With the unbelievably mild winter up to this point, I’ve been hesitant to forecast an early spring in fear of a brutal close to the season! But it's looking more and more likely that we may actually escape a harsh end to winter, and continue on with milder than normal conditions, at least here on the east coast.
For those gardeners who are tired of winter and can’t wait to engage in a few tasks related to warmer seasons, I’ve put together a list of gardening activities that will keep you warm and occupied, regardless of what the weather conditions are like outside.
Hopefully springtime, warmer days, and a new growing season are all quickly approaching, but until they arrive here are things to engage the mind, body, and spirit until we can get out and dig in the soil again!
- Place Heirloom Seed Orders – Late winter is a great time to sit down with a stack of seed catalogs and daydream about what the garden is going to look like next summer. It’s not too late to get your seed orders in and avoid sold out selections of popular varieties or backlogs created by the spring rush. So spend a few relaxing hours browsing those seed catalogs to uncover interesting new plant choices for you to try out this coming season.
- Build a Backyard Beehive – The construction of two top bar beehives last March was the best winter project that I’ve engaged in since that trip to St. Croix for a permaculture class! The hives turned out perfectly and my experiences with the honeybees were a great addition to the usual gardening over the summer months. If honeybees aren’t in your future you can opt to test those woodworking skills by building a mason bee block, birdhouse, worm bin, or a new trellis for the garden.
- Attend a Local Farm Show – Farmers are a pretty resourceful bunch, and they understand that winter is the perfect time to hold a conference because they’ll be way too busy working when it’s nice outside. The PASA Conference is one of my favorites, but look around, you’ll may find a similar event in your local area. The cycle of annual spring gardening shows is also currently in progress with dates filling the calendar during February and March.
- Finish Reading a Gardening Book – You remember that new gardening book that you purchased last spring, just before you got caught up in planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting; until you now don’t even know where you left it sitting. I’ll start by sharing my embarrassingly long list of “new” books that I need to finish reading:
- The Resilient Gardener (Carol Deppe)
- Two Million Blossoms (Kirsten Traynor)
- Bringing Nature Home (Douglas Tallamy)
- Honey Bee Hobbyist (Norman Gary)
- The Food Lover's Garden (Mark Diacono)
- Start Seeds Indoors – There are seeds you can start growing around the time that the groundhog goes in search of his shadow during the beginning of February. Try raising some leeks and celery seedlings, or varieties like artichokes and sea kale that take a while to get growing. Next up are cold hardy plants like broccoli, cabbages, and leafy green vegetables. As we get a little closer to spring you can add those heat loving summer transplants like tomatoes and peppers to the indoor seed starting rotation.
- Check Supplies and Equipment – Now is a great time to take stock of your garden supplies, inspect those hand tools, and schedule any necessary maintenance on mowers, tillers, and other power equipment that you will need to have ready to run as soon as the weather warms. While you’re at it, are there other gardening related tasks that you’ve been procrastinating over that can be taken care of before things get hectic out in the garden?
- Look for Signs of Spring – Are the crocuses or other early flowers starting to bloom? Did you notice any buds swelling on the trees or shrubs in your landscape? What about early sightings of robins or other migrating birds? Have you noticed any spurts of new growth in the vegetable patch or herb garden? After a mild winter the changes may be very subtle, but look around and see if you don't agree that an early spring may be in the forecast!