With the chill of winter, the leaves fall off the trees, and the grass yellows into crunchy shells of its former brightness. The blossoms and leaves of summer green wither away into hibernation. It’s sad to see the vibrancy of a garden fade into the muted shades of winter, but don’t get too down about it. Even though the weather may be icy, there are still ways to bring color in your life by gardening in winter.
Gardening in the winter is about learning to appreciate all that nature offers and learning new ways to bring plants into your life. Different methods and new plants can liven up your gardening routine to keep the greenery throughout the frosted bite of winter.
Getting creative in the winter doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it can even simplify your gardening regime, as you don’t have to spend as much time outdoors pruning and plucking weeds. Make sure to keep your bird feeders filled, as the bright colors of visiting birds can liven up your yard as well as promote wildlife to grow. If you still need your outdoors time, take the winter as a chance to do some maintenance in the garden, fixing up broken paths or containers, and cutting away overgrown foliage.
Below are five easy ways to continue gardening in winter months.
1. Baby, It’s Cold Outside! Bring Your Garden Indoors
A simple way to keep your plants alive is to bring them inside. If your plants are in the ground, relocate them to a pot and bring them inside.
Before bringing your blooms inside, determine if they are annuals or perennials. There’s not much of a point to putting in the effort of digging up an annual, as they only last for one growing season. Perennials, on the other hand, will bloom again next season, so if you want to bring them in from the cold, these are your best bet.
Even if you think a plant is a perennial, if you want it to survive the winter, research hardiness zones. Some plants that are considered perennials in a warmer climate will not last through cold weather and are considered ‘half-hearty annuals’ or ‘frost-tender perennials.’
If you don’t feel like digging up your garden, consider investing in houseplants for greenery. Hanging plants and windowsill gardens bring some much-needed life into a dull winter landscape, even if it is only inside your home. Consider bringing the garden inside to you, perhaps you’ll enjoy keeping houseplants as much as an outdoor garden.
2. Life in the Cold: Plant Winter-Blooming Shrubs
If your mind is set on blossoms in the dead of winter, look into planting winter-blooming shrubs. These plants burst into life when others are taking their long winter naps.
Here are some suggestions of hearty plants that would be an excellent addition to your winter garden.
Japanese Pieris is an evergreen shrub with the potential to grow quite tall (up to 12 feet). Its blossoms grow in clusters of white to pink bell-shaped flowers.
Cassia is a fountain draping shrub with bright yellow blossoms but can grow into a tree with time and full sunlight.
Daphne blossoms vary from cream, white, pink, or yellow, offering you variety and color in your winter garden that will last through spring.
Wintersweet blossoms are yellow with purple centers and have a fragrant aroma. These plants are especially hearty in cold temperatures, even below freezing they will still bloom.
Camelia Japonica is a beautiful flowering shrub with expansive possibilities of flower appearances. Colors vary from white to pink, deep red, and even speckled like the one you see below.
3. Get Ahead of the Season: Start Your Seeds
Take advantage of the warmth indoors by germinating the seeds you want to plant in the spring. Get a jump start on the growing season by starting seeds several months before you want to place them in the ground. This is especially beneficial for vegetable gardens, as by germinating them early, the plants will already be bigger and closer to peak harvest.
After planting seeds in their starter containers, place the container in a clear, loose plastic bag. This helps raise the humidity and temperature, something that comes in handy during the dry, cold winter months. Place them in a sunny spot and make sure to rotate daily, so they grow straight.
Vegetables like broccoli, cabbages, celery, and lettuces are perfect crops to start indoors during the winter. If you intend to plant the seedlings outside during the colder months, like late winter to early spring, you will need to protect them until they are more robust, and the environment is less harsh.
A cloche (right) will protect your baby plants from the elements when gardening in winter. You can make your own from recycled materials in your house like old water jugs, plastic juice cartons, or plastic wrap. Place the protection over the seedlings planted in the ground and keep it there until the weather mellows.
4: Gardening Cheat Sheet: Force Your Bulbs
Forcing bulbs is a sort of cheat code for plants that start as bulbs. It is a way of getting plants to bloom inside during their off season. Plants like hyacinth, narcissus, crocus, and amaryllis are perfect for forcing indoors for colorful winter blossoms.
Some bulbs are best forced using a water method. Obtain a forcing vase, which is shaped to balance a bulb just above the water so that it doesn’t fall in. Place the bulb tip upwards, fill the water close to the bulb, but do not allow it to touch. The roots will grow down into the water. Plants that respond best to this way of forcing are hyacinth, amaryllis, and narcissus.
Other bulbs require a chilling period, meaning they actually need cold temperatures to start the blooming process. Plant these bulbs in gravel or soil, about an inch apart from each other. Leave the top tip of the bulb exposed. Water the soil until moist, then leave in a cool, dry place like a garage, attic, cellar, or even the refrigerator (just make sure there is no fruit openly stored in there, or it could interact poorly with the bulbs).
During this time, the bulbs will grow roots, which takes around 10-15 weeks. After they have developed roots and a stem, move the plants to a warmer dimly lit space for another week. Finally, move them to a bright, warm area, and given a couple of weeks, the plants will blossom.
5. Avoid the Winter Blues: Get Plant Happy
However you garden in the winter, know that it is important. During the colder, darker months, we can get sad or feel down. Keeping up positive habits like gardening can improve your mood and mental health in a time when it is easy to feel depressed. Gardening is beneficial for your mind and mood, so keep up the good work!
Frequently Asked Questions: Gardening in Winter
How is gardening good for me?
Gardening is proven to boost your mood and improve mental health. You might be surprised by the benefits of digging in the dirt, learn more in our article on how gardening is good for your mental health.
What is a heartiness zone?
Hardiness zones depend on what area of the country you live in. A map of these zones shows which regions have certain winter temperatures and conditions. It is an important factor to consider when growing plants outside. Check out our article on gardening zones to learn more.
My seeds are germinated, now what should I do?
The best time to put hearty seedlings in the ground is early spring. Check out our article on growing a spring garden to learn more.