Keep active over the winter months with these tasks that will benefit your garden once spring arrives.
With its short days and colder temperatures, winter might not offer much for the gardening enthusiast to get excited about. Especially in frigid northern states, how can the avid gardener keep busy when they can't get their hands dirty, so to speak, because the soil is frozen solid?
While those who love to garden might not be able to dig into the ground and work the soil in winter, there are some things that a gardener can do to keep themselves busy until springtime rolls around. "Regardless of the season, true gardening enthusiasts find a way to keep their green thumbs active and continue nurturing their love for plants," says Mike Millerson, founder of Survive Nature. "Winter might seem like it puts a hold on gardening activities, but the frosty months can be as productive as any other season when utilized beneficially."
Plan for the Upcoming Growing Season
First things first: Winter offers a time to slow down and plan out your garden for the next growing period. "One of my favorite activities is planning for the upcoming growing season," says Lindsey Hyland, gardening expert and the founder of Urban Organic Yield. "This involves selecting seeds, plotting out where plants should go, and researching new plant varieties or gardening techniques."
Order Seeds and Bulbs
While you're putting together your spring season plans, include ordering new seeds and bulbs in that list. "Winter is a great time to order seeds and bulbs for the spring," says Juan Palacio, CEO of BloomsyBox. "Some plants, like certain types of garlic, should be planted in the late fall to early winter."
Sharpen Your Gardening Tools and Upgrade Equipment
Prep your gardening tools during the colder months so they're ready to go when you need them come spring. "This is the perfect time to sharpen mower blades, shears, and other cutting tools so they're ready to go when the growing season starts," says Bryan Clayton, CEO and co-founder of GreenPal. "If your budget allows, winter is also a great time to purchase new hand tools or repair and replace old equipment. This way, you're not scrambling when it's time to start planting."
Start a Seed Journal
Start cataloging your current seeds and any new ones you order. "Keeping a seed journal is a great way to monitor your planting progress," Millerson says. "Winter is an apt time to start one, cataloging seeds and noting their growing requirements and germination periods. It helps plan for the spring planting and makes the process more organized."
Begin an Indoor Herb Garden
You might not be able to get outside and plant, but you can certainly do it inside with an indoor herb garden. "Herbs like basil, thyme, rosemary, and parsley can thrive indoors with proper light and care, says Millerson. "Always remember that they need a spot which receives at least 6 hours of sunlight. Providing them with nutrient-rich soil and adequate water will ensure their good growth and keep your kitchen richly supplied with fresh herbs throughout the winter."
Take a Gardening Workshop
It might seem counterintuitive, but you can definitely find gardening workshops that happen in the midst of winter to hone your existing skills and learn new ones. "Many farms (mine included) host winter workshops to teach the sowing tips and tricks we use ourselves," says Meredith McGraw Bishop, founder of Bloom and Bounty. "My most loved workshop is the soil-blocking workshop, which teaches everyone how to grow 160 plants indoors on something the size of a cafeteria tray."
Add Fallen Leaves to Garden Beds
Instead of bagging fallen leaves while performing your fall and winter yard cleanup, add them to your garden beds instead. "Blow leaves into beds for a natural compost, which will break down over winter and feed the soil life beneath," Bishop says. "Additionally, leaves give shelter to beneficial insects which virtually eliminate the need to use pesticides, ever."
Make Evergreen Wreaths
Get crafty and start making some evergreen wreaths to keep your hands busy and decorate your home. Evergreen wreaths are "simple and versatile," says Bishop. "Add brass bells, fairy lights and velvet ribbon for winter. Switch to dried flowers for early spring."
Expand Your Gardening Knowledge
Take advantage of the cozy downtime, especially if you were really busy gardening in the warmer months. "Read that stack of gardening and floral design books you didn’t have time to get to during the growing season," Bishop says.
Organize Your Gardening Space
If you're lucky enough to have an outdoor shed or something similar to house your gardening tools, the cooler months are the perfect time to get it into tip-top shape. "Tidy up your garden bench and tool shed," says Clayton. "This not only makes it easier to find what you need when you need it but also gives you a chance to take stock of what you have and what might need replacing."
Prune Dormant Plants
If it's not too cold, pruning some plants is a good activity to prepare them for the spring. "Winter is ideal for pruning back dormant plant material," Clayton says. "Without the foliage, you can really see the structure of your plants and make better pruning decisions." Then, use the foliage debris that you just pruned for compost.
Start Winter Sowing
Winter sowing is the act of starting your seeds outdoors in covered containers (a popular DIY method is to use old milk gallon jugs). "Using covered containers acting as mini-greenhouses, seeds are sown and naturally exposed to weather conditions, promoting a strong, hearty growth as compared to indoor sowing," says Millerson. "Winter sowing works best with hardy plants and those that require a period of cold stratification."
Start a New Gardening-Related Hobby
Gardening-adjacent hobbies can keep you busy during the winter while also benefiting your spring garden when the time comes. "You can always explore related hobbies such as DIY composting or vermiculture (indoor worm composting), which are great ways to contribute back to your garden," Millerson says. "These winter hobbies are perfect for garden enthusiasts looking to remain active and contribute to their garden during the colder months."
Sow Seeds Indoors
There are some seeds that you can start indoors while you wait for the warmer weather to plant them outside. "Fall and winter is the prime time to sow a ton of hardy spring annuals for earliest spring blooms such as sweet peas, larkspur, Queen Anne’s lace, snapdragons, cornflower, poppy," says Bishop.
Care for Wildlife
It might be cold, but local wildlife still exists and hasn't all gone dormant. "Set up bird feeders (my mom's favorite winter activity) and water sources to support local wildlife, which can be beneficial for pest control and pollination later on," says Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal.
Focus on Indoor Houseplant Care
Your indoor houseplants need just as much love and attention during the winter as they do during the warmer months—possibly more, since indoor heating systems can sometimes dry out soil faster during the winter, leading us to water them frequently, sometimes too frequently. " If you have houseplants, winter is a crucial time for their care," says Palacio. "Ensure they're getting enough light and humidity and aren't being overwatered."
Read the original article on Martha Stewart.