After the excitement and buzz of summer, followed by the pleasure of harvesting in the fall, winter can seem something of a trial. Many of the plants have died off, it’s cold and wet outside and the days are short. What is a gardener to do until spring finally rolls around? Here are ten ideas you keep you busy in the coming months…
Wash and Organize Your Seed Trays
If your vegetable garden is anything like mine then March and April can be crazy months, as seeds start to germinate on almost every windowsill. Before long those seedlings are being planted out and then the real fun begins. In that mayhem it’s all too easy to forget about the various seed trays and plant pots that sit around unloved in your shed or greenhouse.
Winter is the perfect time to take stock. So gather up all your seed trays and pots, and give them a good spruce up with some hot soapy water. Let them dry thoroughly then stash them away neatly, ready for the onslaught in spring.
Tidy Up Your Shed
Just as I normally end the year with piles of mud-covered seed trays, so sheds also often don’t get the love they deserve in warmer weather. Now is a perfect time to tidy things up, brush that mud out and check whether any maintenance is needed. If your roofing felt is damaged, for example, now is the time to replace it before the wind and rain of winter sweeps in.
Service Your Gardening Equipment
Whether you use hand tools or power tools, they can all do with a little tender loving care on occasion. Check those nuts are tight, clean off any soil or grass, and and apply a layer of oil to metal surfaces to prevent rust. If there are any tools that you’ve been meaning to work on, now is the perfect opportunity.
Stock Up for Spring
Spring may seem like a long way off right now, but it’ll be here before you know it. What’s more, there’s little more annoying than suddenly realizing you don’t have all the kit you need. Winter is therefore the perfect time to buy in growbags, plant labels, compost and more, so you’re all prepped for when the weather breaks next year.
Check Through Your Seed Tin
Over time, a gardener’s seed collection can become a fearsome thing. I have hundreds of envelopes and packets filled with seed; some I’ve bought, but the majority I have saved from previous years or been given by others.
Now is the time to settle down and go through your collection. Figure out what you’ll need to buy in Spring, but just as importantly also check which seed packets you need to sow in the New Year.
Remember that while older seeds may still germinate, the overall rate will be much lower than for fresher seed, so now is the time to “rotate” your collection.
Sow Winter Crops
It may be cold and wet, but that doesn’t mean to say that nothing will grow. Onions and garlic, for example, can be planted in winter. When spring rolls around, your crops will have a head-start and you’ll be harvesting that little bit earlier next summer. So leaf through your gardening books and see what you can plant for a little winter treat.
Bring Herbs Indoors
Whilst some herbs will survive outdoors in winter, going out to pick them becomes decidedly less enjoyable. Instead, pot up your favorite herbs and pop them on a sunny windowsill, ready to enjoy with winter recipes.
Do Your Research
No vegetable garden is ever truly “finished” and there’ll always be crops, plant cultivars and growing techniques that you haven’t tried. Now is the perfect time to grab your gardening books, log on to YouTube or visit your favorite blogs for a host of tips and advice you can implement in the spring.
I’m particularly partial to trying a few new and rather unusual crops each year, so winter is the perfect time to figure out where I can get the seeds and how to grow my new experimental vegetable plants.
Write Up Your Notes
If you’re anything like me then you’ll have taken copious photos of your hard work as the season progressed. You may well have also made notes, from planting plans to how your harvest went. Even if you didn’t, now is the time to make some notes while things are still fresh in your mind.
So settle down for an evening with your notebook and record what worked well, what could be improved upon, and then make a plan for the new growing season. By doing this, you should find your growing skills improving every year, as you’re able to learn from all your past successes (and failures!).
Cover Your Soil
Lastly, while weeds may grow slower during the cold winter months, seeds can germinate surprisingly early in the spring. If you’re not careful, by the time April or May roll around and you’re ready to start planting again, you’ll have some serious weeding to do first.
Early winter is the perfect time to cover up your soil and so prevent weed growth. That way, as the days start to lengthen again in the spring you’ll be perfectly placed to get started planting.