Can you start a Square Foot Garden in winter?


winterthumbOnce I get an idea in my head I have to do something about it – Right Now! Yes, I know I am impatient and yes I know it’s not always a good thing, but hey that’s who I am and I’m not apologising for any of it 😉

There is simply no way that I am going to be able to do all the research, planning and fantasizing about picking succulent, delicious fresh fruit and veggies straight from my own Square Foot Garden and then still have to wait until August before I can do anything about it. Besides, part of this new job of mine (on this blog) is to test things isn’t it? We are now testing whether a Square Foot Garden can be started at the beginning of winter… So that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it 🙂

In all seriousness, it has taken a bit of extra thought and planning as well as a few additional expenses. We have an ‘outside’ room – or rather, a walled veranda with a (rather leaky) fiberglass roof – that we are presently using as a storeroom/workshop. We have decided to turn this room into a storeroom/workshop/semi-greenhouse. The problem is that this room gets really cold during winter as it has no insulation whatsoever and so we are going to have to find a way of keeping the plants and seedlings warm.

We are also thinking of building a few smaller (6×2 squares – 1.2mx0.6m) SFG boxes with plywood bottoms that we can have outside during the day and then pick up and carry inside at night to protect the plants from the freezing Pretoria night time temperatures. They may even have to be smaller (3×2) depending on the weight. We haven’t decided on this yet though.

We’ll also be testing a few plants in individual pots and so far we have planted seeds for:

  • 2 x varieties of Tomato (‘Moneymaker’: indeterminate/vine & ‘Heinz 1370’: determinate/bush) in 30cm diameter pots which we will transplant out into the SFG in spring;
  • 2 x varieties of Lettuce (‘Great Lakes’: head & ‘Lollo Rossa’: leaf) – a few of each;
  • Garden Beet (‘Crimson Globe’) – a few seeds;
  • Peas (‘Greenfeast’) – a few seeds but we’ll only choose the best/strongest seedling for a single plant in a 30cm pot. We’ll also transplant this into the SFG in spring;
  • Swiss Chard (‘Star 1801’) – a few seeds;
  • Spring Onion (‘White Lisbon’) – a whole bunch of seeds;
  • Carrots (‘Little Finger’) – a whole bunch of seeds;
  • Cauliflower (‘Wallaby’) – a few seeds but we’ll only take two or three to plant in pots;
  • Onion (‘Star 5522’) – a few seeds.

Once the seedlings have sprouted we’ll transplant the smaller plants into an old metal bath that we have from our previous herb garden and simply carry it in and out as the weather dictates and the larger plants into individual pots. Since the temperature and conditions for these few plants will be strictly controlled regardless of the weather outside, we are hoping to stagger the plantings every three weeks or so to get at least a few harvests of each throughout the winter.

We are also planting some Radish and Chinese Cabbage outside right now (it’s still early in the winter season) and hoping that if there is going to be any frost this year that it will be late – both of these are ‘cold weather crops’ but with the radish being very quick to harvest (only 20-25 days). There are also a few plants that can withstand a bit of frost (and even snow) once they have produced their crop. Mainly root crops like carrots and potatoes, that can stay in the frozen ground until harvested, spring to mind here but I’m afraid that the frost is still going to kill off the plants themselves before they can produce anything so we’ll only plant a few squares in our permanent outside boxes to test with this winter.

We’d like to hear from anyone else who gardens throughout the winter and also like to know what your setup is. If you don’t, well why not try a few tomato plants in a pot or three or even some small carrots in a window box on your kitchen windowsill?

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3 Comments on “Can you start a Square Foot Garden in winter?”

  1. Student@Wits says:

    Thanks for this great blog.

    I am currently staying in Res at Wits University, so my gardening space is a 1m x 10cm windowsill. I have been nurturing a basil plant my girlfriend gave me, and it has been a great success. I can’t suppress a grin every time I pick some leaves for my sandwich. It just feels great.

    Unfortunately, I forgot to close my window last week and awoke to find black spots on all the leaves (which I suspect are from frost). What a shame. The dmamage isn’t serious and I’m sure the plant will recover. So what’s my verdict on winter gardening in SA? Find a windowsill and do it. Your success rate is lower, but it’s still rewarding.


  2. Paul says:

    I like your blog – because it is real-life and not just theory. Have you started any herbs ? Easy, and so nice to add a handful of fresh home-grown herbs to your fresh veggie crops. Basil, parsley, chives, origanum, thyme. And Rosemary is a nice perennial. In spring, I found green peppers and eggplants easy (but don’t really eat eggplants ! Cucumbers were very easy. I struggled with root vegetables like carrots, turnips, beetroots etc, but I think in general I neglected feeding the soil – nothing added for 5 years, my way of being organic, but I’m sure it needs some “organic” fertilizer now !
    I read a great way to grow potatoes, in a space-saving way : plant in a used car tyre, and as they grow, keep covering, until you have 3 to 4 tyres on top of each other. You get heaps of potatoes in a small space.

  3. Mieda says:


    I like your blog too. I stay in the Western Cape close to the coastal side so not the best of soil…more like white beachy sand so creating my own little herb or veggie garden is a good option esp in winter…all the commemts on this blog is easy to follow so thatnk you all… i realy want to make my home green friendly…So ill be following…

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