Gardening doesn’t have to end with your final summer crops each year. Whether you live in milder winter regions or where the snow piles up high, there are so many different gardening projects available to fill the winter months and keep your pastime going until spring. Below Rhianna Miller of Rubber Mulch shares a few great wintertime gardening ideas to keep you busy and productive in the coming months.
· Plant Winter Gardens. Swap out your summer containers for winter containers with frost-tolerant flowers and greens such as evergreens, cabbage, twigs, and strings of lights. In milder regions, rotate your garden to a winter one with plant greens, root crops, herbs (depending on your region), and other hardy vegetables.
· Indoor Gardening. There are many herbs that can easily be moved indoors during the winter months, such as rosemary, basil, and parsley. Just keep your containers near a window for maximum sunlight. Salad greens are also a cinch to grow indoors with the right amount of light and warmth. Just avoid placing them near cold windows. Other plants like white jasmine, narcissus, and cyclamen open beautiful blossoms during the cool seasons of the year. Even small lemon trees can be grown indoors during the winter months.
· Plan Next Spring’s Garden. Winter is the perfect time to start planning your summer garden. There are so many wonderful resources online to help you do the job easily like Smart Gardener or Gardena’s My Garden. During the winter you can lay out your garden, decide what you want to plant, request seed catalogs, and order flower and vegetable seeds, as well as, any new gardening tools and accessories at an off-season discount (think trellises, fencing, compost bin, and plant containers).
· Research New Plants and Flowers. Take inventory of your yard and landscaping in the fall and note areas that are lacking and need filling in. Decide if you’re looking for plants, trees, shrubs, or flowers. Take some time for researching plants and figuring out what’s native to your region and would grow the best. Look through online photo galleries, browse through Pinterest, and visit the websites for different seed retailers and see what their offerings are. Once you narrow down your selections, you’ll be ready to order once spring arrives.
· Winter Care and Maintenance. There are a lot of things you can do in fall and winter to help prepare yourself for spring. Many of the items on the list take some time and effort and you may not find the time until the cooler months arrive. Things to add to your winter care and maintenance list are cleaning off tools, wrapping terra-cotta and ceramic pots in bubble plastic, organizing seeds, properly storing hoses and tools, and checking the supplies you’ll need for seed starting. The good news is that you may also find some deals online and even in stores with left over gardening tools and supplies.
· Prepare A List and A Schedule. First off, you have to map out a winter gardening itinerary to follow. You need to know your area’s frost dates, for starters. The USDA site has a plant hardiness zone map you can use as reference to know which plants are best at surviving cold weather, and which need special care. You can then schedule the chores, tasks, and other activities that need to be done in your winterizing list. Small acts like rolling up garden hoses, putting plastic containers away to prevent from cracking, and draining the fuel tank of lawn mowers will save you a lot of heartache (and money) when spring rolls around.
. Trim, Clean and Put Away. Before it gets too cold to do outdoor activities, clean up garden debris as best as you can in milder weather. Leaves, dead stalks, decaying foliage, and other garden refuse can become a breeding ground for pests. Rake fallen leaves, trim overgrown shrubbery, and compost where you can. Don’t forget to put away garden accessories like buckets, hoses, rakes, and others – keep them in a shed so they won’t freeze or rust. Remember to cover your compost with a tarp or a thick layer of hay so that it won’t get soggy with snow. Give your garden a general cleaning so that it still looks presentable after all the snow melts.
. Get Rid of Weeds. Don’t neglect weeding pre-winter. Many can survive the cold and wreak havoc on your plants. Carefully remove those with seed heads so that none will come out. Even a tiny portion of seeds can germinate fast and invade your garden in a matter of weeks. Make sure the weeds are nowhere in contact with your other plants and soil. Put them in a covered garbage bin where they belong.
. Keep Shrubs Snug and Warm. Plants can experience chill, too. You can wrap shrubs with a burlap sack or a thick fabric to keep them from freezing and suffering windburn. Never use plastic because it doesn’t breathe, and can overheat young plants. When the weather becomes warmer, remove the wrapping right away.
. Mulch, Mulch, Mulch. Plants need extra warmth during winter, and mulching will act as a protective blanket for them. New plants that have not taken root yet especially need mulching. It will keep moisture where it needs, and prevent weeds from taking hold, while keeping soil temperature even for tender plants. Check in mid-January to early February if the mulch has moved from heavy wind and rain, and reapply as needed.