Winter may not seem like a time to think about gardening; however, it can offer a refreshing, renewed experience as it presents itself with a unique set of opportunities to plan and catch up on tasks or projects that were put off during the growing season.

Whether it’s preparing the garden for winterizing, decorating the outdoors for the holidays, or planning next year’s crop, there is always plenty to do while waiting for spring.

When winterizing the garden, it’s important to protect the tender plants from the harsh elements that winter offers. Start by giving the garden a good saturation of water before the first frost arrives, followed by a hardy layer of mulch, which can include a mix of shredded leaves, ground bark, straw, or hardwood mulch that is un-dyed (which can be purchased at local garden centers). Mulch around the base of the plants to help provide a retention of moisture and to provide a weed barrier while protecting the plant from the elements.

While winter season does eliminate the option for fresh food from the garden, cold-weather crops can be grown in a cloche, or cold frame. Cold-weather crops include lettuces, kale, arugula spinach, mustard, and swiss chard. Many root crops can be grown successfully as well.

Gardens, if properly planted, can provide a four-season interest for fresh food and beauty. There’s nothing more beautiful than seeing winter plants blooming to lift your spirits during the cold winter season! Plants to consider adding to the garden include winter hazel, witch hazel, and honey suckle—which offer a nice color and give off a refreshing fragrance during a time when it is needed most.

Dreaming of Spring

When planning your garden oasis, be sure to consider your feathered friends. Providing food and water resources, along with housing, will insure that they will offer pest control and a balanced ecosystem for your garden in return.

Pruning plants is also a winter chore. Shrubs and trees can be pruned in late winter before dormancy breaks. Do not prune early bloomers until after their blooming season is complete, or you’ll lose this year’s blooms. Research pruning techniques for each variety before you start—in order to maintain the healthiest plants.

The winter season is also a good time to bring gardening indoors by growing bulbs, snowdrops, crocus, winter aconite, paper-white narcissus, and amaryllis—all great choices that allow you to continue playing in the dirt while bringing cheer to your home. Kits are available to purchase, and make great Christmas presents, or you can force the branches of witch hazel, crabapple, and forsythias, which can be grown indoors by cutting the budded branches—and simply bringing them inside to bloom is also a great option.

Winter offers great opportunity to plan for a spring awakening whether it be decorating for the season or looking at the seed catalogs that have just arrived. Reading gardening books, taking a gardening class, and making New Year’s resolutions to add to garden path, patio, or fire pit are all useful undertakings, along with curling up by the fire with a cup of herbal tea from your harvest, and dreaming of spring.

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