Winter: 14 Illustrated Gardening Tips & DIY Projects for Winter Time
Sure, veggie production slows down in the winter—but that doesn’t mean your productivity has to. Use the snowy season to build raised beds, build gourd-based birdhouses, nurture beneficial bugs, and study seed catelogues to prep yourself for a better-than-ever spring season.
Grow indoors and enjoy leafy greens all winter while planning your spring garden.
64. Build a Raised Bed
They are easy on the back and ideal for your crops
Building rich, loamy soil requires years of adding amendments, practicing proper crop rotation, and suffering through many backaches. Raised beds allow you to skip ahead by years and are much easier to work; many designs are accessible to the physically challenged. Construct bed walls with brick, concrete block (plant herbs in the holes), cedar, redwood, or old railroad ties; double dig the existing soil, removing any weeds, and fill the planter with a mix of quality topsoil and compost.
65. Make a Garden Plan
It’s a great way to prevent many common gardening mistakes
Make a simple sketch of your planting areas, noting their dimensions and keep a few copies handy. For each growing season, note which crops were grown where so you will know how to rotate them. Consider what crops were successful the previous season, new vegetables you would like to try, and planting and harvest times. The amount of properly prepared soil will dictate just how much you can grow. Remember to plan for successive sowing of those vegetables that mature very fast, like lettuce and radishes.
66. Grow Micro-Greens Inside
For gorgeous salads all winter
Micro-greens are the very young tender leaves of a variety of herbs and vegetables. Combinations of arugula, basil, beets, kale, cilantro, red cabbage, and radish, to name a few, are showing up in fine restaurants everywhere. Easy to grow indoors, they need a bright light and consistent moisture. When your greens are 10 – 14 days old, it’s time to harvest.
67. Release Beneficial Insects in the Greenhouse
Natural predators are an effective way to control damaging insects
With a brightly colored shield on her back, poisonous deposits in her knee joints, and toxic blood – she’s a killer. The ladybug has a voracious appetite – one bug can eat up to 5,000 insects in its lifetime. Shipped live, they should be kept in the refrigerator until their release. Water plants thoroughly, leaving the water to drip from the foliage and release the ladybugs in the early evening so they have all night to settle into their new home.
68. Study Seed Catalogs
For a wealth of growing tips and information
Winter is the perfect time to sit down with all of those lovely seed catalogs. Along with all of those pretty photos in your seed catalog is information on specific growing conditions for each seed variety. The cultural conditions refer to required sun exposure, soil conditions – wet or dry, Ph. range – acid or alkaline, and temperature conditions – heat or cold tolerance and when to plant. Other information you will find addresses disease resistance or susceptibility, germination guides, and harvesting directions.
69. Turn Your Gourds Into Birdhouses
Support these winged garden helpers
For birdhouses and birdfeeders, gourds are an easy, natural material that will last for many years. Carefully clean gourds scrubbing off any mold or mildew, and allow them to dry completely. Cut a small hole – 1 ½” in diameter – 4″ from the bottom of the gourd with a ‘hole’ saw or utility knife and remove seeds and chaff from the interior. Hang your houses on a tree limb or post just outside of a window, at least 5′ high, to enjoy watching your new neighbors as they move in and raise families.
Get organized, sharpen your tools, and let the pruning begin.
70. Prune Your Fruit Trees
Pruning now will increase production this season
Winter temperatures reduce the stress trees experience from pruning, and the lack of foliage makes it easier to see where cuts need to be made. Remove the “three D’s” – dead, dying, and diseased wood, any ‘suckers’ growing from the base, and any “water sprouts” – branches shooting straight up from another branch. Open the tree’s canopy by removing crossing, downward growing, and excess interior branches.
1 – 6, late February or early March.
71. Sharpen Your Garden Tools
Sharp tools provide optimum performance in the garden
It’s not necessary to hone an edge so sharp that you could shave with it, but sharp, well cared for tools are a joy to work with. With some steel wool, rags, oil, and a rough file, you can sharpen just about any garden tool. Most have only one beveled side, and this is the only side that you should attempt to sharpen. Using the steel wool, remove any rust, and oil lightly to prevent future rust.
72. Prune Grapevines
Pruning while dormant reduces stress on your vines
“Prune the grape vines while they are sleeping”, my father used to say. Dormant pruning encourages new fruiting canes and removes excess growth, increasing circulation and sun exposure. The foliage on vines with dense growth and too many canes will shade out fruit clusters, reducing production. Dense foliage is also an open invitation to mildew. Be bold with the pruners, as the proper cuts may seem severe.
Zones 1 – 6, late February or early March.
73. Organize Your Garden Shed
Organize now to be ready for spring planting
Taking the time to organize tools and supplies in the garden shed can save hours of frustration. A simple pegboard, a handful of hooks, or a wooden trellis hung on the wall is all you need to store hand tools, wire baskets, and garden twine. Inexpensive wooden crates, placed on their sides and stacked on top of one another, provide ideal storage for bags of fertilizer and soil, pots, watering cans, and other supplies.
Plan for crop rotation, mix up some soil, and continue winter pruning.
74. Prune Ornamental Grasses
Remove old foliage to make room for lush new growth
Ornamental grasses bring texture and animation to the garden, their graceful movements bringing it to life. To keep grasses healthy and productive, prune them annually in late winter. Pull the grass into a tight bundle, secure it with a bungee cord or twine, and use hedge pruners to remove two-thirds of the growth. Bundling the grass before cutting makes the pruning and disposal much easier.
75. Prune Non-Flowering Deciduous Trees
Dormancy helps minimize potential pruning damage
Pruning allows us to train young trees, promote the health of our mature trees, and remove any limbs that might be hazardous to humans. For non-flowering deciduous trees, pruning is best performed while the trees are in their dormant state. During winter, it is easier to see what needs to be trimmed and less likely that pruning will tear bark, causing damage.
76. Make Your Own Potting Soil
Save money with this simple recipe
What makes a good potting mix? Potting soil should be rich in nutrients, loamy -with lots of different particle sizes, and well drained but able to retain moisture at the same time. Try a mix of half compost and half garden soil with a handful of sand and use the mix immediately or pasteurize it for storage. A cardboard box lines with aluminum foil is all you need to heat the soil, killing weed seeds and bacteria.
77. Practice Crop Rotation
Avoid problems with soil borne diseases and insects
Growing a specific vegetable or family of vegetables in the same spot every year promotes soil-borne pests and diseases, and depletes the soil of various nutrients, which leads to lower yields. Specific families of plants, like the nightshades – eggplant, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes – should be grouped together as one crop. Garden experts recommend a four-year crop rotation, easy advice to follow. Simply design your garden with four separate planting areas and move your vegetables to a new area each year.
Nurturing a garden that keeps your kitchen full takes year-round work, but the 77 creative and practical tips in this guide are sure to keep your plants and soil thriving through every season. Be proactive by keeping your seeding, soil maintenance, harvesting, building, and pest management efforts strong throughout the year and you’ll be rewarded with a continuously plentiful harvest.