Winter Garden Activities - Keep Busy Until Spring

While my area of North Texas has relatively mild winters, it does not provide much excitement for gardening. 

The dreary days and windy nights leave me longing for spring when I can put my hands in the soil and transplant young seedlings. Though winter means no actual planting, many garden tasks can be done to set yourself up for success in the spring.

The first task that you can do in winter is to create your spring garden plan. Planning often means perusing seed catalogs to find new and interesting varieties to grow, creating a garden map, and creating a planting schedule. 

One of the more important aspects of garden planning is creating a planting schedule. Many of the vegetables popular in spring and summer gardens require starting seeds indoors to transplant after the last frost has come and gone. Understanding your frost dates and how much time before that frost date is necessary for the seeds to be planted is paramount. 

Garden planning for spring | Vego Garden

Often, you can simply do a quick Google search to determine your average last frost date, but keep in mind that the date is an average and is certainly not set in stone. Then you create your planting schedule based on how much time is needed to get the seedling established before that last frost. For example, my last frost date averages around March 15, so I create a planting schedule starting ten weeks before that date.

A website I use that makes your scheduling a much simpler task is, and it is free to use. A paid version also allows you to create your garden map so you can visualize where everything will go. For the Gulf South area, check out Texas Gardener's planning guide.

Once you know what you will be planting, the next step is to obtain those seeds if you do not have them. There are many reputable seed sources, and several of them will send you free seed catalogs. Perusing the seed catalogs is also a fun way to spend a snowy, cold day indoors, and they can inspire you to try varieties you cannot go pick up at the local big box stores.

Seedlings | Vego Garden

When you are making your lists of seeds to buy, create a mix of vegetables, flowers, and herbs so you can grow a diverse garden that will attract pollinators and predators to pests. If you are gardening on a budget, keep an eye out for local seed swaps to attend and try to grow your home seed collection. Sometimes the local libraries will host them, or you can search social media for events local to you.

Winter is also a great time to repair garden tools or purchase new ones if you have the budget to do so. Hand trowels, dibbers, Hori Hori knives, and shears of varying sizes are all useful tools that make gardening easier. If you have grass that needs regular mowing, winter is the perfect time to sharpen the mower blades. Cleaning your tools is also important so you don’t transfer any fungal issues or illnesses from last season to your new plants.

Winter is a great time to learn new gardening techniques. Sometimes you can find free or inexpensive gardening workshops teaching anything from soil blocking to composting. There are also an infinite number of online resources but do your diligence to ensure you are learning factual information. Your local library will also have gardening books you can check out to learn more about any gardening topic you are interested in, and you can also check in with your county Master Gardeners for any classes they may be holding.

Winter is also a great time to prepare your soil for spring. While the ground is too cold for tilling or other manual manipulation, you can complete some tasks that will boost soil health. Instead of raking your leaves, you can simply use a blower to blow them into your garden.

Compost leaves | Vego Garden

If you have raised garden beds, you will likely need to handle them to get them in the beds, but the leaves provide shelter to some of the beneficial insects, create a natural compost as they break down, and act as a mulch for any plants you may be growing over winter. You can also add compost directly to your garden spaces. Compost is the black gold of the gardening world and provides an excellent source of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, as well as many micronutrients vital to plant health.

On days when the weather is tolerable, winter is the perfect time for garden clean-up. This is the time to cut down dead plants, dispose of diseased plants, and compost the others. The garden also becomes the catch-all throughout the summer for water hoses, spray bottles, and other gardening tools, so this is the perfect time to clean them up and get them organized for spring. 

Check the hoses for leaks, roll them up, and put them away. Clean up plant labels and tags, seedling containers, and empty pots and place them in a good location away from weather and wind. The seedling containers and pots are often reusable, so there is no need to throw them away unless they are cracked or broken.

Finally, as spring crawls slowly near, you can start seeds. There are many methods for seed-starting, including milk jug sowing, sewing in seed trays, and seed blocking. Research which method is the most interesting to you and use your planting schedule to start your seeds. The least expensive option is the milk jug method, because all you need is empty milk jugs and soil. The indoor methods could require more upfront expense to invest in lights, heat mats, and trays, but all those items will last for many years. 

Regardless of the method you choose to start your seeds, you will at least get to put your hands in the soil and start gardening.

1 comment

  • Martina Smith

    Hello , I find your articles quite interesting…I took a master Gardening course in North TX a few years ago …Now I live in Costa Rica.elevation 3000 ft.and partial cloud topical forest in the afternoon. The soil contain alot of iron , clay consistency so I have had to amend. Luckily I get good organic soil from a local farmer.
    Main 2 vegetables that don’t grow well are Beets and Carrots…Garlic is also tempermental …any also many strange looking pests….that can remove all foliage overnight….any tips??

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