By Bonnie L. Grant
It may seem like there are no garden chores in winter. The gray skies and leafless landscape don’t exactly shout “garden,” but the quiet dormancy of your plants shouldn’t be mistaken for stoic self-reliance. Instead, your garden is quietly pleading for some maintenance. Here are the top 5 tips for winter that can help increase your garden’s health and give you a jump start on the season.
1. Watering – Some regions may be combating several feet of snow and icy conditions but these moisture sources don’t deliver to the soil until they thaw. Even plants in winter dormancy need to have a bit of water to keep them going, especially container plants. Water once per month or more if usable precipitation is not available.
2. Pruning – You may need to do some damage control on your woody shrubs and trees due to winter storm injury. Remove any broken limbs and stems but avoid heavily pruning any plant that blooms in spring. This would remove the buds and prevent blooming. Plants that do not bloom can be pruned throughout winter. Cut back roses in February and any perennials that haven’t already been trimmed back.
3. Start Seeds – You can start cool-season vegetables in a cold frame or where snow and ice aren’t a factor directly outside into raised beds. Radishes, mustard, snow peas and others can be sown outdoors in February. Start your long season vegetables indoors at this time in flats.
4. Tool Maintenance – Now is the perfect time to get your tools ready for the busy season. Sharpen, clean and repair all your garden implements.
5. Aerate Soil and Sod – Just like us, plants need air. Aerating the soil brings oxygen down to plant roots. The results are happier, healthier plants. If soil is not frozen, turn it in winter and incorporate some organic amendment. You can use an aerator machine, hard rake or those silly aerating shoes to make little holes in your turf that will let air down to the roots.
As you look around your garden, don’t forget to keep plants free of heavy damaging ice and snow and cover any sensitive plants before a night of plummeting temperatures. A little TLC will go a long way to building a vigorous garden that will be ready to spring to life when temperatures warm.