Using a raised bed in winter: 5 creative ideas

Sira Huwiler-Flamm

Many raised beds are left untouched in winter. Whether as decoration, for growing vegetables or to treat the soil to a wellness program – there are various ways to use a raised bed in winter.

Frozen cabbages in a raised bed – some vegetables love frost.
© Getty Images / Joe Golby

In this article

1. Winter pleasures – sowing and harvesting

Think you have no choice but to harvest all your crops and cover up your raised bed? Not necessarily. A raised bed offers optimal conditions for growing winter vegetables thanks to the heat that develops through its various layers of soil as a result of decay. With a glass raised bed attachment, a foil tunnel or a protective garden fleece, you can turn a raised bed into a small greenhouse in the cold season. It will then be able to store geothermal energy and protect plants from snow.

Examples of vegetables that like it cold are lamb’s lettuce, kale, leek, spinach and sprouting broccoli. Ideally, you should choose your plants in advance, because everything grows more slowly in winter. Parsnips, kale and leeks that have been planted in summer or autumn can be harvested during the winter, for example. You can even wait until November or early December to sow lamb’s lettuce seeds – then you will be able to harvest and enjoy the crisp winter lettuces in February.

2. Hibernation for the raised bed

Hibernation is of course another possibility. There are also some other points to consider: firstly, all the plants need to be completely removed from the raised bed, including any remains. Afterwards, it is advisable to loosen the soil with a hoe and apply a mulch cover of semi-ripe compost, straw or grass clippings to give the soil new nutrients.

You can cover your bed with a waterproof foil as well or instead. This is because it prevents winter rain and snow from washing valuable nutrients out of the soil. For wooden raised beds, it’s preferable to nail on a bitumen roof: it protects not only the soil, but also the wooden construction against rain and snow. If you decide to hibernate the bed, you can take your time planning next year’s calendar for your raised bed.

Snow-covered raised beds in a garden.

Hibernation is another possibility for a raised bed: a black foil prevents snow and rain from washing the nutrients out of the soil.

3. A decorative platform in the garden

Many homeowners decorate their orphaned flower boxes with fir branches, stars and baubles in winter. Why not also use the sleeping raised bed as an elevated decorative platform in the garden? Branches of pine, Nordmann fir or mistletoe can be found at regional weekly markets, for example. Gaps can be filled with moss and lichen. Natural decorative elements such as red berry branches, fir cones and nuts will complete the winter picture.

Spray the fir cones with gold or silver varnish to create glitter effects. Stars, baubles, reindeer and gnomes peeking out from behind the branches guarantee a perfect Christmas atmosphere. Fairy lights and closed lanterns with real or electronic candles create an extra cozy atmosphere on long, dark winter nights. Alternatively, you can purchase models with timers – so that the eye-catching decorative feature does not become too costly, and the contemplative pre-Christmas period remains a time for reflection, not expense.

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4. Wellness for your raised bed

As a treat for the earth in the raised bed rather than for your eyes, you can imitate the farmers and sow green manure – in other words, plants that have positive effects on the soil. Winter-hardy legumes (Leguminosae) or clover (Trifolium), for example, not only protect the soil from erosion, wind and weather, but also bind nitrogen and moisture in the soil. Both are important for the new plants next year. It’s even possible to plant two to three different types of green manure – and this will improve the impact on the soil.

A fresh coat of paint can also do a raised bed good in the winter. In addition to weather protection paints, there are also ecological paints for gardens. Have you had problems with slugs in the past? Then an ecological protective coating against snails can help – it will prevent the animals from making their way up to your delicious vegetables next year.

5. Overwinter perennial plants

Amateur cooks in particular often have Mediterranean herbs like rosemary, sage or thyme in their gardens. Garden owners can take measures to protect these perennial plants from severe frost: a raised bed attachment, a garden fleece or a foil tunnel will ensure that the heat remains inside, for example.

Even fragrant balcony tub herbs can be placed in a raised bed for wintering and continue to be enjoyed. But watch out: if a period of frost is imminent, you shouldn’t harvest any plants. Any cut surfaces on branches will make the plants more sensitive. In winter, it’s best to harvest only single leaves to add spice to your kitchen recipes.

A brick raised bed with an attachment made from old windows

A raised bed attachment, either bought or self-built, turns the bed into a small greenhouse.

Conclusion: there are still plenty of possibilities, even in winter

Gardens don’t necessarily have to stand still in winter. As a garden owner, you can choose to continue to nurture and harvest plants, herbs and vegetables. You may, on the other hand, prefer to treat yourself and nature to a nice rest. With the right preparation, this will not only do the raised bed good – but will also provide you with a decorative eye-catching feature in the garden at the same time.

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