Posted by Jamie Oberdick on 01/10 at 08:50 AM
Earlier this week, the coldest air in 20 years overspread Central Pennsylvania, dropping temperatures below zero. While shivering through a cold snap like that, it’s hard to imagine doing garden work. But there are still some chores you can do, either in the comfort of your living room or during one of our inevitable thaws that we have most every winter and will have this weekend. Getting them done now can help ensure a better harvest this spring and summer.
Here’s 10 garden chores you can do this winter:
- Get your seed orders done: While local garden centers have nice selections, you can find a much larger selection of varieties via online and mail order seed houses like Baker Creek, Fedco Co-op Garden Supplies, and Seeds of Change. I’d recommend ordering as soon as you can, because believe it or not, they are quite busy right now and some varieties may end up being sold out. Plus, there are things like onions and pansies that you need to plant indoors in the beginning of March in our climate, so ordering now ensures you will get your seeds on time.
- Organize all your seed starting stuff: As mentioned before, there are some seeds you’ll need to start in less than two months, so on cold and snowy days, it’s a good idea to take an inventory of your seed starting supplies. Are your grow lights operational? Do you have enough flats? If you have flats on hand that you used last year, you have to sterilize them in a 10:1 ratio bleach solution, and now is as good as time as any to do this.
- Plan your garden: Whether you use a garden program or app, Excel spreadsheet, or plain old pen and paper, it’s not a bad idea to plan your garden now. This is especially true before you order your seeds, so you make sure you have space to put everything.
- Clean out your garden: If you didn’t get a chance to in the fall, it’s a good idea to take advantage of any thaws we get to do so. Pests and disease and overwinter in plant matter, so the sooner you get the garden debris out, the better.
- Check your mulching: There are many perennials, including herbs you use for cooking, that need mulch to protect itself from cold snaps like we just had. It’s a good idea from time to time to take a tour of your garden to check on any much you’ve laid down. Windy days and hungry digging animals can expose plant roots and endanger the plant’s life. Make sure you replace mulch on any exposed ground around plants.
- Bring a little spring into your house: Having a dinner party and would like a centerpiece that thumbs its nose at Old Man Winter? Cut some branches from spring flowering trees like dogwood, forsythia, or crabapple, put them in a vase of warm water. Then recut the stems to enhance water uptake. In a few days, the branches will have blossoms on them and they make for a striking table centerpiece that looks fantastic in mid-winter.
- Winter sow some seeds: There are a few types of seeds that you can sow in the winter and get extra-early crops from. Many greens, do well when you sow them in winter, such as lettuce. Also, you can sow poppy seeds, including bread seed varieties. Simply scatter the seeds on the snow. As the snow melts, the seeds will make to the ground, and will sprout as soon as the ground is warm enough. The only drawback are birds but many of these seeds are so small the birds don’t find them.
- Check any vegetable you have in storage: If you store root crops, be sure to check them. If one is rotting, they all will begin to rot as rotting adds excess moisture, encouraging more rotting. Think “one bad apple spoils the bunch.”
- Create a basic task schedule: Sometimes you can forget to do basic garden maintenance, like fertilizing, planting, and spraying. It’s a good idea to go on say Google Calendar and create a garden task calendar to keep your activities focused. For example, so you don’t forget to fertilize certain crops that need it.
- Read: Most of us gardeners have a lot more time to read in the winter than we do in the summer. So now is the time to dig into those garden books you got over the holidays. I think it’s a great idea to read with a notebook and pen next to you, so you can take note about anything that inspires you to a new garden idea or way to do something.
Author: Jamie Oberdick
Bio: Editor, Local Food Journey | Passionate about supporting local food in Central PA
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