I have to confess that I was ready for a break from the garden when winter hit. It's too muddy to pull weeds. There's no point wondering what to plant in the big empty spot by the rose bushes. And it won't be time to start seeds for another month or two. I can use a little time to regroup before the mad dash of spring gardening begins.
But that doesn't mean there's nothing going on outside this time of year. A few minor tune-ups outdoors will keep things going through the wet weather. Here are some suggestions:
Path Preparation. Refresh garden paths and prevent weed growth by piling on the shredded bark, rice straw, or gravel.
Plant Protection. Protect tender plants from frost on cold, clear evenings. Use sheets or plastic tarps to shield plants, but be sure to stake them so the covering doesn't stick to the plant when the temperatures drop.
Befriend the Birds. Keep bird feeders filled and offer a source of water, preferably running water in the form of a fountain or trickling garden hose
Keep Planting. Now is the time to plant bareroot roses, fruit trees, asparagus, and artichokes.
Remember to Prune. Prune flowering perennials and roses if you have not done so already. For roses, eliminate thin canes coming out of the ground and cut back so that canes do not cross. For perennials, be careful not to eliminate new growth. Salvia, for instance, should only be cut back once new shoots appear.
Feed Your Flowers. Feed flowering camellias and rhododendrons a fertilizer for acid-loving plants. They will also appreciate coffee grounds, which add nitrogen and are slightly acidic.
Harvest Hint. Harvest cool-weather greens like mâche, arugula, kale, and spinach.
Holiday Recycling Idea. Recycle your Christmas tree and greenery through a curbside program, or rent a chipper/shredder with the neighbors and make enough mulch to share.
Mulch, Mulch, Mulch. Speaking of mulch, there's never a bad time to pile on compost, shredded leaves, and bark or aged manure. It'll help hold the soil in place and suppress weeds.
Keep Snails In Check. There are pet-safe snail baits on the market like Sluggo and Escar-Go, but I still like to pitch them into the street and let them die in traffic. Nothing beats a good snail toss on a cold winter morning. Another friend takes the plastic bag that her newspaper comes in and fills it with snails each morning, then dumps the bag in the garbage. To each her own.