A new year, a new garden outlook. Winter has settled in, the ground is blanketed in white, and warmer days seem but a distant memory. It’s the perfect time to settle down with a nice cup of tea, look out at the snow falling outside, and plan the next gardening season. January is a good month to reflect on last year’s notes and dream about warmer days ahead.
If you didn’t keep notes from last year, now is a wonderful time to start for the coming season! A garden journal doesn’t have to be fancy, but should be easy to keep, so that writing in it isn’t a chore. I find that a digital camera is an excellent tool, and taking a weekly photo of the garden with a few written details might be just the thing to keep for your records.
Garden design work is wonderful to do during the long winter months; there’s unlimited space (on paper, at least!) to dream up fantastic new plantings and possibilities to improve your landscape. Books and websites offer thousands of different ideas and designs, and escaping into a lush, green landscape is a welcome distraction this time of year.
As part of your design process, make a list and place your orders for bare root plants and seeds early, to make sure you get what you want. Companies won’t ship till spring, so you don’t have to be concerned about what to do with your plants till then. It’s also a good idea to organize your seed starting stuff; it will be time to start before we know it!
Gardening tools should be cleaned, polished, and sharpened in preparation for the coming season. They’re not going to be used for a few months, so there’s plenty of time to make sure everything is in good working order. Sharpen lawnmower blades too; this task is often neglected, and it’s such an important step to having a healthy lawn.
If you dug and stored tubers or bulbs this fall, check them now for signs of damage or rot. They should be dry and firm, not squishy or soggy, and not overly wrinkled. On tuberous roots like dahlia and cannas, any damaged or moldy spots should be cut out and dusted with a fungicide before going into vermiculite, dry peat, or sawdust for long-term storage.
Outside, it’s important to protect your plants from ice-melting salt as much as possible. Using wood ash or sawdust will prevent salt damage to leaves and roots when the snow melts in the spring, and can even benefit your garden beds by adding organic components and micronutrients.
When shoveling, take advantage of this lovely free insulation falling from the sky, and pile it on top of roses, bigleaf hydrangea, and other plants that may benefit from just a little bit more shelter from winter. The only time I’ve ever seen our ‘Nikko Blue’ hydrangea bloom here at the nursery was a few years ago, after I made sure the previous winter to pile every shovelful of snow I took off the walkway right on top of it. It was absolutely beautiful, and since we’ve stopped shoveling that particular walkway, just hasn’t bloomed the same way again.
If one is feeling ambitious before the snow gets too deep, summer-blooming trees and shrubs that were not taken care of in the fall can be pruned now as well.
Don’t forget about the Christmas tree; it can be recycled, too. Cut off the branches to add a little bit of traction to an icy pathway, or can be placed around shrubs and used as a little bit of extra insulation. It can always be stuffed in a snowbank for the birds, too! They always appreciate a bit of extra shelter, and peanut-butter covered pinecones rolled in birdseed are a welcome treat.