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Gardening in winter may seem an impossibility. What about freezing temperatures, lack of sunshine and snow? However, during winter the garden goes dormant, resting before the growing season ahead. This makes January through early March the perfect time to prep.
Check out these tasks to do now, to get the garden ready for spring.
Gardening in Winter
I leave dry plant stalks and ornamental grasses up during the winter. Today perfectly illustrates why. My area received a light snow overnight, turning my beautifully messy garden space into an enchanting work of art.
I must add that I laughed over this occurrence. I plan my blog posts a month in advance. Today’s scheduled post, Gardening in Winter, benefited from the snowfall. It offered me the opportunity to snap wonderfully appropriate photos. Of course I did not know in advance that my post and snow would coincide but I happily accept this marvelous gift.
Six Tasks to do Now
Transplant Trees and Shrubs
These woody plants slumbering during the winter months can be moved while they aren’t growing. Dig up the tree or shrub, leaving a ball of earth around the roots. Move it carefully to the new location.
Replant the tree or shrub at its original depth, water thoroughly and tamp in dirt around the root ball. Water regularly during any dry spells, to help lessen shock from the transplant.
Trim Back Ornamental Grasses
Leave dry ornamental grasses up during winter, to add interest and beauty to the garden. Before spring, trim grass stalks back, to within six inches of the ground. February is a good month for this task in most zones. Ideally, trim grasses before any new green growth appears.
I use a large metal barrel to burn the dry stalks after trimming the plants back. A calm day with no wind is necessary when burning garden debris.
Now is the time as well to dig up any stray ornamental grasses that popped up in the garden in late fall. The plants are easy to spot, due to their tall stalks and it is simple to dig them up while they are small.
Work the Soil
As the ground warms, prepare the soil for spring planting. Using a tiller or spading by hand, incorporate several inches of compost or shredded tree leaves into the soil. Remove dead weeds from the garden and cut dry perennials and herb stalks back to the ground.
Add a layer of mulch. Or you can wait until spring plants barely poke through the ground and then mulch heavily around them. Mulch reduces weeds, holds in important moisture and protects the plants.
Trim Back Evergreens, Flowering Shrubs and Vines
Now is the time to tidy up flowering shrubs and evergreens. Prune back branches, for healthier growth in the spring. Vines tolerate a good cutting back. I sometimes cut my clematis vines back to the ground although a less severe pruning is fine too.
Don’t prune crape myrtle however. If the plant gets too large for its location, consider moving it.
Check Garden Containers and Equipment
During those cold wintry days, walk through the garden frequently and check for needed repairs. I leave many of my containers outside during winter. Now is the time to inspect those metal tubs and buckets, clay pots, plant stands, trellises and wheelbarrows. Remove dried flower stalks or weeds from all containers, to prepare for spring planting.
Clean and sharpen shovels and hand trowels. Clean rakes. Inspect garden hoses for splits or cracks.
I have two metal cranes and a rabbit statue in the garden. I check them for damage and remove any garden debris from them.
Dream and Plan
This task is perfect for days when the weather prevents outdoor work. Grab a cup of hot tea or hot chocolate, a notebook and a pen and sketch out the garden. Dream up a new feature. Plan a border. Add a water fountain. Dream really big and create a whole new garden.
Research plants. Think about trying something different. Visit online nurseries, such as this one.
Winter is not just a time for gardens to rest and prepare. This season is a wonderful time for gardeners to dream, plan and prepare as well.
Ready to Get Ready
I’m looking forward to getting into my garden to carry out these winter tasks. On the next mild day you’ll find me in my backyard garden, pruning, weeding and preparing for spring.
Admittedly, I have much to do. My garden suffered last year from too much rain. The excessive water affected herbs and flowers and encouraged rampant weed growth. By the end of summer, my garden looked wild.
No worries though. Hard work, heavy pruning and weeding will set things right. I don’t mind a bit of wildness, after all. It suits me. It’s that balance of beautiful order and barely contained wildness that so delights and inspires me.
Check out these other posts, in the Backyard Gardening Series:
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