University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
SURVIVING A LONG
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
One question I often get by
gardeners from warmer climates is “What do you do in winter?” If our
north country winters get a bit long
for you, here are ten gardening activities to keep your spirits up and
ready for and thinking about the coming growing season.
Order some seeds. This means obtaining by phone or mail some
seed catalogs if you don’t already have some.
The internet also is a great resource for choosing and ordering seeds.
First, though, check in early spring with
your local garden store as they may have what you want. Be forewarned
of the temptation to order more
seeds than you need or can keep up with.
Of course you can wait to start
seeds outdoors, but with our short growing season in the north it is
start at least some plants indoors if you can make the space. The
temptation here is to start seeds too
soon, only to have them get leggy. Many
small seeds like begonias can be started in February, tomatoes in
many other flowers in early April, and quick growing plants such as
melons, sunflowers or zinnias only two or three weeks before setting
If you have houseplants, check them
often for pests. Fertilize them if they
are growing or blooming. Repot ones that
are rootbound and dry out quickly. Propagate
from cuttings those that may be getting leggy.
Simply cut about four to six inches, remove the lower leaves, and place
stem bases in a medium such as perlite, vermiculite, or a combination.
Cover with a plastic bag to keep
humidity inside, and check often to make sure not too dry or too wet
inside. Keep out of direct sunlight. Don’t forget to buy a cut flower
Review garden catalogs, but as with
the seeds, don’t order more than you can plant, weed, and maintain. It
is best to figure where plants will go
before you buy them. Keep in mind their
environmental needs, such as light and soil type, and whether you can
these. With the costs of shipping, and
many mail order firms selling very small plants, often it is best to
local nurseries first in spring. Do your
research now, then visit them around late April or early May for the
selection and the best chance to get what you want.
Plan a new garden, or to renovate an
older one. This applies only if you have
room, and only if you think realistically that you can keep the new
garden maintained. This is not an issue
if you are merely replacing a current annual flower bed or vegetable
garden. If the latter, figure where each crop will go,
rotating their locations from year to year to minimize diseases. If
some perennial beds have gotten out of
control through neglect (as have some of mine), perhaps you should plan
remove the desirable plants, then start over removing all that remains.
Winter is the time to get tools in
order, cleaning and sharpening if you haven’t already. Get pots
cleaned and ready, a good job for a
basement or garage. Stock up on supplies
while garden stores are slow and you have the time. Look for “green
as recycled materials and biodegradable pots.
Make plans to visit a local flower
show, such as the Vermont Flower Show March 6 to 8 at the Expo Center
in Essex Junction (http://www.vermontflowershow.com/). Also, watch
local garden stores and gardening
groups for seminars (http://perrysperennials.info/events.html).
There are many wonderful books on
all aspects of gardening and gardens, design, plants and more. Check
these out online either from booksellers
or my publications list
at your library, and local bookstores for the latest releases.
Plan a trip in summer to local
gardens or specialty perennial nurseries with display gardens
(pss.uvm.edu/ppp/vpdgli.html). You can find some local gardens on my
website, either in photos or in videos from Across the Fence that you
online (perrysperennials.info). I like
to visit gardens and nurseries when the weather isn’t ideal for working
own garden, something you can’t obviously plan this winter. But you
can plan to visit them every few
weeks to see what is in bloom. This is a
great way to find plants to keep your garden colorful all summer.
The internet has been mentioned
already, but use it to explore the rest of the gardening world. This
easily can fill your whole winter, or at
least as much time as you can take on a computer. Have a slow
connection like I do? Then take a laptop to your local library,
many of which have wireless capability, or just use their computers. I
love to make virtual visits to famous
botanic gardens, and gardens of artists and designers. Of course you
can learn so much more online,
on any topic you can think of, and many you never thought of! Again, a
starting point might be the links on
my own website (perrysperennials.info).
These are only a few ideas for how
you, as a gardener, can make the most of a long and cold winter. Don’t
forget to take a break, get outside,
and enjoy the winter effects of your garden and public ones. Think how
might improve yours next winter by adding shrubs or trees with
evergreen colorful leaves, berries, attractive bark, or
great textures and silhouettes.
Return to Perry's Perennial