Incorporating the Simple Living Review, the Preparedness & Self-Reliance Review, as well as the Outdoor & Survival Review

Tend to Your Garden in Winter

Although many of the perennials grown in the garden slumber through the winter months, the gardener is far from inactive.

In fact, winter in the garden can be as busy as any other season of the year.

Here are some essential gardening tasks that are recommend green fingers take care of when it gets frosty outside:

1./ Check in on your plants: Examine the greenhouse (or cold frame) regularly for any sign of pests or disease it could be harboring. Remove any dead flower heads, yellowing leaves, and other plant debris before mold starts to form, to cut the risk of infection.

Heavy snowfall can settle on conifers and evergreens with larger surface areas, causing the branches to buckle or break under all that heft. Knock the snow off to help reduce damage, because a torn branch leaves an open wound for infections in spring.

2./ Protect them from the cold: Insulate your greenhouse and cold frame with bubble wrap or similar insulation, because reducing drafts saves on heat loss and plant casualties.
Outdoor evergreens, container plants, tall plants, and plants introduced since the previous winter will need protection if the weather takes a nasty turn. (They can be severely damaged by wind, which can loosen roots.) Consider planting a windbreak or shelter to reduce the airflow.

Another problem caused by the wind is foliage drying out, which happens when freezing gusts draw moisture from leaves faster than it can be replaced. Erect a screen of woven plastic mesh or horticultural fleece on the windward side of vulnerable plants to reduce the wind's effects and protect the leaves. During heavy frosts, some plants may even benefit from being bundled up in protective fleece, which absorbs some of cold.

3./ Prepare the soil: Because winter frost can break down sticky clay soil better than any cultivation tool, it can be an ally when it comes to preparing heavy soils. This is the time to incorporate compost or other organic conditioners that will improve soil structure and boost plant growth.

4./ Deal with construction and landscaping jobs: Because sections of the garden will be bare, it's easier to see the garden layout and make changes for the coming spring. If the soil isn't too wet to be structurally damaged by foot traffic and wheelbarrows, you can take the opportunity to install or improve drainage systems.

5./ Handle repairs and maintenance, and that includes repairing handles: Consider the lack of vegetation a bonus, because this is an ideal time to drain and clean pools and ponds, as well as repair pond sides, walls, and liners. Or use this time to re-level, change the shape, increase the shape and size of borders, and reseed areas where growth is sparse. However, no work should be carried out if the grass is frozen, because footprints made on frozen grass can cause it to turn brown.

Repair, sharpen, clean, service, and otherwise maintain tools that are used in your garden, whether the lawnmower, the strimmer, bill hooks, secateurs, etc. A well-maintained tool or piece of machinery will give you good service for many, many years and will make life and work easier.

Michael Smith (Veshengro), January 2008

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