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The Best 5 Foods for Growing in Your Back Garden in a Cold Climate

The Best 5 Foods for Growing in Your Back Garden in a Cold Climate

By on April 9, 2013

Gardening can be challenging at times, but even more so when faced with the shortened season of a cold climate. It is often difficult to grow produce such as watermelon, cantaloupe or honeydew melon, as these plants need a longer, warmer season. There are however, several options for the short-season gardener.

Peas – peas prefer cooler weather, which is why they should be planted as early in the spring as possible. They are available in several varieties such as Homesteader, Lincoln, Sugar Snap or Snow Peas (to name a few). The latter two are great for salads and stir-fry as they have edible pods. Peas do not tolerate heat and humidity well and are susceptible to mildew in these conditions, so the cooler weather is a benefit.

Lettuce – lettuce is another cool climate crop, and may be started in cold frames for an early harvest. It prefers the cooler weather as heat and dry weather will force it to bolt to seed quickly, making the leaves bitter. There are several varieties available, but the temperature requirements are the same: cool.

Radishes – radishes may be planted in cold frames as well to be enjoyed in early spring. They are a quick growing vegetable and are perfect in salads and served with other vegetables and dip. The most popular type is Cherry Belle, which produces a round bulb often the size of a quarter. Heat also causes radishes to bolt to seed, so planting early and at two week intervals will provide a steady harvest throughout the growing months. They may be inter-planted with carrots to save space in the garden, as they will be matured and eaten long before the carrots are ready.

Carrots – carrots are a slower germinating crop and may be inter-planted with radishes, which will allow more growing space per carrot and reduce thinning. They are ideal for cooler climates as they are hardy and will withstand a light frost. The tops may not look the best after a frost, but the root will be sweeter. It is important to remember to dig them up before a hard frost however, or they will become mush in the garden.

Potatoes – potatoes are a relatively quick growing crop which may be harvested as early as July if they have been planted in early May. An early harvest will not yield large potatoes, but the “baby potatoes” are sweeter and excellent served with cream and dill. Depending on personal usage requirements (such as storage capacity and fresh eating), it is recommended to plant more hills than you wish to store. The longer they are left in the garden, the larger they will grow. Authors note: potatoes do not do well in heavy clay. If you have heavy clay soil, add a lot of organic matter to it prior to planting. When clay soil becomes saturated then dries, it is next to impossible to dig potatoes (or any other root crop for that matter) as the soil becomes almost cement-like.

Gardening is a rewarding and healthier choice for produce for all who have the desire. It does not require acres of space as containers work as well. The key point to remember is to work with your climate, not against it. Most seed catalogues and gardening books/magazines have a Temperate Zone Chart, which will give you a better idea of what zone you live in.

Diane Ziomek is a freelancer and independent author, with a passion for gardening. She lives in Northeastern Alberta and is very familiar with the challenges of gardening in a cold climate. More information about her may be found on her website.

About Diane Ziomek

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