Winter is a valuable time of year for completing many important garden activities vital to maintaining and producing beautiful, productive plants in the growing seasons of spring, summer and fall. I would like to share with you four that top my list.

I love ornamental grasses. Most varieties provide great landscape interest and are relatively low maintenance, pest–free, drought tolerant and deer-resistant. But after a heavy snow beats them down, I realize it’s soon time to get out and give them their annual shearing. If you wait too long, those new green shoots will soon be springing up and then it will be too late. They should be cut back 4-6” above the ground depending upon the size clump. If you cut them back too close, they may be injured and not grow back. For smaller clumps, I like to grab the clump in my hands and use sharp, good quality by-pass pruners. (I feel a pair of these is indispensable for many gardening jobs.) For a larger, tougher clump, I may use gas powered hedge shears. This year I am going to try something I read about: tying bungee cords around the clump so it all stays in one place and is easy to dispose of. Other tools that people like to use to cut back grasses are sharp hedge shears, sickles, machetes, weed trimmers with blades, saws and loppers.

Pruning broken limbs, picking up sticks and fallen limbs and raking leaves and debris from lawns and beds is a great way to get some exercise in late winter. It will make cutting the grass for the first time so much easier. Often leaves and debris harbor overwintering insects and disease, so plant health can benefit from their removal. And hanging limbs can be dangerous if they fall and can cause even more plant damage if not pruned properly.

Browsing through seed catalogues, magazines, good garden websites and garden centers will provide planning ideas, inspiration and supplies necessary for success in this year’s garden. Avoid the temptation to overbuy, though. Seeds lose some of their viability to germinate every year they remain in the packet. And plants purchased but not planted, or planted in the wrong place, is just not eco-friendly.

Winter is a great time to sow seeds indoors. You can have fresh lettuce and herbs growing in a sunny window or under grow-lights. You don’t even need a commercial grow-light unit. Grow-light tubes can be placed in purchased or unused fluorescent fixtures and mounted on metal shelving units. Other types may be placed in incandescent lamp fixtures and adapted for growing use. Starting tomatoes indoors this way is a great idea, particularly if you want to try some unusual varieties that likely won’t be found at the garden center. Just don’t start them too early as they will get spindly. Remember, you shouldn’t plant them outside until danger of frost is over in your area. How deep should you plant your seed? The general rule is 2-3 times the seed diameter for medium to larger seed. Very fine seeds should just be placed uncovered on top of the soil and gently patted down and misted.

I have shared some of my gardening activities for winter. Would you like to share some of yours?

Pruning Small GrassesBungee Grass Before CuttingCut Grass Back 4-6 InchesStarting Seeds (double click to enlarge any picture for your edification)