If you need a few more months to just chill and hibernate and not think about the gardening things in life, this post is not for you. Enjoy your chill time. Do what you need to do to get through the winter and be happy.
However, I’m not the four-season type. I thought I was when I lived in North Carolina. I thought I loved the winter until I moved to Iowa. I wish I could appreciate it. I’m just not there yet. Every year I wonder, is this the year? Is this the year I can happily tolerate winter? Probably not.
This is the time of the year I like to make a list, start to plan and just visualize what spring and summer will bring me.
Typically, in Iowa, it’s still pretty cold right now – frigid even – and there’s no temptation to work outside. However, this year is a little different. (Global warming?) Resist the urge to start cleaning up the garden beds until it’s consistently 50 degrees or so. All of that debris, dead stuff, and sticks serve the purpose of creating protective habitat for many critters.
Here is what you CAN do though:
- Plotting and planning. Check on your seed collection. Do you need to restock? Would you like to try something new? Maybe process some of the seeds you saved last year! Are you sticking with last year’s layout? Do you want to garden in a new spot this year? Is there a particular area that could use some love? Maybe it needs a fresh load of compost, a cover crop, or just a season to rest.
- Wrangle your seed starting gear. Do you have containers already? Do you have things that you could re-purpose as seed start containers? Is this the year you’re going to finally start soil blocking? What’s your block blend? Make sure the stuff you have is clean, sanitize it if you need to. Get ready to plant!
- Find your tools. Clean, sharpen and organize them. I recently made two bins; one for my smaller gardening, tools, ties, and maybe a small notebook. And one for my protective gear like gloves, sunblock, hats, hat, netting, bug spray, and gardening sleeves.
- Plant some stuff! There are lots of things you can go ahead and plant indoors. It’s time to start celery, brassicas, leafy greens, herbs, & eggplants. Onions can go in the ground as soon as it’s workable. Poppies like to be sprinkled right on top of the snow even! I’m going to start my snapdragons and cockscomb indoors. I never have much luck direct-seeding those.
- Build some stuff! It’s also a good time to build garden beds, make some simple cold frames, or a hoop house. I put up a cheap greenhouse/hoop house that I got on clearance from TSC last year. It’s amazing!
- Weed a little. Believe it or not, you can actually start to weed a little too. I’ve already spotted a few pesky weeds and invasive plants. Shamelessly pull the creeping Charlie and vinca to get a headstart. I leave a few dandelions for the bees.
- Place your birdhouses. It’s a good time to go ahead and place some bird houses! Make sure they’re clean! Create appealing bird habitat. Birds eat a lot of the insects we don’t want in our garden. I like to think about everything that wreaked havoc last year. How can you attract their predators? Think about how to minimize the pests that bring you the most stress. Remember, even organic and natural sprays and pesticides can be harmful to the beneficial critters. Creating a natural ecosystem is the best way to go when possible.
- Spend time outside! I do not spend enough time outside in the winter. I only go out when necessary. Just get out there, even for 2 minutes. Take a deep breath, look around, and know that spring really is just around the corner. Hang in there!