A winter break is nice but every gardener longs for warmer weather in the wintertime. Here’s what gardeners can do in the wintertime.
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Winters, where we live, can be long and cold. From November to early March there isn’t much happening outside in the garden (except for my winter cold frame garden). So what’s a gardener to do in the long cold months of December, January and February? Well here’s a list of 7 winter gardening ideas.
What Gardeners can do in the wintertime
1. Sharpen Tools
First on our list of winter gardening ideas is to take care of your tools. All of your garden tools need to be clean, lubricated and sharpened. Use a good quality metal file like this one to sharpen all those garden tools. Tools that need sharpening each year include Pruning Shears, saws, knives, and even shovels. Yes, shovels, it’s amazing what putting a fresh edge on a shovel will do for your digging next spring.
Along with sharpening, any tool that is used to cut or prune plant material should also be disinfected. Many plant diseases are viral or bacterial and can be transferred from one plant to another.
You should disinfect those tools by placing them in a 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) for about 30 minutes. This should kill most problems. Keep in mind that bleach is mildly corrosive so once you have disinfected the tools be sure to rinse them and then give all the metal surfaces of the tools a good coat of some type of oil (something like WD-40).
2. Build an Indoor Seed Starter
December is the perfect time to build yourself an indoor seed starting set up. Depending on where you live you could be using it as early as January to start your first seedlings of the year. A basic seed starting setup can be as simple as a couple of fluorescent shop lights hanging from some kind of support structure. If you would like to see what I have set up you can check out this post that even includes a video tour of my seed starting set up.
Starting seeds indoors is really quite simple, you can learn more about the process from my Seed Starting Simplified Course.
3. Clean and disinfect your seedlings pots
All of the pots and containers that I used to start my seedlings each year get a real workout. They often get used 3 or 4 times during an average season. That much use introduces the chance of soil-borne diseases or fungi. So it is a good idea to clean up your seedling pots each year and December is a perfect time!
Again a 10% bleach solution will kill most of the disease problems that might be lurking in your plastic containers. Rinse all your containers first and then let them soak for 30 minutes in the bleach solution. Once they have been disinfected be sure to rinse them really well so that there isn’t any bleach remaining on your containers.
4. Plan Next Year’s Garden
Winter is the perfect time to get next year’s garden planned. Most of us have some extra downtimes during the December holidays. Be sure to spend some of that time mapping out next year’s garden. Remember to plan for crop rotation to help prevent disease and pest problems.
Go through your stock of seeds and throw out any seed packets that are more than 4 or 5 years old. Use this time to prepare a list of seeds that you need to buy for next spring’s garden. Getting that list ready now will help you when all the seed catalogs show up in late winter.
December is also a great time to put the finishing touches on your Garden Journal. Go through your journal and make any last notes on how your garden did for the year. What plants grew best? When were your first and last frosts for the year? What were the general weather conditions for the year and how did they affect your garden? Get all of these types of notes down in your Garden Journal now while they are still fresh in your memory.
5. Take Advantage of Holiday Sales
Many people don’t think about it, but most companies are still selling gardening supplies online this time of year. Look for holiday discounts and end-of-season specials to stock up on gardening supplies for next year. Seed companies, tool companies, and many other gardening-related companies are all still in business this time of year. And they want to sell to you! You will see lots of great deals out there for the gardeners on your list (even if that gardener is you!)
And when thinking about what gardeners can do in the wintertime don’t forget about your local brick-and-mortar stores. Take some time to wander through the garden sections of your local big box stores, farm supply stores, and even home improvement stores. Often they will have items leftover from last season that they would rather just get rid of and not store for the next few months. I have often found GREAT clearance deals on tools, compost, and other supplies in the mostly abandoned garden sections of many stores this time of year.
December is the time to get a library card (if you don’t already have one). Hit the garden section of your local library and grab as many books as you can get. Cold December evenings are a perfect time to add to your garden knowledge I never seem to have time to read during the gardening season, so December is a great time to learn a little more about gardening.
If you would like a few suggestions here’s a list of a few of my favorite gardening books along with links to find them on Amazon:
Four-Season Harvest by Elliot Coleman
The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabor
Gardening Like a Ninja by Angela England
The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward Smith
7. Watch a Video Course
I’m a bit prejudiced on this last one, but I think video courses are a great way to expand your garden know-how. I have gardening courses on various topics available to buy at the Online Gardening School. Video courses are a great way to learn about gardening.
I hope this post has given you some gardening ideas for winter and how to occupy yourself this cold December as we patiently sit waiting for spring and a new garden!