Winter market gardening in full swing

Growing vegetables during the cold season

Posted on December 14, 2022
While some of us opt for a winter break, others embark on a much more ambitious endeavor:: winter vegetable production. The trend is growing strong among market gardeners, and new northern production techniques are emerging.
Catherine Dallaire, Agronome

What makes winter vegetable production so appealing?

The lengthening of the production season allows producers to stretch their annual cash flow, since otherwise, the winter months represent little to no income. For some, this approach is driven by the desire to increase our food self-sufficiency in Quebec. Depending on marketing strategies and cultivation techniques adopted, offering produce in the winter can be profitable. Still, several important challenges must be overcome to achieve this.

Energy: the main issue with winter vegetable growing

The idea isn’t to cultivate exotic fruits in the middle of a classic Quebec January. The energy costs to recreate optimal climatic conditions in heated greenhouses are unaffordable. Still, the environmental impact of the energy consumption necessary to heat such structures in the winter could be better.

The current initiative is therefore a primary attempt to produce vegetables using as little energy as possible. Northern market gardening techniques are used, such as implementing a technical itinerary based on shortening days, installing simple shelters such as caterpillar tunnels, mini-tunnels and floating covers, or even selecting, or even selecting cultivars with greater resistance to the cold. Low temperatures, icy winds and limited sunlight pose major challenges.

We often underestimate the depth of knowledge required to produce in our harsh northern climate. I'm sure our colleagues in the south would be impressed to see the yields we can achieve. Even when the bears wouldn't dare to stick their noses outside... there will always be our Quebec market gardeners willing to do it!

Catherine Dallaire, Agronome