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Curing winter garden blues

Updated: Feb 3, 2023

As I look out to my winter garden on a most cold and grey day I remind myself, spring is just around the corner! In the meantime here are some tips that I've found to be helpful in curing what I'm calling the “winter garden blues” and I hope they help you too!

Protect plants properly! During the last intense frost I made the mistake of wrapping plastic all around the plants which touched the outer leaves. As I have read, you only use plastic it if it's supported by hoops or some kind of structure because when it comes in direct contact with the actual plant, it can intensify the effects of cold thereby causing them to “burn." Hey, we all make mistakes and we learn! While it breaks my heart to see my sago palm in such a state I will continue to care for it and keep watch in the hope that spring will reveal new shoots... In the meantime I am placing the pots on plastic sheeting and wrapping them in old cotton sheets to insulate.

Make a fire! Even with all of the rain we’re having, controlled burning of leaves or burning dry wood in a dedicated fire pit is fun with friends, warms you up and cleans the landscape. Be sure and use the wood ash from these fires to amend your soil this spring! To learn more about this valuable yet free resource click here.

Submit a soil sample! If you want to truly prepare your garden beds and yard for spring, submit a soil sample! It’s a great way to see what you're working with and what you’ll need for amendments come springtime. To see where to submit your soil samples visit:

Take out invasive plants! Vibrant, evergreen plants such as Nandina aka Nandina domestica, (commonly known as heavenly/sacred bamboo) may add some color to your drab winter landscape, but make no mistake, this shrub is neither a true bamboo nor is it heavenly, as it is extremely invasive!! Smaller plants can be hand-pulled but larger ones will require a shovel to dig up. Whichever way you choose to eradicate, it’s best to remove them before berries form. Aside from displacing native plant communities, Nandina berries are poisonous to people, pets and wildlife. Learn more about native plants and when to plant them here.

Become a birdwatcher! Create or shop for a bird feeder to bring life and color to your yard while also helping nourish our feathered friends. Food is scarce in winter so the food that you put out in your garden could be the difference between starving and surviving. Look for HIGH FAT food such lard, suet or black oil sunflower seeds. Click here to learn more about attracting birds to your yard.

Resist the urge to clean, fertilize or prune anything! Typically the time to prune is in late February when the plant is truly dormant and fertilize once frosts have passed. I know the temptation is great to rake or clean up your yard however, DON’T DO IT! Birds love the hidden seedpods, dropped fruit and other natural materials found within leaf piles.

Prepare for spring! Take the time to clean tools, sharpen cutters, check on fertilizer amounts and reorganize your garden storage. Also, harsh winter conditions can damage hardscapes so be sure to check on retaining walls, pathways, sculptural elements, fountains, and arbors after storms pass.

Read and research! Late winter is the perfect time to to research plants and plot your spring garden. Make a map according to the different soil types and water amounts each plant will need. Here's a vegetable garden planner including a month by month breakdown on what to plant and when.

Rest, rejuvenate and restore! Take a cue from nature and take the time to rest, rejuvenate and restore so when spring rolls around we'll be ready for the longer days with more energy to get planting! Be sure and mark your calendar for April 15th to attend the annual Master Gardener plant sale and check out all of our upcoming community events here.

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