden going with a few tricks up your denim work shirt sleeve. The wind may be howling, but you’ll be on your way to fresh broccoli, cabbage and greens when you start your garden early.
You can start seeds indoors with the right equipment, and when the seedlings are ready, move them to the garden. Just be sure to protect your tender seedlings with one of the solutions below. Your vegetables will continue to grow even if winter’s fury lingers.
4 Ways to Protect Plants in the Garden:
1. Cold Frame
Basically a box with a hinged lid, a cold frame uses solar power and insulation to create a microclimate suitable for tender vegetation. Use a cold frame to overwinter plants, start seeds, harden off seedlings and extend the growing season.
You can direct sow seeds into a portable cold frame, just be sure to put it in place about two weeks early so the earth can warm up enough for seeds to germinate.
Employing the same principle as the cold frame, the cloche is a bell-shaped jar that can be used indoors for terrariums and outdoors as a portable miniature greenhouse.
The cloche can save plants in case of sudden severe cold. Be careful when the weather warms, though. The small space can heat up and burn plants. For this reason, it’s wise to prop a corner of the cloche with a block of wood.
Not quite as elegant as a glass cloche, an ordinary plastic milk carton with the bottom cut out makes for an affordable cloche that’s easy to mass produce.
A greenhouse will allow you to start seeds early and extend the growing season. Depending on your budget, you can add heating and cooling systems to pamper your plants through winter.
You can choose a kit or build your own.
4. Hoophouse and Row Cover
A hoophouse is a lightweight mini greenhouse without glass. It can be used directly on the soil like a row cover, but is frequently seen as a cover on a raised garden bed.
The hoophouse is a sheet of heavyweight plastic draped over wire or plastic pipe arches. The hoophouse keeps in heat, holds heat and moisture in the soil, and protects plants from severe weather. It has the advantage of being easy to take on and off and to store.