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Growing a Bountiful Garden in Cold Climates

abykm91 May 6, 2014

If you’re like me and still want an organic garden, but don’t have California sunshine at your disposal, there’s still hope!  Here are a few tips to grow a bountiful garden in cold climates.

Contributor post, courtesy of Abby from O’Mamas.

Yesterday at the grocery store, I noticed small conventional limes were $1.50 each.  I knew it must be mislabeled, so I double checked with the cashier.  She said unfortunately that the price was right, and it was one of many foods on short supply, resulting in much higher prices.

These sort of situations always leave me uncomfortable, longing for the old days when we weren’t so dependent on the grocery store.  It’s another confirmation that, regardless of where I live, I will always grow food.

I live in Montana, where we still have occasional snow showers until early June (and sometimes longer).  This is our fourth summer here, and every year we’ve managed to grow a bounty of food.

If you’re like me and still want an organic garden, but don’t have California sunshine at your disposal, there’s still hope!  Here are a few ways I manage to grow a large garden in a cold part of the country.

Start Seeds Early, Indoors

This is crucial!  Whether you grow food in a garden or greenhouse, starting seeds at least a month (or two or three) early will give your garden the boost it needs to flourish in our shorter growing season.  In my case, this means putting a big shelf by our kitchen window beginning in February every year.  It’s not pretty, but it’s a small price to pay for being able to grow our own food.

how to grow a bountiful organic garden

Consider Containers

Before we had a greenhouse, our porch was home to about 15 large wooden barrels that we used for gardening. While they were a bit heavy, it was easy to cover them when a cold front was coming or drag a few in the house if the weather was going to be really bad. You will be amazed at all the things you can grow in containers. I buy a lot of my seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds, and they have a great list of varieties for container gardening.  Here is post from last year on how to pick the right container.

Grow What Makes Sense

Remember the expensive limes I was just talking about?  Yep, we tried for 3 years to grow those and had no luck.  The Montana climate, even considering our warm summer days, just wasn’t suitable for limes.  This year in our greenhouse, we’ll leave a few beds available for experimenting with new/unlikely vegetables, but the bulk of our space will go to tried and true plants.

raised garden beds

Consider a Greenhouse

Buying or building a greenhouse will cost you, but it is a great investment if fresh produce is a priority to you and your family.  Having a greenhouse has saved us a lot of headache fighting extreme weather, and has become a great family activity we do together daily.  Don’t be shocked when your children eat food they picked right off the vine that they wouldn’t normally go near.  Don’t want to invest in a greenhouse yet?  You can still have a luscious garden like the picture above.

how to grow a bountiful organic garden

When All Else Fails, Buy Local

I live in Bozeman, Montana and you’d be amazed at the bounty of produce at our local summer farmer’s market.  No matter where you live, skilled farmers and gardeners are growing food, and you might be surprised at what you find!

How do you grow healthy, fresh food for your family?

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2 Comments

  1. […] guest-posting at Modern Alternative Mama today … here’s a […]

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  2. Great post! I love Bozeman – so beautiful. I also live in a cold climate in Central Oregon (the sunny side of OR!). Last frost date is about June 1st and can freeze any time of year. I grow year round in an unheated high tunnel and have salads all winter. It’s easier to grow in winter since there are no bugs or fertilizing and almost no watering! Eliot Coleman books that I’ve read for years started me on this road so after I moved to a cold climate I knew it would work- all I needed was a cheap high tunnel and I was off and running. Happy growing!

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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