Winter Gardening: Tips, Tricks and Advice
Winter landscapes can look very bleak and monotone, especially if you live in a cold region. Colors disappear with the autumn leaves and you have to wait until spring before you see them again. If you live in an area that usually gets hit with ice and snow, you may know the routine of bringing some of your plants indoors or covering them with special netting-like material. However, there are ways to keep your gardens colorful and full of life, even during those harsh winter months.
One of the first things you should know is when to plant your plants, seeds or bulbs. Most of the time, if you want plants to sprout during winter you’ll have to plant them anytime from midsummer to early winter. This site contains a sample chart of when to plant vegetables so they will either sprout or be ready for harvesting during the winter.
If you forget to do your planting during this time, you can always wait until next year. However, there are ways around this—pending on where you live they may be more difficult to do. Naturally, if you live in a warmer zone, or basically places that are less likely to have frozen ground, it will be easier for you to plant things; but if you are currently faced with inches or feet of snow cover, you will definitely have your work cut out for you.
Those of you who have to keep your garden outdoors, whether it contains vegetables, herbs, flowers or other plants, you may want to try building a raised bed garden. These garden beds are built above the ground, rather than directly on the ground. Usually a raised frame-like structure is built and then soil is placed within the frame. Then, you simply start your planting. Using a raised bed during winter is great for a couple of reasons:
- The soil will stay warm, so the plants are less likely to freeze.
- The soil will stay dry, so there will be less chance of disease or root rot.
A couple other methods you outdoor gardeners can use include container gardening or greenhouses. Container gardening can involve the typical pots, though for winter glazed ceramic pots with several drainage holes are the preferred choice. Other pots may crack and break, rot, or warp and deteriorate. If you want to get really creative, you can use old things around the house that may seem like they have no further use. Have an old tire or spare wooden crate lying around? Do you have one shoe or boot but can’t find the other? Maybe you have some buckets, baskets or old toys that would do the trick. They can be great for holding plants and will add some creative edge and interest to your garden—not to mention reusing these old items also follows the 3 R mantra (reduce, reuse, recycle)!
As for the greenhouses, again pending on where you live, they may be easier to erect in warmer climates or simply when the snow has melted away. You can find reasonably cheap and some eco-friendly ones at places like Clean Air Gardening, GrowHouse, or Charley’s Greenhouse & Garden.
Now, as for plants you can use during the winter months, it varies. Good choices include things like evergreens, holly bushes and wisteria vines. If you want to add more life or color to your outdoor garden, but don’t like the idea of doing all that work in cold weather, there are other options. You can add statues or creative art pieces. One house that I frequently walk by has antique toys on display, such as old tricycles or rocking horses. You can also add feeders for birds, squirrels and other animals to bring some life and color to your winter garden.
I’m sure there may be quite a few of you who live in the north that don’t like the idea of gardening outside during winter. Given the amount of snow storms that some places get, plus the ongoing cold snap, indoor gardening may be the better choice for you. This is also much easier to do. All you require are some pots and containers, or perhaps a window box and you’re all set. With indoor gardening, you have a higher variety of plants available to use, since they won’t be exposed to the cold outdoor weather as much. Personally, I use this option more than the others as it’s easier for me to take care of the plants and it adds life and color to the home.
You may feel it’s too late now to get any winter gardening started, but that’s no excuse to stop gardening for the winter! Now would be a good time to start preparing for spring. Do you need supplies? Are you planning on adding more to your garden this year or mapping out a new area? Some seeds, bulbs and so forth also need to start the germination or stratification process during the colder months of the year. If you are planning to plant anything that needs the cold germination process, you may want to start researching now to see just how much time they need before they are ready to plant.
Other things you can do during the winter months include:
- Composting and Mulching
- Protecting your plants from weather, pests and disease
- Cleaning up your garden and tools
- Preparing for the next winter season
That’s all the information for now. Below are links that include further tips, information on plants you can add to your winter garden, and links to further resources. Winter may be a time of hibernation, but that’s no excuse for your green thumbs to do the same!
By Heidi Marshall