Bring summertime inside this winter season

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By Cheryl Steenerson

 Now that we have fallen back in time, so to speak, our biological clocks are adjusting, albeit slowly. My normal wake up hour has shifted from 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 a.m.
It should have gone the other way, but it never does in the winter. The wildlife on the farm seem to follow the same routine.
Since the sun sleeps in a little longer, so do the birds and other critters, including us. I miss the flurry of activity in the yard during those early hours.
Now, when I look outside as the sun rises, all I see is frost. It takes a while before anything starts to stir.
We also get hit on the other end with darkness coming in earlier. In the summer, when 9 p.m. rolls around, I may just be coming in from mowing. Now, I’m already in my jammies! I think our bodies adjust to the seasons much like the plants. We’re just not as naturally active. We crave light and heat and almost have to force ourselves to go outside when it’s dark and cold.
I fight this battle by bringing summer into the house. Well, into one room at least. I have a room that is just for plant growing. I have artificial lights and heat to allow me to have at least a little food growing during the “off” season. Cold weather wimps like me don’t want to go outside in the winter.
Most of you are a little “hardier” and may want to try some other options to keep your green thumb active. There are greenhouses and cold frames of numerous shapes and sizes that can keep you in fresh food throughout the winter. It just depends on your space and wallet.
Traditional greenhouses are expensive to heat in the winter. If you build it partially in the ground, you reduce your heating costs. If you use barrels of water inside, you can reduce your heating costs. You do have more space to grow more food.
Cold frames are like mini greenhouses. Basically a wooden box with a glass lid, these little gems can produce quite a bit of food, if you have several. The trick here in Kentucky is venting them when we get warm days and heating them when it gets really cold.
I saw a great design for cold frame heating the other day. It was really simple. All you need is a bird bath heater and a large ceramic pot with a lid. The kind of lid that has an opening for a ladle. That’s a natural place for the electric cord to pass.
Place the pot in a corner of the cold frame with a hole in the side of the frame for an electric cord to pass to the outside. You submerge the heater into the pot filled with water, and leave it in the cold frame. Stack some straw bales around the outside of the frame. You’ll be able to grow all winter.
Now, there are still outdoor chores to be done before Thanksgiving arrives. It’s time to put the strawberries to bed by covering them with 2 inches of straw. Mums can now be cut back to ground level, so they’ll grow bigger and stronger next year. Wait until December to cut your roses back.
November is halfway over, which means Thanksgiving is just around the corner and that means it’s Rummage Sale time! The Anderson Humane Society’s giant sale is always the Saturday after Thanksgiving at the American Legion Hall. Gather up your donations or grab your Christmas list for shopping, or both!
If you want to be especially Santa-like this year, you can even drop off a badly needed bag of dog or cat food. The homeless puppies and kitties thank you for anything you can do. Now, get some seeds started! Watching green things grow always puts a smile on your face. Happy Growing!

Cheryl Steenerson is the gardening columnist for The Anderson News.