Ready for spring? If not, here's what you should do.
Winter can be a tough time of year. You're stuck inside, dreaming of spring and the chance to get back out in the fields. But there's no need to sit idly by. There's plenty you can do on the farm during these winter months to keep you and your family occupied, and get a head start on the coming growing season.
Here are a few things you can do:
1. SPREAD THE MULCH
Many folks wait until spring to spread mulch, but doing it in the winter can give your crops a real boost. Mulch helps keep the soil temperature more consistent, and protects less hardy plants from frost. So spread some mulch around the base of your overwintering plants and give 'em a fighting chance.
2. CLEAN AND ADD TO COMPOST THE PILE
Even though your compost pile slows down in the winter, it doesn't stop completely. Take advantage of this time to clean up dead plant material in your fields and garden beds and add it to the pile. You'll have a healthy supply of compost ready for spring, and fewer pests to worry about since some, like harlequin bugs, overwinter in plant debris.
3. PREPARE SOIL FOR SPRING PLANTING -- CULTIVATE
As winter comes to a close, you can start preparing the soil for spring planting. Mix compost into the soil and stir it up every few days. Birds will come along and pick through the soil, eating insect larvae that would have been harmful to your crops come spring.
4. IMPROVE SOIL WITH WINTER COVER CROPS
You can work on improving the soil in areas of your fields that won't be planted immediately. Plant winter cover crops like Austrian winter peas, crimson clover, or hairy vetch. These crops soak up energy from the sun and release it into the soil as nutritious organic matter, giving you a better harvest come summer and fall.
5. CONSTRUCT A GREENHOUSE
If you've been thinking about starting a greenhouse garden, now's the time. With a greenhouse, you can grow more crops and varieties of food, even in the winter. Building one's not too tough, just track down the materials and find some plans or a helper. And it could make for a fun family project, with plenty of lessons in math and practical skills.
6. VISIT NURSERIES & GREENHOUSES FOR INSPIRATION
When the winter blues start to set in, take a field trip to a nearby nursery or greenhouse for inspiration for your spring and summer crops. Take a look at new plants you haven't tried yet, and maybe buy a few to try.
7. PLAN YOUR GARDEN
Whether you have an existing garden or want to expand and improve it, now's a great time to start planning. Do some research, visit local greenhouses, and get your family involved. Your kids can help with the planning and even make a map or diagram of the future garden, making it a fun homeschooling lesson.
8. START INDOOR GARDENING
Even if you don't build a greenhouse, you can still have fresh fruits and veggies year-round by starting an indoor garden. This is a fun winter project for the whole family and a way to get a jump on the growing season.
The winter months can be a time for farmers to prepare for spring crops.
There are many things that can be done to prepare such as:
- Mulching to protect less hardy plants from frost
- Cleaning up dead plant material and adding it to the compost pile,
- Preparing the soil by mixing compost into it,
- Improving the soil with winter cover crops,
- Building a greenhouse to grow more crops and varieties of food,
- Visiting nurseries for inspiration for spring and summer crops,
- Planning the garden
Starting an indoor garden.
These activities can be a fun family project and a way to get a head start on the growing season.