Just because it is winter doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do in the garden. Winter can be a tough time for plants, especially in the extreme cold and whenever the season lasts longer than usual. Plant growth slows down and pests and diseases take advantage of the plant’s cold-weakened state. This is why it is important to help your plants cope during the cold months.
Aside from this, there are plenty of gardening tasks to do to prepare for the year ahead. It may be grim and frozen outside, but take the opportunity to work on gardening jobs that are best done during this season. Most of these tasks are for the outdoors, but there are also several that are indoor jobs. Reserve wintertime care and gardening tasks for those sunny winter days when the cool, crisp air makes working in the garden relaxing and delightful.
Winter Gardening Tasks and Tips
Here are several gardening jobs that you should do during winter.
- Harvest your winter crops. Parsnips, leeks, winter squash, pumpkins, Brussels sprouts, and spinach are just some of the many crops that you can harvest this time of the year.
- Organize plant containers for insulation and for stability in strong winds.
- Put up frames around plants that are likely to suffer from the cold or from frost. You can throw a piece of cloth or tarpaulin over the frames at night and then take them off in the morning.
- Wrap terra cotta planters in bubble wrap for protection against frost.
- When watering potted plants, avoid shocking the roots by adding some hot water to the tap water until it is tepid.
- Move tropical plants and other warmth-loving plants into warmer spots like the porch.
- Prune trees.
- Build and put up bird boxes. Winter can be hard on our feathered friends, so fill up your bird boxes with seeds and nuts. Having birds nearby reduces the number of critters that eat up your plants.
- In late winter, start planting bare-root shrubs and trees.
- Scrub old pots and seed trays and soak them in garden disinfectant. This will help prevent the spread of plant diseases.
- Take root cuttings from your perennials.
- Cut down dead and/or diseased trees and chop them up for firewood or for making wood chips.
- Order your seed potatoes.
- Build raised beds.
- If the ground is not too frozen, dig up a pond.
- Start a lawn border.
- Check for pests and diseases. You should do this every season.
- Browse the following year’s seed catalogs and make a list of the vegetable and flower seeds that you want to order.
- If the ground is not too hard or waterlogged, dig over your beds and borders to ready them for spring sowing.
- Prepare planting holes for fruit trees by adding in compost and manure.
- Clear your vegetable plot of any old or decaying crops. Dump them in the compost bin or, if they are diseased, burn them.
- Install a water tank or water storage system to save up rainwater and melting snow for use in succeeding seasons.
5 things to Prepare for Spring
Winter is the perfect time to start preparing for spring gardening. These are the top five things you need to do to get your garden back into shape.
1. Research and plan
While you’re stuck indoors, take the time to read about different gardening methods, plants you want to try cultivating, and garden problems you encountered in the past year and how you can prepare for them.
Sketch out a map of what you want your garden to look like. Indicate the positions of your vegetable beds, flower beds, herb patches, and compost pile. Don’t forget to rotate your crops to avoid pest problems and to revitalize the soil. Consider vertical gardening and container gardening.
Order your seeds. Plan on growing vegetables that your family buys and eats on a regular basis and add some new varieties to try for the year.
2. Start your seeds indoors
Find out when the last frost is expected in your area and count back about seven weeks. This is when you can start your seeds indoors. If you have an extra room that gets a lot of sunlight and is well-heated, this is the perfect place to turn into a temporary nursery for your plants. Find out which plants need to be started indoors and which do best when directly sowed.
3. Create a compost pile
The sooner you start your compost pile, the more of that rich black plant-nourishing goodness you’ll have for your garden. It might not be ready for spring planting, but the amount of compostable material you will collect during winter offers a great opportunity to start working on compost.
4. Clean all gardening tools
This is one of those jobs that we tend to put off until it’s time for planting and then we complain about how dirty and dull everything is. You should maintain your tools after every growing season to save time, avoid spreading plant diseases, and to keep them in tip-top shape. Clean and sharpen your gardening tools. Don’t use WD-40 on them because you don’t want that stuff on the vegetables you eat. Have a professional sharpen your cutting tools. Winter is the best time to do this as sharpening rates are lower this season.
5. Clean up your garden
At the end of every growing season, there’s a lot to be disposed of. Weeds, dead plants, withered vines, spoiled fruit, leaves, branches, old stakes and trellises, broken pots and containers, and many other garden paraphernalia. Throw away the trash, put the compostable materials in your new compost pile, and fix and store away what can still be re-used. It’s best to do all these things while the weeds are dormant. Come spring, you will be too busy with other gardening tasks to do the cleaning up and the tidying. Mend fences, build new trellises and frames, and fix broken gates. Get your garden all prettied up to welcome spring.