Gardening Activities for Winter

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)

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14 thoughts on “Gardening Activities for Winter

  1. Thanks for these tips that even a NON-gardener, (like me) can understand. The pics also are very instructive. And, although I do not garden per se, leafing through the seed catalogs and dreaming about these lovely and delightful plants, flowers and vegetables is mind-candy for many of us.

  2. Living in a cold, windy, snowy area for winters, I find myself checking on my garden statuary, ie glass gazing balls, bird feeders, etc. that the winds may knock over and break or rain may freeze in and break. I try and find safe heaven for items like these.

    When spring once again shows its lovely shorn buds of grass and blooms I will have my part ready to compliment her colors and we can spring forth into a parade of glory.

    Although, I do want to embrace winter in her beauty as well as prepare and look forward to what each new season brings to us.

  3. Thanks for the reminders, Sara, on taking care of our garden statuary.
    I have heard floating a piece of wood in a bird feeder or bath will keep it from breaking or cracking when the water freezes and wonder if anyone has tested this? Also keeping ceramic or clay pots directly off the ground by placing pot feet or strips of wood which allows air space underneath is supposed to keep them from cracking.
    And MG even though you ”do not garden per se’ I know you grow many lovely house plants year around in your window.

  4. Q. I have a number of ornamental grasses in eastern NC on a pond bank. They are extremely large and have not been cut back many times although the grasses have years on them. If I decide to cut back what time of year should I do this?

  5. I would say no later than the end of February to be on the safe side. The last average frost date is around March 20, meaning the temps will be warming up early to mid-March and the new grass will start to grow and you don’t want to cut that.

  6. Well Debi it seems like I have lots of work then. I have a lot of grasses but I like the idea of the bungee cord. Often the grasses blow everywhere and I can contain them as well as cut them. The tops for me are very irritating to the skin so I can drag them to the front with bungees and have the trash people carry away. This next year I want to put in a fruit tree. I saw a dwarf apple tree in a catalog which says it has a lot of different apples on it. Is there a lot of care to these trees and how much area should I allow for them to grow?

  7. Debi, thank you for the blog to get us forward thinking and planning wisely for our gardens, and yard maintenance. I think I could apply the same principal to others areas in and around the home and my personal life to be and stay in order with joy.

  8. Thanks for the information, Debi. I am sure glad there are people like you, who know and love gardening. Plants, grasses, and flowers sure beautify God’s earth.

  9. Rena, apple trees do require care and the level of it depends upon what your personal acceptable quality standard level is. If you want perfect fruit with no insects or diseases than you will have to plant it in a sunny area and: spray pesticides regularly(and there are some biopesticides avaialable that won’t harm you or the environment); prune annually; protect the trunk from rabbits, deer, etc; fertilize; pick the fruit; avoid late spring frosts;and remove fallen leaves each fall. This takes the kind of forward thinking and planning that Sara commented about…much order.
    It is wonderful to be able to go out to your own yard and pick a fresh apple. But the effort required to produce quality fruit really makes one appreciate the beautiful fruit we have available to us at markets and in stores.
    I agree with Needles…I sure am glad there are gardeners and farmers who love and are committed to growing plants for us to enjoy their beauty and to supply our food, clothing materials, medicines, etc

  10. I am so glad Sara brought this up at this time. I have a question for the horticulturist. My front yard tree’s, branches have bowed down almost to the ground with ice & snow. Even when I shook the snow & ice off they stay bowed down. Will the branches eventually spring back or will these have to be pruned when all this ice-palace effect is over?

    Thanks

  11. Thanks for that article on pruning Sara…great pictures and explanations. Yes,I think many of us will need to prune after this winter’s snow and ice damage.

    MG, good question as I look out at the many bent trees and shrubs in my neighborhood. Many branches will spring back, some may take a while and others may be permanently damaged and need pruning. I found a good web article that may answer your questins more specifically:
    http://web.extension.illinois.edu/state/newsdetail.cfm?NewsID=16721

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