Gardeners across America breathe a heavy sigh when the first frost of the season appears – gone are the bright fruits of summer and the delicate flowers of spring. All that remains for many is snow, sleet, ice and cold. Winter is no excuse to shut yourself inside, though, there are plenty of things you could (and SHOULD) be doing in the garden this December. Following these winter gardening tips will keep your garden in great shape and get it ready for the spring planting season.
Protect furniture and decor. Move your garden accessories indoors or cover them with heavy plastic to extend their lives. Freezing and thawing is hard on porous surfaces like cement, terra cotta and plaster, but can be equally damaging to plastic furniture. Move small pots, window boxes and statuary indoors before it starts to snow.
Clean up your beds and landscaping. Winter is the season for pruning and cleaning up. Remove any spent annuals, be they flowers or vegetables, and cut back perennials, shrubs and trees. Most plants should be pruned in the winter so they have plenty of time to heal before spring, but make sure they’re fully dormant before you start cutting or you may encourage new growth.
Assess your garden’s condition. Once the plants are trimmed back, take a look at your mulch layer, garden fabric, trellis and garden edging. These items are much easier to replace or replenish in the off-season. Since your plants are dormant, the risk of damaging them if you need a major overhaul is limited.
Test and amend vegetable and annual beds. Do a quick soil test of your heavily used beds, especially those where vegetables and annuals tend to grow. Many soil amendments need several months to break down before they can be of any use to your plants, mixing them in during December will ensure your beds are ready for spring.
Install new systems. Since you don’t have plants to tend to every day, December can be an excellent time to install that patio greenhouse you’ve been eying in the catalogs. Adding a new composter or worm farm during the winter will ensure you have plenty of organic compost ready to use come springtime.
If you’re looking for a reason to get out in the garden in December, there are lots of things you can be doing to get ready for winter and spring – bed clean up, perennial pruning and protecting your statuary are just a few important tasks. By doing these jobs in December, before the snow really starts flying, you’ll be able to spend the super cold days ahead planning for your spring garden with a nice mug of hot chocolate.