When winter days are less than 10 hours a day in length, plants in the ground slow down or stop growing altogether. I’d like to think that the plants are sleeping. Eliot Coleman, who wrote The Winter Harvest Handbook, calls this time the Persephone Period. Our Persephone period here in Santa Fe is from Thanksgiving thru January 14th. What does this mean for us gardeners?
If you are thinking about transplanting plants that you started or bought into a hoop house, low tunnel or greenhouse, forget about it right now. Wait.
If you had planted greens in August for a fall harvest, you probably notice that they aren’t growing much anymore. But they should be big enough to harvest assuming you protected your cold hardy plants from our winter nights with winter weight row cover. I have 2 big cabbages still in the garden and a couple of kale that I plan to harvest this week since they won’t be getting bigger.
But plants that are small, will stay small now until Jan 14th when our daylight hours start to get longer again. Other parts of the country further north will have longer time periods of less light days. This has nothing to do with the Winter Solstice, which is the shortest day of the year but rather a time period of less light. After January 14th, daylight hours will start to get longer than 10 hours again. That’s when the plants wake up and start growing again.
So my recommendation is to hunker down with some good gardening books, get your gardening catalogs and plan next year’s garden (and get some rest too.)