What to do on a Cold Winter's Day

On a cold morning such as this you might be wondering "what can I do in the garden?"  Or you might be wondering "why does he know what I'm wondering?"  Or...maybe not, whatever the case is cold winter days are good for the garden and the gardener.  The garden needs those cold winter days to get enough stratification time for seeds to germinate, chill time for bulbs, and dormant time for trees and other plants.  They need a rest - just like the gardener does.  Winter is also the perfect time for the gardener to design his or her garden plans for the year.

When I say garden plans I'm not necessarily talking about a formal garden plan.  Those are great to do but you don't have to have a formal plan to get a good start on the gardening season.  My plan of attack is much more general and usually starts with seeds. I try to determine what I want to grow and what I need to buy.  Often I have plenty of seeds leftover from last year to plant and don't have to reorder the same seeds but I always like to try a couple new things in my garden every year.  A new tomato, a new melon, a new hot pepper, a different colored zinnia or coneflower, or anything else I might have an interest in growing.  Every year I want to learn something new about the garden and growing new things is one way to do that.


Once the seeds are planned out I have to figure out when I need to plan them.  I have to start seeds early indoors if I want to maximize my harvest.  Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants get started first.  Of those three the tomatoes grow the fastest so I start them about 8 weeks before the last frost date in our area while the peppers and eggplant I'll add a couple more weeks onto the start time.

When do I start seeds for peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes?

Vegetable
Date
Count Back
Tomato
February 25th
8 weeks
Pepper
February 11th
10 weeks
Eggplant
February 11th
10 weeks
Our usual last frost date is April 15th.

The vegetable garden isn't the only area that needs planning.  I have to allow for mulching the other beds and when I hope to get that done.  I like to plan a couple projects ahead of time so I have a good idea of what I'll be getting myself into!  You can look back at my January 1st post for some of those garden project ideas.

While all these catalogs are pouring in through the mail I take a note of anything that is so outstanding I have to have one.  There are lots of plant selections that I usually have to say "no, maybe next year" to.  Either I don't have the time, space, or the money to get everything. I really don't order many plants through mail order catalogs other than seeds.  I really prefer seeing the plant at a nursery and bringing it home.  You can get larger plants at a good value from actual nurseries but sometimes you have to sacrifice on selection.
Caryopteris 'Longwood Blue' from 2009

On cold winter days I like to think about how the plants I already have are growing, particularly the trees.  They were all small when I planted them but aren't as small now!  This means my garden will undergo changes.  The caryopteris I planted along a border garden has to be moved.  They need more sun than the crape myrtles will let them have.  That garden is now more suited to part-sun or shade plants.  That was my goal in the beginning but now I have to do some work to fill in the spaces that will be left by the evacuated caryopteris plants.  I have about 7 varieties of hydrangeas that I plan to propagate that will fill in that area nicely.

There's a lot to do on a cold winter's day!

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