Winter Therapy for the House-Bound Gardener

By Pam Schodt | December 7, 2016
Image by Pam Schodt
by Pam Schodt
December 7, 2016

Pam Schodt has been blogging about garden topics in her Garden Lady blog since 2011. In 2014, she published her first gardening book: How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (And Grow It Too!). She is a Master Gardener volunteer in Franklin County, North Carolina. Pam serves as Social Media Manager for the Raleigh chapter of the American Society for Quality. In 2015 she wrote for the national ASQ organization in their Influential Voices blogging program. As an Influential Voice she submitted a monthly article on quality-related topics. These articles appear in her Quality Improvements in Work and Life blog. Pam enjoys photography and maintains a portfolio on



Cold winter months can be a challenge for gardeners. We go from days filled with planting, watering, fighting insects, and harvesting to those of limited daylight and brutal winter temperatures. Sometimes the transition occurs within the space of a few days. The gardener’s day abruptly changes from working happily in the sunshine to shivering next to the heater vent inside. A sense of melancholy can build as this empty space is filled with activities that lack the joy of being outside and working in the soil. As with any tough time period, staying busy is the best approach. In this article, I’ll make suggestions on garden-related tasks to provide winter therapy until temperatures rise.


Relax and know that it’s okay to experience this downtime in a leisurely fashion. Take time to explore other interests like reading a book or visiting museums.

Tackle projects you couldn’t get to when the grass was growing like crazy or the vegetable garden was producing at its peak.


Take time to think about your gardening domain. Plan changes to the garden arrangement, color schemes, and plantings. Draw a diagram, make notes, or lists. We enjoy planting a sizable vegetable garden. Every year we discuss modifications to make the next year. Plant rotation, spacing, and a reduction in the number of plants are some plans I can further define. A diagram would be a very helpful, and I should do it during these dreary winter months.

Seed packets are available at discount stores year round. Bring some home to inspire garden ideas.

To research plants and garden ideas, visit the library or rediscover your own cache of garden books.



A birdfeeder placed in easy view of a window can provide hours of cheerful entertainment. Learn the names of bird visitors by using a bird guide or The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds Website:

Incorporate photography of the birds into your day and share the photos with friends or on social media. During February, count the different species during the Great Backyard Bird Count (website:  Here’s a link to a video about my 2014 bird count: http://gardenladylovesbirds.blogspot.com2014/02/the-great-backyardbirdcount-2014-is-on.html.

Strategic placement of winter-blooming plants like camellias or pansies can provide an uplifting view. Plan for the winter by placing planters of pansies where they can be seen from indoors. Camellias bloom through the fall and winter. Plant a winter-blooming variety where it can be viewed from indoors. My article on camellias can be found here: http://gardenladylovesbirds.blogspot.com2013/08/camellias.html.



Winter is a good time to think about the garden tools and equipment used most frequently. What needs to be replaced? Take your time researching tool types and prices online. What needs to be repaired? Bring tools inside for a thorough cleaning. Order replacement tools and arrange for tiller or lawnmower maintenance.


I’m writing this article from the North Carolina Piedmont. Our winter temperature averages range from 30° to 50° F. Once in a while, temperatures will soar above average. It’s important to take advantage of those days and get outside. Bundle up and tackle part of a project (mine is cleaning a vinyl fence), fill up the bird feeder, or pick up fallen tree branches.

If it’s just too cold, make your way to an indoor arboretum or butterfly house. These types of destinations expose you to sultry temperatures and beautiful plants.

Stay positive and spring will be here before you know it!

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