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Winter Square Foot Gardening Tips

Can you grow things in your Square Foot Garden when it looks like this outside:

Yes you can!

We caught up with Certified Instructor Jim Teahan from Utah for his tips. As you can see from his covered garden, pictured above, he deals with some serious weather.

Here what he recommends for winter Square Foot Gardening.

SFG: Is there a temperature at which SFGers can leave their greens uncovered and one at which they should definitely cover?

Spinach in winter square foot gardenJim:  I cover my gardens as soon as the night temperatures hit the mid to low 40’s (Fahrenheit) with floating row cover. When real winter hits, I then add 6 mil UV protected plastic. If the temperature gets to be above 45, I will be sure to vent. If you don’t, the temperature in these little low tunnels will be too warm for the specific crops used in the winter garden.

SFG: What are the best greens to grow with protection through the winter?

Jim: Some of these are fairly common in the winter garden:

  • spinach
  • chard
  • baby lettuces
  • arugula
  • beets and beet greens
  • green onions
  • endive
  • leeks
  • radishes

Radishes should be harvested before they are in the ground too long and get woody.

Then there are the tasty and nutritious things many don’t know about which almost force people to, as Mel would say, “eat seasonally.” These include claytonia, mache, Tokyo bekana, minutina, bok choi, tatsoi, and tokyo or hakurei turnips. There are others that take some finesse but are outstanding for eating, such as Brussels sprouts and radicchio.

There’s one other crop that can really change a person’s mind to try growing a winter garden. They are very easy to grow, especially in Mel’s Mix™. As they sit in the ground and hibernate during the cold winter season, their starches turn to sugar, and they become extremely sweet and tasty. I speak of carrots. I always tell folks that if I have people over for dinner and serve chicken pot pie (and it’s good), nobody ever asks about the chicken, but they sure want to know where I got the carrots! They are exceptional.

Herbs are another thing that can grow in winter. My experience is with growing these during the winter:

  • cilantro
  • chives
  • rosemary

Cilantro doesn’t usually make it all the way through the extended winter season, but it sure makes its way pretty deep into the season.

Look at that. Pretty amazing what you can grow all winter!

Winter Square Foot GardenMel would always talk about having a garden that produced enough to have a salad every night of the growing season. And it’s easy to do with Square Foot Gardening. Many people thought he was talking about the spring, summer, and fall season but, without a lot of effort, people in hard winter climates can easily have a garden salad every night of the year with things that are on par with the most expensive and nice restaurants in the country.

There is nothing like freshly harvested greens out of the winter garden. We just named 21 different things that can successfully and easily be grown in a winter garden.

SFG: What are the best materials to use as a cover to protect from winter cold?
Jim: I use Agribon #19 from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. It’s heavy enough to protect down to 28 degrees, while light enough to let in 90% of the sun.

You can get even better protection from a heavier weight, such as #21, but then you only get about 75% of the light.

If you went with a lighter weight of agribon, such as 15, you get almost 100% of the light, but you lose a little of the protection from the temperature.

#19 is the happy medium for most winter climates. When the temperature gets below 28, it’s time for plastic.

All photos courtesy of Jim Teahan.

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