For those of us looking forward to gardening season, these long winter days and nights can be torture.
You stare longingly at the yard, itching to get out and dig. Knowing full well that the snow is too high, the ground is too wet, and the wind it too bitter for you to get out there and do anything productive.
These are the days of winter.
Take heart, there are many gardening tasks that can be performed inside during the off-season. In fact, these 10 suggestions may be just as important as a spring tilling or fall mulch is to your garden.
Clean and Repair Tools
Tools are valued for their usefulness in the garden. And they are expensive! Your cash investment into these supplies will be multiplied as you properly care for your tools.
Take the time to clean, sharpen and maintain garden tools in the off-season. You’ll be glad you have this finished by the time the weather turn nice again.
Garden Therapy takes care of her hand tools by placing them in a bucket full of rocks. Nifty!
Organize Your Seeds
Many gardeners have seed packets left over after every gardening season. It seems we just can’t resist purchasing the possibility of a fantastic garden. Before you begin perusing the seed catalogs take the time to organize the seeds you already have.
Begin my sorting them by the year they expire. Do you have seeds left over from 2010? Those may or may not be viable – it all depends on how they were stored.
If they are seeds that cannot be replaced, a viability test will help to determine the germination rate. If they are common seeds, they are over 7 years old, and you haven’t stored them well – it’s best to discard and start over.
Next group the packets by cool weather and warm weather crops and place any multiples together. You now have an overall view of what can be planted (at what time) and what seeds need to be ordered.
Check out Seed Catalogs
This is one of my favorite winter pastime activities. As you can imagine, it leads to an overabundance of seeds (see organize your seeds, above) but is well worth the effort. How else are you going to find out about all the new varieties and fantastic heirlooms available?
There are many reliable places to purchase seed and you will find more variety in a catalog than in the local garden center.
Related Post: 10 Reasons Seed Catalogs are Still Relevant today
Plan Your Garden
Now that you’ve inventoried those existing seeds and dreamed your way through a few seed catalogs, it’s time to get down to the business of planning this year’s garden.
Some people are pencil and paper planners and keep a rough outline of where each crop will go from year to year.
Others prefer to keep track of their garden journal digitally. Most digital programs will also print a plant list, which is helpful and may even give you seed starting dates for your area.
There isn’t a right or wrong way to do it. Yearly planning helps with
Yearly planning helps with crop rotation and fertilizing schedules because some vegetable varieties are heavy feeders and deplete the soil of nutrients.
Organize Your Shed
Before you place the first pot or hose in the shed, there are many ways that you can maximize garden shed space. Trust me, this will really help you in the long run and make it easier to find infrequently used items. The goal is to be able to walk through without stumbling over items.
Maximize your garden shed space by hanging tools, organizing hand tools, adding hooks and stacking items. Once you have applied these (and other) space-saving techniques to maximize your storage, you can further enhance your storage space by using other storage ideas from the post.
Observe Your Garden
Sometimes the weather is so nasty that all you can do is observe. There is plenty to see through the kitchen window.
- If you live in winter snow covered areas in the north, make note of any drifting that takes place. Plants with just 9 inches of snow cover can make a 42-degree difference in temperature. According to a Rutgers University experiment, if the air temperature is -14 degrees F, the ground temperature under 9 inches of snow would be 28 degrees. Can you create drifting in sensitive plant areas?
- Make note of any standing water areas after heavy rains. These are areas you may want to elevate in future gardening seasons.
- Take sun and shade survey of your yard. This will allow you to highlight specific areas of your garden and divide them into planting zones based on sun availability. Purchase our eBook and get detailed directions to help you take the survey, create your zones, and decide on the best plants for each space.
- Are there any trees or shrubs that have been affected by the harsh winter and will need attention once you can get back into the garden?
Set up a Garden Journal
Garden journals are not only fun they are informational. Every serious gardener keeps some kind of journal with notes about their planting schedules, crop successes and failures, and garden pests.
They use their journal as a teaching resource for future garden cycles.
What did you plant in that long bed three years ago? Better check your journal.
When did the snap peas go into the garden? Oh yea, I have that in my journal.
When did the grasshoppers come and munch my moringa plant last year? That would be last August! I have pictures of the treachery on my Instagram account, which can serve as another kind of journal.
It doesn’t matter if you keep it digitally or by hand – just keep one and make note of all the happenings around your garden this year! Set up your garden journal while there is down time.
Utilizing vertical gardening strategies is a terrific way to grow more produce in less space. If you have the room for building small projects, make a few trellises before the garden season gets under way.
The Empress of Dirt is building trellises for climbing veggies, Creative vegetable gardener makes sturdy tomato cages from cattle panels and Flower Patch Farmhouse has plants to make a beautiful garden obelisk.
Take Time to Learn
Winter is the perfect time to take a class and learn a new gardening skill. You can do it all from your house and never have to brave the elements. Here’s a sampling of free and paid classes. Most are under $30.
Oregon State University offers a Master Gardener Online Series. Take the Basic Botany Course for free. All other classes are $20.
Alison offers a free course titled Introduction to Growing Organic Food Sustainably. this 3-hour course will introduce you to all aspects of growing garden vegetables in an organic and sustainable manner. You will obtain a thorough knowledge and understanding of how to grow a large variety of vegetables such as carrots, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, leeks and many others.
Be sure to check for classes at the local garden club. The extension office of your local university is sure to have something interesting to fit your needs.
Craftsy has free online classes offered in every category. Take “Transform your Garden Design” and spend 75 minutes finding out how to breathe new life into your front or back yard. Other classes under $30 include The Extended Harvest – Vegetables for Every Season, How to Grow Anything – Your Best Garden & Landscape, Vegetable Gardening – Innovative Small Space Solutions, and 9 others.
The Herbal Academy of New England (HANE) is offering their Herbal Materia Medica Course completely free this winter. You’ll get all the media and materials with your registration. If you’ve wanted to learn how to study herbs in depth, this is the course.
Udemy offers online courses about every topic imaginable. Their gardening courses are extensive, (everything from seed starting to garden design) and most are priced at $15. If you need to build Build a PVC Drip Irrigation System for your Garden this course from Rick Stone is a must!
Rootsy wants to help you discover the kinds of projects that make you hum a happy little tune. You know the ones. The fun projects that leave you with something pretty to look at. Or the hard projects that take a little effort but leave you with an amazing sense of accomplishment. You’ll get access to skilled craftspeople who are doing the projects you want to learn about. Beekeeping. Canning and preserving. Gardening. Raising small livestock. Cooking. Membership opens again on April 1, 2017.
Disclosure – I’m a founder of Rootsy and I couldn’t be prouder!
Once gardening season gets into full swing you may wonder how you will ever keep up. You’ll be glad you took the time this winter to sharpen tools, plan the garden, organize the shed, and learn new gardening skills.
Rest while you can my friend, gardening season is just around the corner!
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