Winter Gardening in Warmer Climates

After having discussed gardening in our native climate rather extensively over the past several weeks, Dr. Willard’s has decided we need to give those “warm all year round” climates some love as well. While the heat of the summer is no stranger to any hardiness zone, the harsh winter temperatures we experience here in the northern states don’t really affect mild areas in places like California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Texas, Florida, etc. Instead of barricading ourselves indoors and enclosing everything within a cold frame or a raised bed, gardeners in these winter escapes can enjoy a cooler second growing season.

Why?

Well, for starters, it’s usually a lighter workload for you. Weeds don’t require as much attention or effort to pull since it’s harder for them to grow while the days remain shorter in length, there are fewer pests and diseases, and the sun’s intensity isn’t as powerful. Gardens also require less watering during this time because the soil seems to hold water more efficiently, and for longer periods. More importantly, temperatures in the summer are sometimes so scathing that this growth period is the only time in which you can actually grow fragile crops like lettuce, broccoli, and spinach.

How?

You’ve been here and done this before. Or maybe you haven’t, that’s ok too. The winter season in warm climates has the same beginnings as anywhere else during its growing season – you start out by prepping a clean slate. Turn that soil, remove those weeds, add this compost; treat the process like you would any other. Organic fertilizer is best used after you’ve properly prepared the soil, right at or right after initial planting time. A solid foundation will set the tone for the rest of the season, which means it’s paramount that we start things off correctly.

Now that we’ve got our initial preparations out of the way, we can decide on what we want to plant. Even though winters are mild in these regions, temperatures are still cooler than normal. This means that we’re better off growing cooler temperature crops, including certain types of greens like arugula, spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, mustard, kale, and thrives. Root crops are also an option. Beets, radishes, onions, and carrots can grow without fear of being roasted in the hot soils of the summer sun. If you’re a fan of cauliflower you’re in luck – it, along with broccoli, cabbage, peas, and fava beans, can all flourish.

Once these crops are firmly in the ground and fertilized, it’s smooth sailing. Besides the occasional weeding and watering session (which you don’t need to do often, especially during this particular season), gardens are very low maintenance. Mulching is an appropriate next step in almost all scenarios, the one exception being if you reside in a location that receives a hefty amount of rainfall (think Pacific Northwest.) Mulching normally keeps good things from escaping the soil, but it can become soggy and attract the wrong kinds of pests in rainy areas; before long, rot will set in and plants will die off.

In order for your crops to get the most out of the soil, we recommend using Dr. Willard’s PlantCatalyst. Not only does it allow for greater intake of nutrients, it helps water absorption and flushes out the byproducts of some of the plant processes. Another great thing about PlantCatalyst is it’s just as low maintenance as your other garden chores, especially during the mild winter season. Just add to your water, whether that be in the form of a spray or anything else, and apply periodically – it’s really that simple.

When?

Barring any extreme cases of frost, which is unlikely due to the location, most of these crops can be harvested as needed throughout the season. Spinach and lettuce are two great examples of plants that can be cut several times only to grow back relatively quickly and repeat the process. Root crops like carrots and beats, on the other hand, are picked and finished until the next season starts.

Your neighbors to the North are probably slightly envious of the ease in which you experience fresh winter produce; we’re all stuck with the hassle of using cold frames or greenhouses. If you’re lucky enough to be located in one of these mild winter regions with an opportunity for a second growing season, take advantage of it.

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