Winter Gardening

As winter approaches most gardeners hurry to finish their fall clean-up and plant spring bulbs before the first snow. They then begin to fondly look forward to gardening again in the spring. If you can tolerate the cold and don’t want to spend a few months inside you don’t need to quit just yet, there’s still quite a bit you can do to stay busy in the garden through the winter. Planning next spring’s projects during the winter months is essential but there are other chores to be done as well. Here are a few gardening project for the winter months.

Though there are outdoor projects to be done, winter is the perfect time to plan new project for the garden. Think about what was successful and what could be improved in the garden. General changes, such as adding Perennials which have out grown their allotted spot could be divided and serve as the starting point in a new garden bed. Consider planting for the winter landscape. Evergreens provide the stark winter landscape with some welcome color. Often, a large evergreen serving as an anchor shrub or specimen shrub can improve the look of your garden in winter. Also include in your new plan, shrubs which produce colorful winter berries and trees and shrubs with interesting form or bark.

Begin by reviewing last season’s garden journal. Search through seed and gardening catalogs and spend a little time online researching the plants you’d like to use.  Careful planning is essential when designing a garden and ensures the time and money that you invest in your garden is worth it. Once you’ve decided what you’d like your new garden to offer, begin a site analysis. Understanding of you’re your local environment is important and will enable you to make informed decisions regarding design and plant selection.  The following factors should be taken into consideration; climate & micro-climate, sun & shade conditions, wind exposure, soil composition and existing vegetation.

Plant hardiness zone maps divide the country into zones based on the lowest average winter temperature.   Find out the zone in which you live and use it as guide during your plant selection process. A plant that is adapted to your hardiness zone is one that can tolerate the lowest winter temperature your zone typically experiences.

Considering Microclimates

Along with the overall climate conditions of your area, micro-climates within your specific site also determine what is appropriate for your garden.  A stone wall facing south with little shade, for instance, will be much warmer than its surrounding environment.  Planted against such as wall, flowers or shrubs which are borderline hardy have increased chance at survival. Being aware of the sun and shade conditions in your garden is important to successful garden design and to the long term health of your new trees, shrubs and flowers.  Improperly placed plants are a main reason for unnecessary transplants.  Most plants prefer at least some shade during the day.

Getting to know the conditions of your local environment before you begin planning and planting can be the difference between success and disappointment.

Aside from reworking your garden design, there are some tasks which will need to be done in the garden during the winter. For instance, prune your deciduous trees and shrubs in the winter while they are dormant. Check your on shrubs after a snowstorm and give any broken limbs and clean cut with a pruning saw or pruners.

Check on your stored bulbs. Check your perennial gardens for heaving, especially in areas prone to repeated freezing and thawing. Recycle your Christmas tree as garden mulch or a bird feeder. Feed the birds and provide them with some unfrozen water. Shake the snow off of your evergreen shrubs after snow storms. Also, sharpen your tools so you’ll be ready to get to work when the ground thaws. Though the plants are dormant and snow is on the ground, winter is the ideal time to prepare for a busy gardening season.

Related Articles: Winter Pruning, Berries, Evergreens, Bark, Plant Silhouettes