The Winter (Roof) Garden, Plus the White House Winter Garden (VIDEO)

Winter is here, bringing with it the days of frost. In advance of the lowering temperatures, as tomatoes finally got pulled out of the ground, spring garlic was planted, radishes were harvested and thyme and rosemary were cut back, we decided to try and continue growing through the winter months.

Growing food in winter is the ultimate challenge in colder regions, and lately everyone (even the White House) is doing it. One of the first comments about local food from detractors is, “but what do you eat in winter?” Well, I am here to report that kale, bok choy, radishes, carrots, and beets are still on the menu, as well as the arugula and spinach growing in our cold frame.

The cold frame was a no-brainer to add onto our raised beds; we literally drilled holes in some plexi-glass that we bought at our local hardware store and connected the pieces to the side of one of the beds using door hinges. They work fine for low-growing plants, as we have about seven inches of space between the soil and the lid. A thick layer of mulch and warm compost will keep the temperature up inside the growing space. However, if you want to have more options and grow longer into the winter, you could buy curved metal piping and cover it with Reemay fabric, making your very own hoop house.

The White House recorded their recent conversion of the First Garden — which has generated 1000 pounds of vegetables since the spring — into a winter garden, using just this technique. They are even growing a cover crop of rye to add nutrients back to the soil. Check out this new video, which features USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and White House Food Initiative Coordinator Sam Kass:

Making this video was also an opportunity to announce the USDA’s pilot program (part of Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food) to encourage farmers to use high tunnels, or hoop houses, to inspire year-round growth and bolster local food systems. Growing in all four seasons is possible, and its great to see the USDA throw their weight behind this initiative in support.

Meanwhile, seed catalogs have begun to show up in my mailbox, and I’ve been thinking that seeds make great gifts this holiday season!

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