With the winter solstice behind us, the days are gradually lengthening. It is too incremental for many people to notice, but plants appreciate change in the mild Pacific Northwest where day length is the limiting factor for plant growth in winter. My winter vegetable garden will slowly awaken, showing signs that the vigor that shoots forth in spring is beginning to gain momentum. The tips of fall-planted garlic will push through the soil, if they haven't already. My January King cabbage will start to head up. The kale plants, stripped to just a few leaves in fall for a final nutritious and tasty meal, will get bushy again. For a lift during these dark wintry days, I just need to poke around in the garden a bit and break off a few Brussels sprouts, in their prime, solid and plump.
Remove Rot. Remove any produce in winter storage (potatoes, apples, garlic) that is showing signs of rot. Compost those that are totally mushy. But for others with small soft spots, cut out the damage and make a hearty stew with the good parts. Check stored tubers (dahlias, gladiolus) as well.
Cover Control. Peruse the garden for rowand compost covers that may have blown off during the last storm.
Clean up the Garden. Pick up dead leaves in the winter vegetable garden and harvest whatever is ready.
Weeds, Weeds, Weeds. Enjoy a rare sunny day by weeding! Try raking any leaves missed in the fall, cleaning up storm debris, and turning compost.
Water Sprouts. Prune fruit trees by removing water sprouts (the branches that grow straight up) and tangled branches that restrict light and air into the center of the trees.
Trim Your Trees. Give a hair cut to deciduous bushes that are out-of-bounds or a tangled mess. Remove the oldest or longest branches at ground level or at the trunk where they emerge. Thin tangles by cutting out whole branches. Be gentle with spring bloomers because flower buds may be removed in the process.
Get Organized. Organize seeds, supplies, and the potting shed.
Top Notch Tools. Clean and sharpen tools for more efficient use. Wooden handles are easier on the hands if they are sanded and oiled.
Fill in Bald Spots. Look through seed and nursery catalogs for plants to fill bare spots in the flowerbed. Find a new lettuce or squash variety to try in the vegetable garden.
Get Fit For Your Garden. Get and stay in shape for spring digging and soil prep. Stretch the legs and hips; strengthen the lower back, knees, and arms; and maintain stamina by walking, riding bicycles, or enjoying another fun activity.