In favourable areas late winter can be almost spring-like, especially in a mild period, but don’t be lulled into sowing and planting outdoors too soon. If the weather turns cold, seeds will not germinate, and seedlings and plants may receive such a check to their growth that they do not do as well as those sown or planted later. Concentrate your efforts on indoor sowing, but make the most of frames and cloches, too, for early crops.
One way of getting plants off to an early start (tomatoes and lettuces, for example) is to sow them in small plastic containers, clearly labelled, in a heated greenhouse. This means that when the spring temperatures do pick up, they can be moved outside, under cloches especially at night when the temperatures can suddenly drop.
You don’t want to be caught out at the last minute when it comes to planning your winter garden. The coldest months of the year are also the most barren when it comes to the natural world, so if you want to avoid your garden looking like a plant and shrub graveyard, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to ensure your yard keeps up with the season. It’s a common misconception that gardens during the winter have to look drab and dull compared with their summer counterparts. This is simply not true. By selecting the correct plants to put in your garden during December, January and February, you can add a splash of colour and more to help brighten up those cold wintry days.
So what can you do to help your winter garden survive the cold?
Winterizing not only makes your garden look better during the cold weather months, but will make for easier work in the spring and it is essential in cold-winter regions, where freezing, drying conditions can tax even hardy plants. Start closing your garden down when there is frost in the forecast or the temperature consistently starts to drop to the low 40’s or mid-30’s (Fahrenheit), usually around late October or November.
One of the first things you should do is clean all the debris from your garden. Get rid of dead foliage, leaves, roots, stakes and row markers. The debris you clean from your garden can be added to your compost heap which will be a big help come spring. You want to be sure, though, not to add any diseased debris or pest infected dead leaves or stalks in your compost pile. You don’t want to accidentally spread a disease from this year’s garden to next year’s.
Containers get too hot and dry in summer and conversely they get colder than a surrounding garden in winter because a greater area is exposed to the elements.
Plants in containers therefore need special attention in cold winters and may well have to be protected, however warm the microclimate of the individual patio, windowsill or roof garden. Roof gardens are particularly affected for being open to the elements they are more likely to be buffeted by wind and storms.
Often, due to lack of time, or fine day in October, we don’t clean the garden before November. Keep your garden looking beautiful well into the fall season by trimming hedges, weeding and “dead heading” flowers no longer in bloom. From the garden bring out the stakes and rope that served as the underpinnings of certain types of plants. Clean the stakes and keep them to use next year. Plants destroyed by the frosts, we also should removed from the ground, chop and compost or plow. If these plants remain in the area, pose a threat as a potential source of disease and pests. Do not bother to clean up leaves until all of them have fallen. To rake leaves most effectively, start at the outer corner of your garden and either rake straight lines or rake from the outer corner inwards. If you have space, then keep the leaves to make compost. They are great for compost.
Winter is around the corner and your garden needs some pampering to help it through the cold and stormy months ahead and get it in good shape for next spring. A November gardening calendar really highlights the differences in regional gardens. For many there is no November garden to speak of. But even if your garden is already covered in snow, there are still garden tasks calling. Unfortunately insect pests are much hardier than their tiny size would suggest.
Here are a few gardening tasks and projects that you can do this month to help keep your garden looking it’s best for the rest of this season, and prepare for the long cold winter and upcoming spring.