For gardeners, the dead of winter is their worst enemy. It’s the one time each year they can’t busy themselves outside. This season can be extremely frustrating and easy to wish away. However, there are several ways you can enjoy the gardening in winter.
We are in the middle of winter right now, but the tips I am sharing today can be used any time in the coming weeks. Many regions will still experience cold temperatures through March and into April.
Gardening in Winter
Winter Garden Prep
Today I’m sharing my tips and suggestions to pass the time and prepare for your spring garden. These are gardening tasks you can do during those very cold months such as January and February, and into March depending on where you live.
These tips will also help you get a jumpstart on your garden. Having a home garden is a wonderful way to produce your own food for your family, it is therapeutic and provides an opportunity get outdoors nearly every day.
Winter Gardening Tips
Winter Gardening Tasks
In the winter and early spring gardening can seem non-existent. It often does move at a slower pace but before you know it you will be busier than you ever imagined. Each year by the time it’s May I am so busy in the garden it feels like that’s all I am doing!
As plants (and weeds) grow there are daily tasks to do. In order to best prepare your garden, I am offering a list of things you can begin at any time, starting today.
Completing these tasks now will not only keep you busy during a time when a lot of us are indoors, but also get you ahead on garden tasks so that May won’t be quite as intimidating!
Write in Your Gardening Journal: The off-season is a wonderful time to work on your gardening journal. Right now I have a Moleskine Gardening Journal. You can use any journal or purchase one intended for gardeners.
In the journal take notes on the past season, what worked, what didn’t. Record what you planted and where. Then use the garden journal to plan this year’s garden. You might jot down what seeds you want to buy, landscape design ideas and more!
Order Gardening Catalogs: The next step I like to take is to order garden catalogs. This can usually be done starting in January. This is when seed and plant companies issue catalogs to let consumers know what products are available for purchase that year.
In addition to providing information on how to order your seeds, the catalogs contain a lot of information about gardening. Most catalogs are free to order, for more information I have a post all about how to order garden catalogs.
Purchase Plant Seeds: After reviewing the garden catalogs and your journal, it’s a good step to place your seed orders. Seeds can be purchased in person at a store, or ordered online via mail, or ordered via mail with the form in the back of the gardening catalogs.
Again, most of these companies take seed orders year-round but starting in January they have all of their seeds for the year available. The longer you wait to order or purchase the selection may be impacted. I was rather late with my order this year and just placed it on March 15. I ordered 16 varieties this year and only one seed I wanted was sold out.
Purchase Gardening Supplies: The winter and early spring is a great time to stock up on the essentials. These include seed starting soil, potting soil, fertilizer, peat moss and more. Usually I take inventory of what products I have left from the year prior and decide what I need to buy. Other items include grass seed (to be planted later) and lawn fertilizer.
I have noticed that in terms of local stores, many offer specials or coupons during the first few months of the year that are better. This is likely because the gardening centers are slower for business and want to draw in shoppers during those months.
For example, Petitti Gardening Centers are local to us. Usually they offer coupons for $10 off a $40 purchase but in the colder months such as February and March they bump it up to $10 off of a $30 purchase!
Attend a Gardening Show: As I wrote last year, my husband and I attended the Cleveland Home and Garden Show. Attending a winter gardening show is a wonderful way to spend the colder months and inspire your gardening creativity. Many large cities offer these expos and shows.
If you don’t live in a city where one is offered, or if your show is not being offered this year, you might plan a trip to your local garden center anyway to check out their displays and gain gardening inspiration. They might also be sharing what gardening trends are popular and what plants will be big sellers that year.
Clean and Sharpen Gardening Tools: If you didn’t do this back in the fall when putting the garden to bed, now is a good time to clean and sharpen gardening tools prior to using them this spring. This includes shovels, rakes, hand pruners, shears and more. Most tools can be sharpened and cleaned.
You can also use oil to condition wood handles. Storing tools without soil on them will make them last longer and help to prevent rust. I have more information on this in my fall garden chores post. This can be done on a warmer day outside or anytime inside your garage or garden shed.
Learn More About Gardening: Winter is a wonderful time to read about gardening, educate yourself and learn more. While I took formal training through becoming a Certified Master Gardener, as part of my certification I continue education through in person events, online seminars and reading.
You can read gardening books or magazines. There are also gardening websites and blogs. Your city might also have gardening events scheduled. They are usually at the library where I live. Garden centers may also host events or speakers.
Enjoy Houseplants and Cut Flowers: During the winter and early spring it’s a wonderful time to enjoy your houseplants and fresh flowers. Houseplants in particular, I think, tend to be ignored more once the outdoor garden is thriving.
Make sure to spend time watering your plants (just don’t overwater). You can do light pruning, but repotting and fertilizing is best left until late spring. I like to purchase fresh cut flowers and have them on display in the home. Learn how to make your fresh flowers last the longest by reading my post on that topic.
Pruning and Weeding: Starting in March, weather permitting, you can begin to prune some plants. During this time I prune fruit trees and bushes. It is good to prune them prior to the buds opening. Pruning shears should always be cleaned and sanitized.
Pruning of other plants including roses should be held off a bit longer. If it’s too cold they can be damaged by early pruning. I also wait to clean up any beds until later, typically late April or early May. In March you can also pick winter weeds, removing them before they go to seed.
Start Your Garden Early by Seed: On average, March is also the month I start my milk jug greenhouses. I have started them in February and also as late as April. I have a whole blog post devoted to milk jug gardening and how to start your garden early by seed. This way you have seedlings ready to plant outside as soon as the risk of frost has passed.
Planting seeds early has helped me save money every year on my garden, it’s also a great way to do gardening in the winter. When starting the seeds, follow all directions on the seed packet and plant then in order of your frost date (working backward).
Begin Spraying for Deer: Believe it or not if you want to work on animal pest prevention, how is the time to begin spraying. Deer in particular are out eating and beginning to create their eating patterns. They are habitual and if they find a yard with tasty plants they will return on a regular basis.
Ideally, begin spraying or combatting wildlife now so they find your yard and garden to be less enticing. I have a whole post about deer prevention and another post about how to get rid of rabbits in the garden.
Winter Garden Ideas
Wow! There is so much to do in the garden in the winter. Just writing that list made me realize how much more I can be doing too. Contrary to popular believe winter gardening is a busy time, even if you live in a climate with a cold winter.
Keep in mind the exact timelines of the tasks will vary slightly based on where you live. I live in Ohio, plant hardiness Zone 5. Also each year is different. Some years are colder and may push tasks later. If it’s a warmer year you might be able to complete some of these sooner.
Be sure to always adhere to your frost date timeline to make sure you don’t lose any plants and enjoy the sunny days most!
What winter gardening tasks are you doing right now?
*This post was originally published in 2020 and has been updated and republished for accuracy and comprehensiveness.