When fall gives way to winter, most gardeners close up shop and wait out the cold season, dreaming of spring when they can plant their chili peppers and repeat the cycle of growing and harvesting.
However, winter plays an important role in the gardening cycle. If you want to make the most of the winter, consider the following:
You can absolutely compost in the winter. Since heat is the largest factor in converting your compostable materials into compost, the process will slow in the winter but it can be done. Build your insulated compost cans by drilling small holes in larger plastic garbage cans for air ventilation. Keep them in full sun as you would your spring compost pile. Be sure to turn them to expedite the process, to allow the materials to generate heat. Maintain a solid 50/50 mixture of green and brown materials. Your insulated can won't compost as quickly in winter as in spring or summer, you should ensure the temperature in the can stays above freezing. The materials inside will continue to decompose.
Winter is the perfect opportunity to prepare your soil for the spring planting. Try growing cover crops, like clover, vetch or rye if you are in the proper climate. They will help improve soil quality, can fix nitrogen in the soil, and will add organic material to the soil for the spring growing season. Plant these "green manures" in the fall.
Plan out your indoor gardening spaces and the types of plants you'd like to grow. Factors other than space include seeds, soil and lighting. Plants need a solid six to eight hours of sunlight each day and need direct access to the source.
Temperatures are also very important. You might consider investing in heat growing lamps to provide proper temperatures. Be sure to water every other day, keeping the soils slightly moist or as needed according to your plant type. Fertilize the soil and give the plants plenty of sunlight.
Specifically to chili peppers, you can plant your seeds in small containers as you would prepare them for spring, fertilize and keep them moist and keep in a warm windowsill. More information on growing chili peppers from seeds here.
Note that your vegetables grown indoors won't produce the yields you're used to during a typical growing season, but it sure is fun to try.
Of course if you live in warmer states of the US, your growing opportunities will be greater for winter gardening, but that does not preclude those in colder climes. Everyone can enjoy some form of gardening in the winter.
We asked a number of gardening experts for tips on winter gardening as it relates to chili peppers, and we're happy to share their knowledge with you.
Of course you could always try your own makeshift greenhouse, like our friend Mike Lieberman from New York City, a self-taught organic vegetable grower.
Small Plastic Greenhouse On My Fire Escape
"The other day on my fire escape garden, I got my mini greenhouses for my hanging soda bottle planters up. Now I finally got the greenhouses built for the self watering containers as well.
The total cost to build the greenhouse was $0 since I used all materials that I had lying around my apartment. I was also able to cover two of the containers with one bag. The tomato plant was left uncovered because I don’t have a bag nearly large enough to cover that beast.
- An Interview with Dr. James Edward Brown, College of Agriculture, Home Economics and Allied Programs at the Fort Valley State University
- An Interview with Nicholas Walker, Lifestyle Designer / Landscaper / Author
Learn more about growing and harvesting chili peppers through the links below, including: