It can be hard to think about gardening when it’s below freezing, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Cold weather is the perfect time for planning!
If you are thinking (like I might have perhaps thought in the past) that you can just grab a few packs of seeds from the local hardware store or super store in April or so, put them on the ground, and you’ll see something come up in a few months, well, you’re mostly wrong. You definitely can grow food during the cooler months! It’s not rocket science, but it does require some thought and planning.
Before it freezes (or at least quickly after the first frost):
1. Remove and discard diseased parts of plants. But not into the compost! (If you put them into the compost, the weeds could sprout up wherever you use the compost later.
2. Mulch over any plants that might be susceptible to the cold (about 8″ deep), including over-wintering vegetables such as carrots, so they are still alive in the spring.
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3. Make sure all beds are composted or mulched. A compost pail with a charcoal filter will allow you to start your compost stash inside the house while controlling odors until you can empty it outdoors.
4. Clean up, maintain, and properly store garden tools and equipment. Note any that need replacing. If you need a new set of good quality hand tools like the ones in this kit, add it to your Christmas list!
5. If any garden tools need significant repairs, take them in to be fixed.
6. Start a wish list of gifts you would like. The holidays are approaching!
Planning for next spring
7. Order seed catalogs. There are multiple good companies, so go ahead and order a few. You may be surprised by what you find, and really good catalogs will have your mouth watering and you itching to start digging in the dirt. A couple of my own favorites are Seeds of Change and Baker Creek.
Remember: if you want to save the seeds from the plants to grow new plants in the future, you almost certainly will want heirloom varieties.
8. Decide if you want to use cold frames or another technique to extend your growing season. Plan and build accordingly if you want to go for it.
9. Start diagramming/planning what you want where. Once you have a very general plan – vegetable garden, herb garden, annuals, perennials, bushes, and trees planned out – it’s time to start getting more specific. A journal specifically designed for gardeners will give you room to plan your garden, journal your efforts, and then make notes about what worked and what didn’t.
10. Check the viability and test germination of any seeds you have on hand.
11. When planning, start with the plants that take the longest to mature and will be there for the longest – the trees. Next come bushes, then perennials including any perennial herbs, annuals including vegetables, and finally any potted plants.
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The last would be plants that can’t survive in your area that you really want. In my case, I have some potted chamomile and an aloe plant that I bring in during the winter. Other people have lemon trees, but it could be almost anything.
12. Ask these questions for trees, bushes, perennials, and annuals:
- Do you want to plant any new ones?
- What kind?
- How will planting these affect other plants you’ll put nearby? If you put in a tree that gets very wide, so you probably won’t want to plant bushes or anything long-lasting near it, but annual flowers could do great and provide a nice pop of color!
- Are there any other plants that cannot coexist with it?
- What plants do really well with it?
- Where do you want them on your lot? You may realize that you want a vegetable garden near the driveway, but you need some bushes between it and your teenage driver.
13. Start picking out what you want! I think this is the most fun. I can totally lose myself in seed catalogs.