GARDENING TASKS FOR WINTER
Gardening in winter? You must be mad, I hear you say, but in fact it is not the season for doing nothing while sipping hot cocoa and waiting for the sun to come out. If you're a serious gardener you will know to keep working to prepare you and you plot for the upcoming season, just like a farmer does his fields and orchards.
So make yourself another cup of cocoa, take a seat and read on to learn about all of the different ways that you can keep your garden in readiness and yourself in shape for the warm season to come.
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH YOUR GARDEN IN THE WINTER?
The following 12 tasks will get you ready for the upcoming growing season and give you plenty to do during the winter months.
With some time on your hands it is important to start organizing. Using some guidance from KonMari, the tidying doyenne, we can start preparing for spring gardening
1. Commit to tidying that tool shed!
If you're anything like me the cocoa is just too alluring, but setting the intention in your mind right to tidy up is the first step. With a clear goal in mind it is easier to get started and remain motivated.
2. Imagine the garden you want.
Take a moment to think about the garden you want to create, how it should look, where things should go. Make a list, draw a diagram or paste pictures in your garden journal.
3. Finish discarding first.
In any garden there is an old, mangy bag of who-knows-what. Maybe its potting soil, maybe its fertilizer, point is; the bag is torn, the label is gone and you probably thought you would do something with it back when mullets were in fashion. Just do it my friend, chuck it in the bin, along with those dead cuttings, perished pots, moldy seed trays and solidified bottles of pesticide that leave you dizzy if you just look at them. Be sure to check your local bylaws for guidance on the proper way to dispose of old chemicals. Now when all of the old and useless items are cleared out, you can properly plan where to store the items you keep, making it much easier in the end.
4. Tidy by category, not location.
There is a human tendency to store things in more than one location. You'll likely have pots in the garage, in the shed, on your workbench and maybe a couple behind the mailbox. If you only tidy up by area you'll still have them in those places, but if you collect them all and store them together you will have a better understanding of your stock of pots. Also you will be able to start your next project without the distraction of looking for them in four places!
5. Follow the right order, and put it in the right place.
By doing your tidying in the right order you are making it easier to decide what to discard or keep. Start with your tools, then pots and containers, then crop protection products, and lastly seeds and bulbs. Also make sure you have plenty of chests and shelves to store what you will be keeping.
6. Ask yourself "Does this one spark joy?"
I have a confession, I love my spade. She's got a name (Jade, because she's green) and a very special place in my heart. I've dug many holes with her and she sparks joy. The shovel with the broken handle is another matter altogether. I might be tempted to replace the handle, but the blade is bent and rusted too so no, it definitely does not spark joy. By being honest about your feelings about a garden tool, or if it comes down to it, a soil amendment you just don't like, you will remove negativity and make your garden the happy place you want to have.
7. Cleaning regimen
You've decided what to keep, well done. Now, just make sure the storage space you assigned for it is good and clean. Empty seed trays, plant pots, planter boxes, hanging baskets, and other various containers should be emptied and cleaned thoroughly with hot, soapy water to reduce the chance of pests and disease.
8. Waste removal
And there you have it. Your shed is clean and tidy, tools are sparkling and everything is ready. Just make sure that the stuff you dump are going to the correct dumping site and enjoy the tidy workspace you now have.
When you're tidying up you can take an inventory of everything that you have. Clean up your gear as best you can, sharpen and oil or replace dull blades. Once you have everything together, use your list to decide what needs to be replaced or any new and useful gardening tools you would like own. Take a look in our shop for the best new gardening tools and anything that you want to add to your toolkit
START (OR EXPAND) COMPOSTING
The colder temperatures of winter slows down the microbial action of your compost heap, making it the perfect time for turning the heap, adding browns (Carbon) or greens(Nitrogen) as needed and possibly sifting it down to use for potting soil. If you already have a composting system in place, consider expanding your operation by adding a second heap or a worm farm. Worms are wonderful composters and are extremely beneficial to the soil.
BUILD NEW GARDEN BEDS
Old beds need maintenance and sometimes rebuilding or replacing. Chances are you want more space and are considering adding a new one. Raised beds offer neat and attractive space, are affordable and easy to make and you can amend the soil in it with your compost if you have any.
BIRD IS THE WORD
Winged visitors to your garden can even cheer up the winter, and you can do some good for them in a season when food is scarce. So lend them a hand with a handful of birdseed and consider installing a garden feature to attract them like a bird feeder, birdbath, birdhouse, hummingbird feeder, or simply by leaving a few berries on a plant instead of harvesting them all for yourself.
ORGANIZE SEEDS AND ORDER MORE
Take an inventory of the seeds you have on hand and place an order for what you lack and perhaps a few plants you have never grown before to try out in the upcoming growing seasons. Alternatively, make a list of your shortages and make a trip to your local nursery to stock up on seeds for spring.
CHECK STORED BULBS AND TUBERS
If you are storing bulbs and/or tubers for future planting, be sure to check them once per month to insure that there is no mold or extra moisture present. Discard any moldy roots immediately and mist any bulbs or tubers that were in the near vicinity of the affected roots before returning them to storage.
MULCH AND COVER
Frost fleece or a light blanket placed over your plants can go a long way towards keeping them alive during freezing or near freezing temperatures, so even if you don’t have any indoor space that you can dedicate to overwintering, you may still be able to keep valued plants alive through the treacherous cold nights. Mulching your beds with organic mulch, or even leaves, straw, or pine needles, can help keep your plants alive during the winter. Mulch insulates the soil and helps protect roots from freezing temperatures. Winter mulching can actually keep some plants warm enough to allow you to continue harvesting during the winter.
Propagate your plants during the winter by taking hardwood cuttings. Even if you don’t need to add more plants to your collection, propagating some of your favorite shrubs, rose bushes, or berries can be great for thoughtful cost-free gifts for neighbors and friends.
BUILD A COLD FRAME
A cold frame is a simple structure that utilizes solar energy and insulation to create a microclimate within your garden. For those of you who have harvested and eaten a salad of fresh greens in winter or have flowers blooming well past frost, you know the attraction of using cold frames. You can easily extend your harvesting and growing season by building a cold frame to house and protect your plants from the harsh winter weather. Cold frames can be built from scratch, or you can repurpose some old furniture, doors, windows, and other large items. The doors are open to so many different possibilities, as cold frames can literally be constructed out of just about anything, such as bricks, bales of hay, scrapwood, and much more.
ADD SOMETHING NEW AND EXCITING
Aside from a few new plants, add something new to the garden each year that expands your vision. Winter is the perfect time to decide on how you want to upgrade your garden space and put that plan into action. Perhaps a new walkway could be added with stepping stones or gravel to lead from one section of the garden to another. You may even decide to take on a major project like adding a water feature, like a small pond, or a water fountain to your garden getaway. These are just a few ideas of how you could improve your space. There are endless possibilities, so think big and come up with something that you would enjoy for years to come.
PLAN FOR NEXT SEASON
Take some time to reflect on last year’s gardening experience and think about how you can improve and expand your efforts. Make some notes and lists of plants that need to be moved, divided, or replaced. Decide what changes you would like to make, how you would like to go about improving your soil, and note what issues arose last year so that you can plan how to avoid them this year. Make a list of new plants that you would like to try out in upcoming growing seasons. Sketch a layout plan that you can use as a reference when deciding what to plant where come springtime.
Hopefully, you now have plenty of ideas to work with and are ready to get started with your winter gardening fun. Winter will be over before you know it, so dive in head first. Keep an eye out for the second part of this series, in which we will answer commonly asked questions about winter gardening tasks. We will cover when you should cut back plants for winter, whether you should cover your garden, the best materials to cover your garden with, how you can improve the soil during the wintertime, how to winterize garden beds, and more.