Winter Gardening Tips For Adults and Kids

When the mercury begins to drop, try these gardening tips to spruce up your garden and prevent winter damage.  We also included some fun gardening activities to engage your children during winter break! To learn more ideas on how to protect your plants from frost, stop by and read, Protecting Plants From Freezing Temperatures.

Safety first! Many use infinite amounts of salt in their pathways and porches to prevent a dangerous fall on winter’s slippery ice.  But did you know that salt could wash away in your garden and sterilize the fertile soil? To get the best traction without harming your prized cabbages, use organic kitty litter without any added chemicals.  You’ll find that a light sprinkle of litter can salvage you and your plants from preventable winter dangers.

Drip Irrigation:  It is good practice to check your irrigation system for damage each season.  Before winter hits in full force, you may want to review your model’s instructions and remove all of the water from the system.  Then turn off the system completely for the coldest months.  Many attribute this to be the best way to protect your irrigation investment from extensive winter damage.

Depending on your city’s winter climate, a rule of thumb for winter watering is once every 10 days when temperatures are below 75 degrees F, and once a week when temperatures are between 75-90 degrees F.   Be sure to water only when temperatures in the soil are above 40 degrees, and when there is no snow coverage.  If possible, a midday watering routine is best to allow time for water to soak in before chillier nighttime temperatures hit.

Pruning Procedures:  Pruning a large tree or bush is best done in the wintertime.  Prune branches that awkwardly cross, and/or branches that appear to have diseased or dead wood.  Remember, topping a tree or cutting more than 25% of a plant can ultimately lead to more extensive damage in the long run.  As for more delicate herbs, flowers and vegetables; wait until the spring to prune. Even damaged leaves and foliage continue to carry heat and can suffer more frost damage if pruned too early.

Use A “Winterizer”: During the winter months, plants should focus on root growth, and can benefit from a fertilizer with potassium and phosphorus.  In early to late fall, use a trowel to loosen the soil, and add fertilizer near the roots of the plant.  If your plants have already experienced freezing or snow, skip the fertilizer and simply add more mulch to the roots to keep them warmer.

Involve The Kiddos! Winter break is fast approaching, and finding some fun winter activities is the perfect way to get your kids active and away from the Xbox! Try inviting children to make a windowsill garden. Herbs are wonderful to grow indoors; and they are kid friendly to implement.  Kids also love decorating small pots with colorful paints, paper and glue. Draw a funny face on a pot, plant a little winter grass and watch the head of hair grow! Or, have kids make holiday gifts for their loved ones with a little creativity and a terra cotta pot.

Engage children in a gardening or bird club.  Find a group at your local library, or start one of your own!  Children love distributing birdseed in the winter and documenting birds that have stopped by for a snack.  If you have a craft store nearby, involve kids in building a birdhouse to help keep the neighborhood birds “warm” in the winter.

What gardening tips will you use this winter?

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  1. It is not the best rule of thumb to tell people it is ok to trim EVERY plant this time of year. If they trim Rhododendron or Hydrangea now, they may be cutting off next years flowers or in some cases fruit. And the tips will have no time to harden off, so you may lose whole limbs on tender plants. Mulching perennials is a good idea and looking up your species of plant that needs pruning is best. Like Hemlocks, especially with the Wolly Adelgid population or one that have not been trimmed in years and are in low light losing their lower growth. I’d only trim the top terminal growth (ends) a few inches and then trim the whole tree right before Spring growth to encourage lower and more compact growth next year.
    You can also use a wilt-pruf type of product, (usually refined pine sap) that is an anti-dessicant/anti-transpirant that allows plants to use 80-90% less moisture. So when the ground freezes and water turns into a solid, especially if you have not mulched over the root zone, it will still get much less winterburn/wind damage and use its energy growing in the spring instead of for repairation. It is tougher on plants to live through warm days and sunny spots that go above freezing in the day and below freezing at night. Espeically newer saplings can get lingotudinal wounds called frosts cracks. So wrap your saplings! Or put up a cheap little wall of burlap tied to stakes around them as a wind break.
    Gardening has few hard and fast rules that cover 100% of plant species. So take a moment to notate your plant population and go from there. A very little research on your particular plant species in your yard goes a long way. Oversimplification will possibly scare people into thinking they have a brown thumb and teach them poor or mediocre skills. Your kid will be alot more apt to stick with is if the end results are actual fruition or edible instead of a dead end result. Marigolds on a windowsill with decent southern light? Best first plant experiment for your kids. They never fail the thrive! I LOVE your intentions, but starting out teaching people hard and fast rules that are not always true, is that the best way to continue a continuous gardening lifestyle or the use of more demanding heirloom varieties? Just sayin.

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