Winter Gardening Tips

By December, most gardeners have raked all their leaves, finished planting their spring bulbs and are preparing to patiently wait until spring to visit the garden again. If, however, you don’t mind the snow or freezing temperatures you don’t need to put all those tools away just yet. Winter can be a busy time for gardeners. Planning, of course, is important but there are a few other things which can be done as well which require

Here are a few gardening tips to help you get through winter.

Browse through all those gardening catalogs that are lying around or spend a little time online searching for the shrubs and flowers you’ll plant during the upcoming season. First, however, plan your new garden or update your existing one.

Rework your garden design while the ground is frozen. Think about what was missing in the garden during the previous season. Also, walk though the garden and determine what could make the landscape more interesting during the winter months. Often, a large evergreen serving as an anchor or specimen shrub can improve a winter landscape. Deciduous shrubs and trees with winter berries, unique form or colorful bark can also provide the garden with winter interest.

Forethought is essential when planning a successful garden. After you’ve decided what you’d like your new garden to offer, begin a site analysis. Having a clear understanding of your site’s conditions is important as it will enable you to make informed decisions regarding design and plant selection. Determine the following factors; climate & micro-climate, sun & shade conditions, wind exposure, soil composition and existing vegetation.

Plant hardiness zone maps divide the country into zones based on the lowest average winter temperature. A plant that is adapted to your hardiness zone is one that can tolerate the lowest winter temperature your zone typically experiences. Find out the zone in which you live and use it as guide during your plant selection process.

Along with the overall climate conditions of your area, micro-climates within your specific site also determine what is appropriate for your garden. A sunny spot against a brick wall with a southern exposure, for example, will be warmer than its surrounding environment. In a space such as this, plants which are borderline hardy have a better chance at survival than if planted elsewhere in the garden.

The canopy of the existing trees can protect plants by reducing their radiant heat loss. In winter, the micro-climate beneath a tree may be several degrees warmer than the surrounding air, this slight difference in temperature can be beneficial to some plants.

Being aware of the sun and shade conditions in your garden is critical to proper plant placement and, in turn, to the long term health of your plants. Improperly placed plants are a main reason for unnecessary transplants.

Getting to know the conditions of your site before you begin planning and planting can be the difference between success and disappointment. Properly planned gardens ensure the time you invest in you garden is worth it, as each properly placed plant thrives.

Another gardening chore which could be done during the winter is pruning deciduous trees and shrubs. During the winter, while there are no leaves on the trees, you’re able to see more clearly a plant’s branching structure. Prune any branches which are criss crossed or that are growing inward toward the trunk of the tree or shrub. Any upward pointing branches on a weeping plant should also be removed. When pruning, make your cuts slightly above the branch collar. Check on your evergreen shrubs after snow storms and shake off the snow if any has accumulated on the branches.

Check your perennial gardens for heaving, especially in areas prone to repeated freezing and thawing. Recycle your Christmas tree as garden mulch and don’t forget to feed the birds and provide them with some unfrozen water. Remember to sharpen your tools so you’ll be ready to get to work when the ground thaws.

Though you won’t be planting new flowers and cultivating the soil, winter is the perfect time to prepare for next spring whether your preparing for new garden projects or out amongst the trees and shrubs pruning.

Tim Birch is the publisher of, a Garden Resource site for the gardening enthusiast.

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