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Winter gardening: What’s best to grow

With the atmosphere cooling down a bit, it is the best time of the year to get out and kick-off outdoor activities. Travelling may or may not be on your cards, so winter gardening is a good alternative to soak up some winter sun.

First off, let us bust a myth. There is a belief that the soil is at its worst during winter and so gardening is a hard day’s job at this time. This is not true. The fact is that the soil in winter is the same as the other times of the year. You just have to keep in mind a few pointers while preparing the soil for gardening in the cold season.

To start with, since you are coming off from monsoon, even if the top layer of soil may be dry, the core underneath would be soggy and mulch-like. The first thing to do before you start planting is to rake the soil and mix it up. If you are planning to add organic fertilizers, you need to make sure that they are not going to dry up and harden during cold weather. You can even moisten the fertilizer before mixing it with soil. But the best way to ensure a proper draining soil mix is to add coco peat in equal amounts to your soil. This will ensure a certain porosity in the soil to soak up water, let it remain moist, and maintain air circulation.

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When you are ready with your soil, you can choose from some great varieties of plants to put in. From beautiful flowering plants to nourishing vegetables and healthy microgreens, it is a great time to do some winter gardening. Winter gardening plants include gorgeous flowering plants like zinnias, hyacinths, and marigolds to vegetable plants like capsicum, green peas, spinach, etc. Microgreens, which are a hugely popular health addition these days, also may be grown during winter.

1. Zinnia

With their beautiful shades, zinnias are quite simple to grow. They require only a light amount of care and they bloom quickly and thoroughly. Zinnias can be grown in any kind of soil. Zinnia seeds are generally used to grow them. Although zinnias are primarily winter plants, they need a lot of water. Despite that, they do not flourish in stagnant water or soggy soil. If you sow the seeds in early winter or even at the end of the monsoon, you may see zinnia bloom in November or December. Zinnias need good sunlight and so do not thrive inside the house.

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2. Hyacinths

You would be surprised how stunning these round bell-shaped flowers are. Available in a variety of white and pastel shades like blue, pink, and lilac, these sweet-smelling flowers are mainly grown in hilly and cold regions of India like Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttrakhand. However, with the right fertilizers and soil, these beauties can be grown in the southern and western parts of India too. They require full sun and moderate water. More importantly, they are compact plants with a requirement for small spaces. That is why a container or planter is all you need.

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3. Marigold

The standard Indian wedding and puja flowers, these brilliant smelling flowers come in shades of bright yellow, ochre yellow, bronze, copper, red, deep red, and orange. There even exist budded varieties in other colours. Plant your marigold sapling in well-draining soil with good sunlight and your winter is set for some beautiful smelling evenings. One point to note is that marigolds repel pests. So you can throw in a few saplings between your vegetable and fruit patches to keep out pests.

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4. Capsicum

One of the easiest vegetables to grow in a home balcony or kitchen window sill, capsicum is one of the best winter plants. Throw in a few seeds of the bell-shaped veggies during mid-October and you will get a basket full of fresh capsicums by the end of November. They require medium regular water and a good sun to grow. Used for healthy salads, garnishing, and even as curry, capsicum is a great addition to your winter garden.

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5. Green peas

Green peas are the most commonly seen vegetable during winter. They are much easier to grow than other vegetables. As these are vines, ensure that you have climbing support near the plant for it to climb on to. You can plant a few seedlings or sow germinated peas during October to get a bountiful selection of fresh green peas by the end of November. There are also various varieties of green peas available in the market for you to try. Green pea vines require well-draining moist soil and a good sun to flourish.

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Despite cold and short days, winter sets a fine environment for you to plan your garden. Many plants and vegetables require cold weather to thrive in. So don’t wait and get on planting with these winter gardening plants and enjoy the warm winter sun.

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