Winter gardening tips for new plant parents

Winter gardening tips for new plant parents

By Samuel Gonzalez ’24

As we layer up to bear the cold air outside, we may sometimes become so preoccupied with staying warm that we forget we’re not the only ones trying to survive the winter. Though they may be brown and a little sad, your perennials are probably still alive. With a little effort, your spring garden is likely to thrive — if you follow measures to meet its basic needs. Let’s go over the ways you can make sure your garden blooms again in spring.

Watering your plant babies

Without the boiling heat of summer, you may not need to water your garden as frequently as you do in warmer months, but like all living things, it still requires a steady intake of water to survive. It is especially important to keep the soil somewhat moist when plants are still attempting to establish their roots. We recommend that you water your garden around 1-2 times a month for 15-20 minutes each. Make sure you concentrate that water onto the root balls of plants transplanted within the last year.

Protecting your plant babies from bullies

ENVS work study students planted artemisia, fall asters, and mealy sage in this prominent bed on Windsor Mall. (Photos by Rebecca Jones)

Winter is the best time to clear your garden of weeds while their growth is suppressed. Weeding now will save you a lot of time and effort in spring when weeds grow, well, like weeds. Watering your plants more than they need may also stimulate their growth early, so never water more than 20 minutes unless your garden is completely dry two inches deep into the soil.

Keeping your plant babies warm

Just as a coat keeps you warm, mulch insulates gardens throughout the winter while trapping moisture. Two to three inches of mulch will suffice to keep the temperature in your garden more constant in the winter. If you did not get around to mulching before winter, you still can before freezing weather puts your garden in jeopardy.

Extra measures may also be necessary to prevent winter damage. Keeping an eye on the forecast is the best way to determine if further measures are required. If you anticipate a freeze soon, make sure that your soil is moist because drier plants are more susceptible to harm from cold. If forecasts expect temperatures below 20 degrees, you may even consider pruning or covering certain plants with insulating fabrics, depending on the species.

Planning for spring

Remember that all this hard work in winter is leading to the huge payoff of spring’s colors and fragrances, and that all these gorgeous organisms rely on your toil to live and bloom. If you’ve adopted a garden bed on campus or have one at home, you have probably spent hours planning your garden, transplanting, weeding, and watering like I have. Every winter, we’re at risk of losing this investment. If we’re intent on holding on to our little chunks of natural capital, we must endeavor to provide what we can to keep our gardens alive and reduce the number of plant deaths on our collective conscience. At the very least, you can save yourself the time and money of transplanting new ones!

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