Winter projects

Gardeners often get frustrated during the winter.  Right now it is 4 degrees F, with gusty winds that make it feel even colder.  The gardens are covered not only with snow, but with an icy crust.  Tattered seed catalogs form a stack by a favored chair, on the off chance we think of some variety we might have forgotten to order, but the reality is that the budget is already spent, and there will be enough seeds arriving to plant a garden many times larger than the actual space available.  We are itching to get started on the upcoming season, but what to do?  What to do?  Well, here are some ideas!

flats-compressed 1.  Clean those used flats, domes, pots and labels, soaking in a weak bleach solution to kill diseases, insect eggs, and other horrors.  Seeding time will be here soon!

2.  Clean garden tools, if you didn’t get to it last fall.  Oil to prevent rust on metal parts and rub linseed oil into handles to extend their lifetime

Seed box compressed  3.  Organize seeds that have arrived by planting dates, and if you haven’t worked that out yet, better get started!  The photo is of my “indoor” seed box.  There is another for “direct” seeding outdoors.  Having two boxes makes it easier to grab and go.  The cardboard dividers have the date for seeding in the upper right hand corner, and a list of the crops that need to be seeded then.  That makes it easy when seeds arrive to drop them into the correct slot, or after first seedings are made, to move leftover seeds into the proper spot for the next sowing.

4.  Review your harvest journal to see when first pickings occurred.  Can you bump up the planting time a few days to get an earlier harvest?  Did successive plantings come off as planned, or could you squeeze in just one more late planting, especially if there were protection from early frosts?

5.  And speaking of protection, why not make a cold frame or get supplies in now for a poly tunnel.  As soon as the ground thaws, the poles can go in, covers can go on, and an early crop can be sown of spinach, arugula, corn salad, etc.

Seed stand compressed  6. Check the seeding rack to see if light bulbs need to be replaced.  I picked up an extra timer during the after Christmas sales so I can divide the shelving unit into two sections with varied light as required this year.  And seeing this photo reminds that I need to fix that sagging shelf!

7.  As soon as the ground thaws, take a walkabout to check for plants that may have heaved out of the ground, and push them back in.  Throw a bit of mulch on top to prevent it happening again.  Sadly, winter is not over…..

8.  Spend a lovely time looking at the photos you took of various garden areas last season.  If there are bare spots, check the date taken and look for plants that bloom at that time that can be added.

9.  Planning on growing vertical?  Make an obelisk and paint it a lively color.  Or, make those durable tomato cages out of cattle panels that you’ve always wanted.  The “L” design works best, because they can be taken apart and stacked easily in a relatively small space in the off season.

Garden journal map compressed 10.  Get your garden journal organized for the coming season.  I prefer a 3-ring notebook with separate dividers for bulbs, indoor seeding, direct seeding, companion planting (I always forget who likes what!) and graph paper maps of planting areas so I know what will go where.  I keep seed lists there, photos of bulbs planted so I can recognize them and record when they begin and end blooming beside the pictures, recipes for fertilizer mixes and insect sprays, etc.

11. Take a quick inventory of pantry and freezer.  Do you need to can more diced tomatoes?  I do.  And, I’m nearly out of dried parsley and thyme, frozen sliced peppers (too many diced though) broccoli raab and broccoli.  And I need fewer shallots and garlic, but more storage onions this year.

12. I want something pretty to hang on the potager’s front gate.  A sign maybe, or a spring wreath?  Or a half bucket planted in pansies?  Now is a good time to give this some thought and make a plan to actually make something or look through catalogs for that perfect item.

13. If there’s a mild day, the wicker furniture in the gazebo needs a good cleaning, and some pieces need a coat of paint.  Spring is too hectic with planting, mulching, etc. for such a time-consuming task.  Even if I don’t get it painted, I’ll get the paint on hand so when  that perfect weatherwise bit of time finally arrives, it won’t be spent running to town for supplies!

That’s a few of the things on my list to get accomplished during the “down time” of winter.  It’s a bit bigger than usual because of my back problems last fall.  Your list may be different, longer or shorter.  Even if only one item is accomplished, you will feel better for having achieved it, and your upcoming season will be better for having done it.

About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
This entry was posted in garden planning, gardening, Potager, Uncategorized, winter planning and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Winter projects

  1. bcparkison says:

    No wonder you have such a wonderful garden.I did used to do most of this but times have changed and things will be simpler this time. Do keep a post up of the Spring changes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • carolee says:

      I’ve just found that it really pays to keep records, especially as I age and the brain isn’t quite as nimble as in olden days! It seems like those windows of opportunity, weather wise, are so brief that I can’t afford to spend moments searching for seeds, or forgetting to seed something where timing is critical.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. March Picker says:

    Such a helpful list! Lit a fire under me — thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mala Burt says:

    I am going to keep a journal in the garage so that I might have a chance of writing things down when they happen. And I never thought of putting the seeds you start inside and the ones that are direct seeded in two different boxes. Duh! Thank You!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • carolee says:

      I keep the indoor seeding journal and seed box in the basement, where seeds are started, and the direct seeding notebook outdoor seed box in the Lady Cottage. However, I learned NEVER to store any seed box (even though it is plastic and seals tightly to prevent insects, mice, etc.) in the greenhouse because of high temperatures and moisture.


  4. nightcactus says:

    I love the ideas of organising seeds by planting dates. My seed box is all mixed up, and it’s quite frustrating sometimes trying to find a bag, especially if you are sitting outside in the cold wind.


    • carolee says:

      I learned to organize seeds first when I was homesteading and time was stretched so thin. It was essential when I had the herb farm, and was growing hundreds and hundreds of varieties. There was no time for searching for seeds in the hectic midst of transplanting time, etc. Those old proverbs like “a stitch in time saves nine” certainly have merit! Best of luck in the coming season, and Herbal Blessings, Carolee

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Island Time says:

    What a lot of helpful information! You are one very organized lady; very inspiring. Lots of good ideas, thank you so much! Sorry your winter is being a tough one. On the coast today, it’s 10’C., but very wet and extremely windy. But I see little buds on some flowering shrubs and trees, and the spring bulbs are poking up through the grass. Spring is on its way, won’t be long, hang in there!


    • carolee says:

      I have grown to love the organized! Over the years I’ve learned the few minutes it takes to jot a line or two in the notebook really and truly saves money, worry, mistakes and more. However, sometimes I fall a bit short on actually READING the notes…Example: my notebook tells me that compared to the other varieties grown, “Stunning Apricot” was a brief bloomer in 2015, so don’t order it again. And what did I order and plant last autumn? Yep! Stunning Apricot. Sigh!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I always intend to record everything, be more organised, label things carefully.. and end up with scraps of paper too tatty and dirty to read, jumbles of seed packets in a box and faded labels (brassicas are the worst because the small plants all look the same – what I thought were swedes turned out to be kale!) I am, however, about to write a blog post (on goingbattyinwales not coppicelearner) about trying to arrange the seed nurturing area of the greenhouse better. So we are somewhat on the same mission. I think you will do better than me though. Maybe if my livelihood depended on it I would be better organised?

    Liked by 1 person

    • carolee says:

      There were two times in my gardening experience when I didn’t bother with any records at all (being confident that I would remember everything, ha!) or threw labels, seed packets, receipts, etc. into an empty pot or whatever…the first when I’d just begun and didn’t realize the real benefits of even a bit of organization, and toward the end of my business when I was overextended, short of employees and just couldn’t keep up with the day to day, let alone record keeping. My livelihood depended on it, but it fell through the cracks anyway. That’s when I decided to retire!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Just reading this helps with the stuck indoors melancholy!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Basil Seed Caviar | herbalblessingsblog

  9. Thanks for sharing your ideas, i think what i need is a garden journal.


    • carolee says:

      I refer to mine constantly, especially this during this time of planning. Which lettuce did we like best? (Tom Thumb) Which carrot stored longest? (Still comparing as we still have them) When did I plant the first crop of beans, when did I start harvesting them, when did they come out so I could plant something else? When did I pick the last crop of beans in fall? Could I have squeezed in one more later? (Yes, I’ll plant one more time, thus I need to order more seed than last year.) Did I need more peppers for freezing…yes! Which beans produced most per 6′ row? (Provider) Which tulips bloomed longest? When did the first cabbage worm appear (so I know to have Bt ready & waiting!) And on and on….


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