Grow Fresh Greens all Winter

Where I live in Missouri, we usually have a cold, frozen winter.  By mid December most of my garden is tucked in and the ground is hard.  But I always keep some greens going for our family dinner table all through the ice and snow.  No, I don’t have any big hoop house or green house, but instead simple, low, row (or raised bed) covers.

These are very inexpensive and can be used for many years.  Here is what you need:

  • Some kind of hoop material.  You could use ½ inch PVC pipe (good upcycleing material), Wire hoops (76” is great), or you could even use willow or another bendable wood.
  • Plastic.   Greenhouse quality is best, although I have used the cheap thin stuff from the local hardware store too.  The cheap stuff works, but won’t last much more than one or two seasons.
  • Anchoring pins.  These are optional, but do make life easier.  For a couple of years I used straw and logs and a few clips to hold down the plastic, but that was rather a pain to move off every time I wanted to harvest.  The problem with the anchoring pins is that you have to poke holes in the plastic, and they are easily lost in the ground.
  • Stakes, sticks or bamboo poles.  These are optional as well but are good for extra support if you live in really wintry areas with lots of snow and ice.  A long pole, secured to the top of the hoops (use old twine or tomato ties) will help keep your covers from collapsing totally when you get a big snow.

The best greens to keep growing are hardy ones such as spinach, some head lettuces, chard, kale, cilantro, dill, and parsley. Although nothing is going to grow too fast or get huge during the winter, it is great to go out to your garden on a nice winter day and be surprised to see that you still have something fresh and homegrown to eat.  Keep in mind that when you have the plastic off, it is also a good time to water everything.

When you have snow and a forecast for frigid weather, you can leave the snow on the row covers for some added insulation.  If you make a little “window” along the length of the south facing side of row cover or along the top, it will allow some light to get in, but still keep your plants insulated.

In the spring, as things warm up, you can remove the plastic and replace it with floating row covers.  This will help keep any remaining frosty nights off you plants and help trap some of the day’s warmth.  AND you will have the earliest crop of spring greens around.

I have found Morgan County Seed Company (of rural Missouri) to be a pretty reasonable source for the materials you will need—espcially the row cover, metal hoops, and anchoring pins.

Emma O’Connell is the chief gardener at Redbuds and founder of

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