Winter Garden ‘To Do’ List

by | Jan 19, 2021

We have had a stunning start to the new year with several warm, sunny days to enjoy, but the reality is we’re still in the midst of winter. According to a few forecasts, we are due for some cooler, snowy weather at the end of January (and possibly again at the end of February), so before we get lulled into a false sense of spring, head into the garden to take care of some winter garden tasks!
1) Help out our birds by consistently setting out clean feed in sheltered locations where they can easily escape predators. Use quality bird feed (black oil seed is among the best), and clean up any spillage to prevent attracting rodents. Remember to clean your feeder frequently, especially if the seed inside gets wet! The Anna’s hummingbird is out and about so, if you see them, put out hummingbird feeders and keep the nectar from freezing (or at least thaw it out regularly). When nights dip below freezing, you can bring the feeder inside overnight and just set them out in the morning. Again, clean your feeders and replace the nectar regularly.

2) Keeping your walkways safe by using salt to prevent slipping is not always great for your plants and trees. Be sure to keep the salt away from your plants, and if you have some spillage, pick up as much as possible or at least leach it out by watering with a hose during mild spells. Plant-friendly eco ice melter is available though it is sometimes harder to find and may cost a little more.

3) Heavy snow can damage and even knock over evergreen trees, like hedging cedars. Before a snowstorm, you can loosely tie the trees to hold their form. If you forget to do this and it does snow, head out with a broom to knock snow off from underneath the branches. If a tree has become misshapen by the weight of the snow, tie it up loosely to restore its proper form. This is also important for broadleaved plants like rhododendrons and evergreen magnolias.

4) You might want to check your semi-hardy tropical plants like bananas, palms, eucalyptus etc. Keep the crowns of palms protected from freezing weather by using insulating materials wrapped inside plastic to protect them from severe cold. Make sure the leaves are off the hardy green banana (Musa basjoo), and the stems are well insulated. All other semi-hardy plants (zoned 7, 8, or 9) should be insulated and protected as well. Please refer to our care guide for caring for tender winter plants for further detail!

spring blooming bulbs in garden5) If you’ve stored bulbs in a cool, uninsulated shed, take a minute to check them and make sure there’s no rotting taking place. If you’ve got bulbs in the ground that are starting to emerge, have a few bags of bark mulch at the ready in case you need to add an insulating layer (enough to cover the tips) before a significant drop in temperature. An average snowfall won’t likely do much damage (snow can act like an insulator), but if it’s quite cold, your bulbs would appreciate some extra coverage.

6) It sounds silly, but if you have plants, like azaleas and camellias, under the eaves of your home where they are not getting any moisture, when it’s mild, take a hose and soak the ground. In doing so, you can prevent desiccation and bud drop before they bloom in spring. Check on your patio planters at the same time. Plants under cover are not getting watered with the rain, and we’ve had some warmer days, so they may be a bit thirsty. Remember, plants will endure a cold snap much better if their roots are well-hydrated.

7) Indoor plants often struggle at this time of year, so remember the three golden rules: keep them near windows to optimize light; keep the temperature in your home down a little to improve humidity, and water with warm water only when the plants are dry. No repotting until late March/April and only then if the plants are truly rootbound.

8) Pruning and dormant spraying have already been addressed in our blogs, but this is still a great thing to get done right now if you haven’t already!

multi coloured tulips in bouquets9) Do you need to brighten your spirits, or a friend’s, just a bit? Fresh cut daffodils and tulips are now available and are very inexpensive, as are 4” potted daffodils, hyacinths, crocuses, and iris. They are some of the best mood boosters around! Potted bulbs and early spring bloomers, like primulas, can be set in patio planters now to brighten them up too!

10) Finally, the best therapy for the winter blues, especially for anyone who loves gardening, is a seed catalogue. Just looking through and imagining all the fresh vegetables and colour you can grow provides the best promise of spring. A frequently asked question we receive is ‘When do I start seeds?’ and the short answer is ‘It depends on the seed!’. Seed packages are quite good about providing timing details so that you’ll be able to start your seed on a schedule that will allow them to be transplanted outdoors when the conditions support their success in the garden. Be sure to read the details carefully before you begin. For other tips, feel free to browse through our Seed Starting Guide.

While it’s not a true ‘to do,’ we would recommend walking, biking, or driving around town to take a look at parks and gardens in the area. Think of it as a very local garden tour! Many folks have winter flowering shrubs, perennials, and grasses growing right now, and if you’re struggling for ideas of how to add seasonal charm to your garden, this is an opportunity to see how others have done it.

Nearly everyone looks forward to spring, but if you start to view winter as a busy, exciting, inspiring season on its own, you’ll easily find bright spots during darker days. Enjoy the season we’re in!