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A Winter To Do List for the Yard and Garden

Posted November 30th, 2009 by Drew Landis in

Winter, the days are short, the air is cold (or, at least it should be), the squirrels are fat, and the trees are bare. The grass is dead or dying, the soil in the garden has been turned, flower bulbs transplanted, and yard waste disposed with. Some of us even have 50 or so turkey buzzards gliding around the neighborhood.

Once the clamor of the holiday season is complete, the reality of winter can strike a gardener and/or lawn caretaker pretty harshly.

What am I supposed to do now?

Well just as the trees lose their leaves in the fall only to come back vigorously every spring, yard and garden care enters a period of dormancy during winter only to become chaotic again once the days grow longer and the weather warmer. The moral is the same in both instances: life goes on.

So while there may be less to do, there are still certainly things to do. In some cases there may even be more to do, it’s just that the tasks are much more cerebral and a little less physical. With that in mind, I’m going to share a few of the tasks I personally have planned for this winter under the assumption that somewhere out there, you might need to do some of this stuff too (and a little reminder never hurts).

  1. Trim the trees. Winter is a great time, in fact for many trees it’s the best time, to do any trimming, thinning, or sculpting that may be necessary. We have a large persimmon tree that shades a portion of the garden that needs to be trimmed back and thinned out, as well as an evergreen that needs some large drooping branches taken down to open up the backyard. We also have a Saucer Magnolia in the front yard that has been left unchecked and is in serious need of thinning. Examine your property and find places where a little trim could help. Read up on the best trimming practices, and contract a professional for any big or dangerous jobs.
  2. Review your personal garden journal. Spring will be here before you know it, and while it might be a little early to go thumbing through seed catalogs, it is a great time to go over your garden journals and plan for next year. Crops will need to be rotated, watering and feeding schedules adjusted, and new pests thwarted. If you don’t keep a garden journal, consider starting one. It’s the only way to acquire and compile accurate information about the specific microclimate that is your yard.
  3. Plan your garden layout. Get some graph paper and draw a scale model of your garden for next year. This is especially useful for planning an expansion, but is also valuable to plan crop rotations even in the event you are not expanding. There are even tools available online where you can plan your garden that account for the eventual size of the plants in your garden so you can get an idea of what plants will look nice together.
  4. Read up on organic methods. Organic gardening is a buzzword and its popularity is growing every year. There are plenty of methods available for naturally feeding your garden and naturally fighting just about any pest you encounter in the garden…well, except maybe mold and fungus. Certain plants work well when planted in close proximity to each other to combat the pests that pose a threat to each. Compost is a great (the greatest?) fertilizer and it’s easy to do. Read up and try some of the methods that you think you can try this year.
  5. Check your tools. With the doldrums of winter, it can be a great time to perform some much needed maintenance on your yard and garden tools. Check fluid levels and blade sharpness on your lawn mower, lubricate your pruning shears, disinfect tools that may have been in contact with disease or fungus, and clean everything. Hey, it’s not glamorous, but it is a much needed winter activity.

This is by no means an exhaustive list; there’s always plenty to do around the house too. Covering old windows with plastic to save money on heating, putting a screen on the chimney (bats in the house=no good), and fixing foundation cracks are all items I will be tending to this winter.

These winter tasks will keep you occupied with productive tasks and before you know it will be time to break out the grow lights and heat mats to begin seeding in the basement. Then you’ll look back at winter and wish longingly for the time when 24 hours in a day seemed to be just about right…even if only 8 of those hours were daylight.

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