Our gardens are sleeping, waiting for the warmth of spring. Here in Colorado there’s not much a gardener can do this time of year—or is there? If gardening is your passion, you can always find something garden-y to feed your soul!
Travel. It’s hard to leave our flowers and veggies during the growing season. Weeds put on a growth spurt the moment we leave town, zucchini grows to humongous size, and our favorite perennial blooms and fades while we’re gone. In winter, the garden lingers in a state of suspended animation. We’re free to leave knowing everything will be more or less the same when we get back.
Tend to tools. After a season of hard use, my shovels and trowels are dull and caked with dirt. The wooden handles are parched and cracking. My hoe blade is dull. The shredder and rototiller need some TLC from someone who knows more than I do about small engines. Now is the time to get out the oil can, some rags, and a whet stone and rejuvenate my tools.
Love your houseplants. My indoor garden tends to get ignored when the weather is welcoming outside. This is the time of year I finally remember to repot the spider plant, trim the Wandering Jew, and spray the mealy bugs on the cactus. I trim off dead leaves, do some minor pruning, and basically just fuss over my plants. With a few exceptions, it’s best to withhold fertilizer until the days get longer—it’s too soon for a growth spurt—and water just enough to keep soil moist. Even indoor plants like a rest period.
Educate yourself. With so little to do outside, take advantage of the time to bone up on the latest cultivars and garden tips. Learn how to grow a new plant. Decipher the directions that came with your automatic irrigation timer.
Plan. I love to plot out which crops will go where in my veggie garden, how I’ll rearrange my perennial border for best effect, or what I can plant to replace the over-achieving mugo pines that have grown into a fire hazard.
Order stuff. I finally have a moment to pour over the seed and garden catalogs that have been accumulating on my desk. Green highlighter in hand, I try to read between the lines to determine which varieties will best meet our needs.
Start seeds. Many annuals and perennials take a long time to grow from seed to transplant. Go ahead and start tender geraniums, pansies, and snapdragons in January. I like to start leeks now, too. It takes several months for them to reach the diameter of a pencil, which is the size I prefer for planting outside. Just trim off the tops if they get too long to fit under the plant lights. If you want to make an attempt at homegrown artichokes, start them now. Place the seedlings someplace with bright light and cool temperatures, and continue to pot up until they can go outside in mid-to-late spring.
Get inspired. Read about famous gardens and gardeners. While Colorado is never going to look like England, Seattle, or Florida, we can still borrow idea on plant arrangement, color combinations, and other elements of design. Or go online and start Googling gardens in different parts of the world. “Travel” doesn’t have to be expensive!If you’re looking for something applicable locally, Lauren Springer Ogden has produced a number of books focusing specifically on Colorado gardening. They are well worth reading.
Visit local gardens. Professional landscape designers try to create gardens that look good all year long. Sure, the annual beds will be bare, but gardens are more than annuals. See which plants look good now. Do they have peeling, patterned, or brightly colored bark? Persistent berries? Evergreen foliage? Some plants turn plum or blue or even bright magenta in the cold. Maybe the branches twist and twine in an interesting way.
Take a nap. Your garden is sleeping. Maybe it’s trying to tell you something.