So I took the year round gardening challenge this year. Many times, I had gardened through the Spring and Summer, but never through Fall and Summer. First, it was just a thought near the end of summer. Something like, “Winter gardening can’t be all that much tougher than Summer”! What I have come to learn is that actually it is NOT all that tough. Now don’t get me wrong, I have had my challenges. The Blistering Summer gave way to comfortable, and beautifully colored Fall days and then BLAM, Winter hit! I had plans to order a dome house to cover my original aquaponics tank and grow beds, and other plans to build a nice hoop house to cover my raised beds. But, neither of those had happened. In a matter of days, the weather man was telling me, we would be experiencing below freezing temperatures. In a matter of moments, I was on my way to Lowes to purchase large amounts of PVC pipe and plastic. Before bedtime that night, I had wrapped my aquaponics like a Christmas package, and had built a makeshift hoop house to cover all my baby broccoli, spinach, cabbage, and the rest. For the next two weeks, our weather remained below freezing temperatures. To my delight, as soon as the cold snap let up, I unwrapped my beds and found all my veggies happy and healthy. WOOT! While the weather gave me a break, I got busy rebuilding the hoop house I really wanted, and purchased my dome. With those in place, my vegetables flourished! Then came the bugs. :/ That is always the challenge when attempting to grow completely organic. Any chemical added has such a negative impact on all the natural cycles of life, not to mention, horrible affects on health when consumed in plants, that I decided I would under no circumstances use anything other than organic. Of course, with the aquaponics, chemicals wreak havoc with fish, so only natural products can be used there. Inside my dome, I opted for ladybugs, who were and still quite happy eating away at the aphid! But, out in the hoop house, it isn’t quite warm enough to keep them happy and alive so I had to try other methods there. Garlic and worm casting teas have been my “go to”. Though, the aphid won the battle with my broccoli, they did not win with my basil, swiss chard, spinach, and one little head of cauliflower. 🙂 Most recently, I have put a bit of cinnamon around the roots of each plant to try and ward off the gnats. I am concerned though about damaging the balance of good fungi with the cinnamon. At this time, I have basil, bell pepper, beet, strawberry, oregano, thyme, tomato, asparagus, cabbage, brussel sprouts, spinach, swiss chard, carrots, onion, and potato growing and it’s winter! I’m learning, and it hasn’t been without struggle, but I harvest fairly regularly and enjoy chemical free and healthy to eat vegetables. And you can too!