I love this time of year when I can settle down with a good book or seed catalog, near the crackling wood burning stove. Casper (the perfect cat) nestles into my lap, my dog Sage warming my feet and wanting more attention then the cat is getting. Inside projects are getting finished that got pushed aside for several months of the year for gardening chores. I love winter months. But the real side of me is still yearning for those warmer winter days here in Southern Utah. Freezing by night and comfortable by day. These are days I gather leaves, turn compost and will be on the look out for that first narcissus to poke its leaves through the cold hard ground. Sometimes we get an early bloom at the first of January on the Southeast facing side of the house. What a welcome sight and a sweet fragrance they put off. This is the time when I take mental notes of what needs to be done, what I aspire for next year and what beauty I can add to the garden or flower beds. I watch over my fruit trees seeing what branches need to be removed due to old age or wind damage. It’s time to prune the grape vines and make grape-vine wreaths with the long spindly cuttings, feed those hungry birds that depend on me for their winter food. The vegetable garden still has many living things that require watering during dry spells such as the leeks, garlic, and the greens that are under row cover. One can get so much enjoyment walking through a winter garden, you just have to look a little deeper. A garden gives so much this time of year and asks hardly nothing in return. Not much care required. A break from weeding and what seems like constant watering. With a root cellar full of a bountiful harvest from summer saying, job well done and all the fresh greens we can eat from under protective cover in the garden during the cold winter months gives us satisfaction until new spring crops. I spend much of my time in the greenhouse this time of year. It won’t be long before hundreds and sometimes thousands of little pots will be sprouting there first little leaves so green and healthy. The first session of early crops were just started from seed this week such as brocoli, kohlrabi, kale and other greens. The smell of the citrus blooming while the Meyer lemons are almost ready to pick entices me to come back soon to the greenhouse. Who says winter is dull. It’s only as dull as we make it. Grant it, I don’t live in a very cold climate where the snow drifts make it impossible to visit the garden. I think a winter garden should have interest and a mysterious side to it.
This is such a great time to plan your next years garden. This year I will be planting only heirloom varieties in my vegetable garden and careful planning will ensure I don’t miss a beat. Sketch out your garden. Include crop rotation, succession plantings, leave room to try a new variety this year, add some interest to your usual planting by adding herbs here and there. Go walk through your garden and get inspired. Plan on the best garden ever! Try new flowers in your flower garden, pop some in your veggie beds. Add veggies to your flower beds for even more interest. I love to see Tuscan Kale grown amongst pink, red or purple flowers. Eggplant is such a colorful and outstanding accent. What a better way to make an edible flower garden. I love perennials, but you can’t beat some old-fashioned heirloom flowers like ‘Kiss Me Over The Garden Gate” over the garden gate! Try some new long-term shrubs this spring for next years winter garden like dogwoods popped in a few places. Their beautiful red twigs on cold winter days add so much visual color to an otherwise bleak garden. Choose shrubs that have berries through the winter time like Winter Berry, Holly or Snowberry. They are great summer time fillers, but flashy winter time thrillers. Enjoy winter, embrace it, because spring, summer and hard work are just around the corner!