Are you interested in GARDENING?  Then you might find one of these articles handy:

Monoculture: Is It Really So Bad? by Bonnie Lavigne

Edible Flowers: A Rose by Any Other Name Just Might be Lunch by Adrianne Masters

Small-scale Homesteading: How Much Do You Really Need? by Rebecca Long

Going Bats: The Benefits of Bat Houses on Your Homestead by Patricia Halderman

Victory Gardens - Winners and Losers by Barbara Bamberger Scott

The Four-season Garden by Michael Nolan

Super Tuber! by Neil Shelton

Vegetable Gardening: Your Next Step to Self-Sufficiency by Doug Smith

Attract Wildlife to Your Property by Doug Smith

Pint-size Plow-horses by Doug Smith

Easy as Pie: The Myth of Simple Living by Sheri Dixon

The Three Sisters Legacy: The Science Behind Companion Planting by Clare Brandt

Look to the Weed by Diana Barker



Growing Tomatoes and Peppers in Winter

by Regina Anneler

Tomatoes and peppers are two of summerís most-loved foods.  However, winter is quickly drawing near, and the garden is dying out, so at this point you might assume that you'll would have to stop eating these fresh treats, or resort to buying them from a local store, but relax, I have a better solution for you.  You donít have to give up your own fresh vegetables for the winter, all you need to do is set up a small area in your garage, shop or barn and youíll be able to keep on enjoying these summertime favorites throughout the winter.  The cost is small, the work is light, and the freshness of the foods is well worth the effort.

A little ingenuity and a few easy-to-obtain supplies are all that you need in order to grow fresh tomatoes and peppers throughout the year.   Everyone knows you can grow flowers year-roundóitís not any less feasible to grow quality produce in the winter months as well.  The first decision that you need to make when choosing to grow tomatoes and peppers in the winter is how large of an area can you set aside for this purpose.  Itís not a requirement for the building to be heated, so your barn, shop, or garage will work for your winter gardening project.  Pick a spot that is easy for you to get to, while making sure that there is electricity available.  Then start planning what kind of tomatoes and peppers you want to grow inside when the frost, ice and snow are outside

The smaller plant varieties of tomatoes are the easiest to grow this way, types like Tiny Tim, Pixie, Small Fry, and Patio work excellent for this particular project.  Peppers that work the best are also your smaller varieties, such as cherry and banana peppers.  However, with a little more care, the bell pepper also grows well.  It is wise to keep some simple growing aids on hand such as Miracle Grow in case the plants need a shot or two to keep them strong.  Miracle Grow is optional depending on if you chose an organic-only approach, if you want your tomatoes and peppers to be organic then the general basics required to grow them in the winter are just the standard plant care requirements: light, space, warmth and attention.

At our place we have chosen to grow our winter tomatoes and peppers in the garage.  We also have a barn as another option, but there the plants would not only be a little more exposed to the weather, but also to the chickens and other foul that live on our farm.  Our past experience has proven that there is nothing that will decimate tomatoes faster than a chicken with an appetite.  They can, and will, kill anything by scratching, pecking and eating at it, until there is nothing left at all for the humans to have!  As we were unwilling to take this chance with our tomatoes and peppers this year, we chose the garage as our winter gardening area.

To get started with your winter project you will need to decide if you want your plants to be grown in pots, a trench row, or in some cases, you might even have an earthen floor to in which to grow.  If you choose trench rows you will need boards or some other type of material to build a retaining wall to contain the soil and therefore should consider this when figuring the costs.  In our case we chose pots, or in all actuality bucketsóa feasible option for many of you who don't have spare buckets lying around and donít want to go to the trouble of buying pots! 

A lot will also depend on whether you grow the plants from seed or start with live plants.  We dug up our summer tomato and pepper plants and transplanted them into our extra feed buckets. 

Next, we moved them into the garage where electricity is easily available.  Please note that if you transplant plants from your summer garden into containers it is best to loosen the outside soil from around the roots of the plants before potting them.  If you do not do this, the dirt might become too compacted within the pot and cause the plants to weaken or die.  If you are transplanting them, keep in mind that the plants may wither a little and possibly loose a few leaves.  This is normal because they will be a little shocked from the transplant experience. They should recover without any problems, however.

Ideally, you should provide a framework made from wood or metal construction and set up as a cold frame to hold plastic sheeting around the plants to maintain heat.  In our case I am not sure if that was too much work for us at the time or if it was just our plain laziness showing itself, but we used the summer lawn tools as our framework.  We set the plants close to the work bench and placed the weed power mower near by and used that for the framework.  It works relatively well and also provides a good brace to which we attached our lamp.

Material requirements will vary depending on if you wish to build a framework for the plastic sheeting - if so, 2x4 lumber would definitely be more economical to purchase than, say, metal pipe would be.  However, another good idea for cold frames would be to check with stores in your area that might be disregarding used display racks and shelves for winter.  Often they will give these away if you just agree to haul them off. These make excellent cold frames for attaching the plastic sheeting and provide good-sized space for the plants under the covered area.

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