Living Off Grid – How to Grow Winter Vegetables – Mother Earth News

Living Off Grid – How to Grow Winter Vegetables – Mother Earth News

Living Off Grid – How to Grow Winter Vegetables – Mother Earth News

I think we’ve stated that in previous blogs
Sustainability is a good thing and all you can do in that regard is good.
One of the ways we have tried to become more sustainable is to cultivate our own
food. The benefits are obvious, but it’s okay if we state the obvious above and
over until we all get it. Food security and independence are two good reasons
to grow your own food.

We had a pretty good size garden the first year we moved
here and we canned food from the garden for the winter. This year I will
build a storage bucket in our garage for storing root vegetables like potatoes and
carrots. Last year we just put them in a box in the garage.
An entire wall in our garage is built of concrete and is in principle
underground, much like a basement wall. The two ends of the garage are
insulated and the other long wall is the living space from the house and
therefore heated. The end result is that even though our temperatures can go up
below zero degrees Fahrenheit the garage never freezes. It’s like a mess
cellar.

I have to build triangular corner shelves of plywood
and wooden frame and put a rather large lip on the outer edge of the shelves
to form a box to put sawdust and vegetables in. Even without sawdust, ours
potatoes at this point are like they came up from the ground. Much
get sprouts!

Between the new storage buckets and cans, I think food
storage is sufficient for the year. Our garden produces June to September and
we can easily grow enough vegetables to last all year, but what about winter
fresh vegetables?

I had read an article in one of our garden magazines years ago
since about a guy in Wisconsin who claimed that if one attached a high bed or
planter next to the house, one could plant vegetables in the winter and
they would not freeze so we just had to give it a try and the picture to
back is what we ended up with – insulated raised bed / cold frames.

They are attached to the south end of the house. The panels
is insulated with double-walled polycarbonate and the beds are completely filled
with dirt. None of the beds are heated.

This was our first test this winter. Looks like we had a lot
for reasons we did not get them planted until March, but that’s what happened.
Remember that in March, our temperatures were still in the low 20s each
day and several times even in the upper teens. I checked the dirt several
times in the coldest months and it was never frozen.

The simple idea is that one side of the beds is the house
which never freezes and is actually heated. As long as you have it isolated
panels on top amplify the sun’s heat (when it’s shining) and plant cold
Weather plants like broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and other greens, you can
grow vegetables in winter.

Worst case scenario is that we can extend our short growth
season by four months. Instead of June to September, we know we can go from
March to the end of October, and I’m pretty sure of that with a few tricks like these
water-filled black-painted plastic jugs to keep warm at night, we can do that
even better than eight months.

Sometimes the simplest ideas work, and this is one of them.
I know some of you have been doing this for many years, but neither have we and I
can not tell you how excited we are to be trained in cold weather at the moment.
This next year we must have the garden, root cellar quality food
storage, and cold weather growing ability to have fresh home-grown vegetables
almost all year round. It’s sustainability!

Ed and Laurie Essex live off the net in
Okanogan Highlands in Washington State, where they run their websites goodideasforlife.com and offgridworks.com.

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