Gardening doesn’t end when the growing season does. I have a great checklist of winter gardening chores that keep me enthusiastic and involved in my garden even in the off-season.
Make Your Move
Now is actually the ideal time to transplant or move plants, put in new bushes and bulbs, as well as divide perennial bulbs. If you do it now rather than waiting for spring, it’s almost like getting a whole extra year of growth. Roots will have time to get established and the plant will be ready to flourish in springtime. If you want to plant something you can enjoy through winter, investigate a wonderful new evergreen like fire thorn (shiny green leaves year-round with orange berries in winter) or an arborvitae. This time of year is great for finding sales. If it is too late to plant, you can overwinter them in a pot with mulch; be sure to water them, too.
Prune for Dead Branches, Not Growth
Fall and winter are not the optimal time to prune for shape or growth – spring is best for that because it is the time when plants are ready to develop. Now is the time to look over your trees and bushes to get rid of dead branches so that insects don’t settle in, and so that come spring the plant will direct energy to new sprouts, not try to repair lifeless parts.
Eliminate Remaining Weeds
Think about it – spring is the time nature releases seeds to reproduce and multiply. The last thing you want to do is leave weeds in your lawn and garden over winter so that when spring arrives, they’re ready to proliferate your yard with loads more weeds! Getting the last of them out of gardens and lawns is a top-priority task.
Mulch serves as insulation for winter, so it still needs airflow. Survey your trees, shrubs and beds to make sure you’ve got them covered. Be sure to fluff up what is there with an iron rake to prevent compaction over winter. Then assess what areas need more. Don’t mulch too early, rodents will make their winter home in your mulch if you do.
Collect Cages, Trellises and Containers
Tomato cages and garden trellises should be cleaned, repaired and stored. Rinse out empty pots and dry before storing.
Hang Up the Hose
Leaving it hooked up can result in a broken spigot if trapped water freezes and expands. Mold and mildew can also develop inside a hose. An air compressor works great to dry out a hose before storing it away for the winter.
Invite Potted Plants Indoors
Spending a couple days in the garage before going in the house helps plants adjust from outdoors to indoors. Remember to remove bugs first.
Add Winter Interest
Winter gardening chores don’t have to be all work and no play. Choose a non-organic item to add visual interest for the winter, such as adding brightly colored paint to a wooden fence, lattice or arbor. Statues, brightly colored pots or outdoor art can also spruce up your garden for wintertime.
Clean and Store Garden Tools
While cleaning and repairing may not sound fun now, motivate yourself to do this chore by imagining pulling out shiny, freshly sharpened tools next spring. Even though we use them in the dirt, garden tools will last longer with regular cleaning and maintenance.
- Clean off dirt and materials.
- Remove rust – Rust is one of the most damaging things for your tools. Start with sandpaper or a wire brush and scrub. If that doesn’t remove the rust, use a chemical remover from your local home store, or try soaking in white vinegar.
- Once you’ve removed the rust, now brush or wipe mineral oil on the metal parts to keep them nice over the winter.
- Sand and repair wooden parts, too. Repaint painted surfaces, and apply linseed oil to wooden handles.
- To sharpen, file edges in one direction away from you.
Evaluate Successes and Failures
I like to reflect on what worked well and what I’d like to do differently for next year and start planning those changes. That helps me get prepared and excited for spring. I consider how happy I was with the color schemes around my gardens; how well things bloomed and fared what vegetables or herbs we enjoyed and new ones we’d like to try. I research new flowers that I’d like to grow and prepare to purchase and plant them. It’s also the time when I dream and draw out new designs for garden beds, and plan my budget for purchases. It’s even a good time to till new ground for areas I want to expand next spring.
Though winter is around the corner, there are many chores that can be done to keep our gardens going throughout the year.