Tips for Managing the Winter Garden

As Rosemary Verey said, “A garden in winter is the absolute test of the true gardener”.  I’m sitting here watching the rain come down and feeling very guilty that I’m not outside in my rain gear.  So, I guess I’ll think about what needs to be done and make my “to-do” list.

Waiting for my Sarcococco to come into full bloom

Many of the winter jobs would prefer fair weather as opposed to mucking around in the mud and compacting the soil.  There are a few jobs, however, like cleaning and sharpening your tools, that don’t mind the weather.  Winter weeds are a continual problem in the Pacific Northwest, especially shotweed (Cardamine oligosperma), so keep control of these throughout the year.  These are easiest to pull after the frost heaves the soil a bit.

Some of the grasses are still looking good and won’t be pruned back until later when the weather gets to them and they start making a mess. Pruning some vines now, such as the grapes, is a good idea while you can see where they’ve grown to, or where you don’t want them to go.

Now, is a good time to clean up leaves and litter around the evergreen crowns of many plants, especially aster, chrysanthemum, solidago, melissa, monardo, Cardamine pratensis, Digitalis ferruginea, Lobelia x speciosa, Lobelia cardinalis, Primula ‘Wanda’, and Pulmonaria angustifolia.  Evergreen groundcovers, such as galax, saxifraga, ajuga, bolax, lamium, thyme,Mentha requienii, and Oxalis mabellanica, should also be kept clean of litter and leaves .

Mulching is one of the most important jobs we do in the garden.  Winter is the ideal time for this project after the deciduous plants have died back and the gardens have been cleaned of leaves and debris.

Before we know it, spring will be here and time to start planting again.

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