November is precipitously close to winter, and it always leaves me wondering how that happened. How did we get to be weeks from Christmas time, anyway? What’s a gardener to do about this thing called winter, exactly?
Now, if you live in warmer climates, your time to think may be more limited, since you have more year-round gardening opportunities. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the winters are usually mild, but gardens are somewhat dormant nonetheless. After you’ve put your garden to bed for the winter, what do you do?
Here are seven ways that I use these dormant winter months:
1. Think and Plan
Some gardeners relish this time, because it’s a time to think. Nature provides us with an automatic time out during the winter months, and as our gardens rest we can rest as well. This is the time to evaluate how your gardening year went and think about what you might like to do differently next year. Want to redesign your garden? Plant different varieties of vegetables? Whatever your plan, this is the time to consider it carefully.
2. Buy Seeds
If you’re planning an annual vegetable garden next year, the next logical step is to figure out what seeds you need. If you’ve saved seeds, make sure that all of your seeds are well-organized, labelled, and ready for storage. If your friends have also saved seed, you can trade them for what you need next year. If not, find a seed company that produces the seed that you’re looking for, and order early in the winter season so that you get a good selection. Seeds make great gifts!
3. Enjoy The Harvest
What garden delights did you put away to enjoy during the winter months? My freezers are packed with berries, rhubarb, and even frozen kale. I’ll integrate these into meals throughout the winter season. I also save some work for this season as well. We like strawberry and raspberry jam, so I freeze large quantities of strawberries and raspberries and turn them into small batches of freezer jam throughout the winter.
4. Create With Your Garden’s Bounty
Winter is a natural time to create crafts, and I find that I do so much more of this during the winter months. If you’ve grown flowers, fruit, or roots to use as natural dyes, now’s the time to begin creating with them. You can enjoy simpler garden-related crafts as well. If you have a pine tree and keep the cones, Christmas time is a wonderful time to create with these!
5. Grow Food Indoors
This is the season to grow food indoors. Since our local lettuces are now off the shelves, and our city turns to imported greens, I have set up a sprouting and microgreen station. From sprouting seeds, I’ll grow greens in damp mesh bags and under lights so that we can enjoy fresh, local greens during the winter months.
6. Grow Food in Sheltered Winter Gardens
Depending on your climate, you may be able to garden a little bit outdoors. These gardens are ideally located close to your house: mine are actually on our deck, so that I don’t need to go very far if it’s rainy or snowy. Grow food under cloth or cloches, or grow food like parsnips or sunchokes that actually need the cold to be sweet and ready for harvest.
7. Prune Perennials
There are some gardening tasks that are best done in the winter or early spring. If you have summer and fall-flowering perennials, prune them in the late winter or early spring before they emerge from their dormant state. Plants often prefer to be moved and pruned during their dormant period. This helps them get ready for the new growing season.
What are your plans for these quiet winter months?