Gardening in Winter
While to many, thinking of gardening in winter may seem to be a foreign concept, really the “thinking” is no different than ever, just the practicalities and chores are different. Now while we merely remember the plants we once had or perhaps look at photos, our outside gardening is limited to trimming and protecting the grounds we love
In fact as we dream of the upcoming spring, our thinking caps need to be on and our imaginations too get to run wild, while our gardens are fast asleep in the frozen ground(except for a weed or two!) . In many countries that experience winter in Dec-March, the temperatures do not take on the -20 C we here in Ontario have been experiencing this past week, but still experience the dormant periods most plants experience in the cooler weather.
While the gardens may be dormant, January and February are the few months where gardeners are not, but certainly do less physically demanding chores and store up their energy for the upcoming spring. Personally after the Holiday season ends, I turn my focus to my poor neglected house plants before the seed catalogs come pouring in.
Indoor Gardening Chores
While house plants are in a slow growth period as well, due to lower UV light levels even in a sunny window as well as generally cooler temperatures and humidity inside tend to slow down their metabolism, transplanting is not recommended. After having said that, I must confess I occasionally do that if the plant/pot ratio has gotten out of hand for a few sad struggling plants, knowing full well they will probably not get a new lease on life come spring and the busy outside garden season.
Here is my rough list of chores to accomplish in February and March. While this list is not as extensive as it could be, it serves as a starting point for you to jot down your own and keep you in the gardening in winter mode… knowing soon the first buds will form, plants will come to life and spring fragrances will fill the air!
-water sparingly and put humidity sensitive plants on gravel to provide extra humidity
-cut off dead/dying leaves and top up soil
-re pot leggy plants in to larger pots or cut plant back and put in original pot
-check for gnat flies/ treat with yellow sticky pads
Relocated garden tubers/plants
-check any plants brought in from outside to ensure no bugs are present and treat if necessary
-trim dead/dying leaves and top up soil
-check Chrysanthemum, Dahlia, begonia tubers for rot or dampness
-cut out any spots and ensure shavings/newspaper wrappings are dry and plentiful
Seed supply and propagation equipment
-check seeds harvested from last summers plants
-ensure they are still dry with no mold or mildew formation
-collect propagation trays, labels, soil less mix, seed dispensers etc.
Gardening tool tune up
Brave the cold if need be and gather all spades, trimmers, trowels etc from the garden shed and clean, sharpening and repair them.
Gardening in winter also includes getting shrubs ready for spring. Despite the cold, February is a good month to prune deciduous trees and shrubs. Even shade, flowering and fruit trees can all be pruned now, but spring flowering plants such as Forsythia or Spirea as what you will actually be pruning flower buds along with the new leaf growth.
Any pruning of these plants should not be done until after spring flowering is complete .Of course pruning a branch of spring flowering shrub from the back will do little to ruin the overall look in spring but allow you to force the blooms on it and give your winter gardening a preview of things to come.
Odd and Ends
There are many odds and ends that still require our focus as the uneven temperature fluctuations of winter create hardships for plants and birds. Remember to keep your birdfeeder (s) full of yummy seeds.
Then of course, you can enjoy a lovely cup of tea or coffee while you daydream and plan with your gardening catalogues.