Winter can be a hard time for us gardeners. Especially in the months after Christmas when the decorations and lights have been packed up and our gardens are covered in a thick layer of snow. But just because there's nothing to do out in the garden doesn't mean we can't plan for this coming spring's garden.
The winter is a great opportunity to plan for next year's garden. As an avid gardener, I relish the chance to take stock of last year's successes and failures and figure out how I can do things bigger or better. Just like a well built house starts from a set of plans, a fantastic garden requires forward thinking.
Towards the end of winter, when the warm days are starting to return, go out into your garden with a pen and notebook and take a survey of what needs to be done. Do perennials need to be moved or divided? Would you like to put in any new beds, and where? It's a good idea to pay attention to how much light vs shade different spots in your garden receive.
Different plants prefer different amounts of light and this information can be found in most catalogs. If you're planting veggies, draw a general diagram of what you want to plant and where. Don't forget crop rotation!
Once the soil thaws it's a good idea to get a soil test; especially before you start any new garden beds. You can usually send in a sample to your local extension office or university for a small fee.
Other activities to keep you busy in the winter months are:
Clean and repair your garden tools – Cleaning your hand tools of mud and rust, sharpening them up and then coating them in oil for protection will make them last for decades to come.
Take care of houseplants – My houseplants always seem to get neglected during the summer months, when I'd much rather be outside. Now is the time to give them some love. Take care of any pest issues. Divide or root prune the plants that have become pot-bound. The divisions you make can be used as gifts for Easter or Mother's day.
Feed the birds – Build or buy a bird feeder. The wildlife that you attract can provide many hours of entertainment for the whole family.
Start sprouts – Sprouts are an easy way to keep growing your own nutritious greens through the winter. All you need is a mason jar and a window sill. Many healthfood stores carry seeds for sprouting and instructions are usually on the packaging.
Grow an indoor herb garden – If you have a large, south-facing window you're all set. Otherwise you can buy high output grow lights that let you grow herbs and greens indoors all year. There are even kits online that come with everything you need to get an indoor herb garden going.
Visit a local greenhouse or nursery – Taking in all the colors and scenery can be cathartic when the winter blues got you down.
Attend gardening seminars and garden shows – Many seminars and shows are scheduled in the winter, when serious growers have time to attend.
Buy more books – I don't know about you, but I can never have enough gardening books.
Whatever you do, don't despair! I hope these activities can help keep you sane doing the winter months.