Even during the darkest days of winter, there are still plenty of gardening activities to enjoy. Go outside while the sun is shining to cut flowers and branches for a winter bouquet. Or grow something indoors to scratch that gardening itch. Indoors and outdoors, these ten gardening activities will help you beat the winter blues.
Force flowers inside
Brighten up a winter day with fresh flowers. Many flower bulbs can be forced into bloom out of season for a colorful winter display. The easiest bulbs to force are the Paperwhite Narcissus because they don’t require chilling, which is a period of cold temperatures necessary for many bulbs to bloom. Other commonly forced bulbs include amaryllis, muscari and hyacinths. For a greater challenge, try forcing colchicum or miniature iris. When selecting bulbs, look for varieties sold specifically for indoor forcing, as they are “pre-chilled” and ready to bloom.
Feed the birds
Food choices are scarce for our feathered friends. Hang a feeder outside the window by your favorite chair and enjoy the action. Offer foods that are high in calories and high in fat and protein, such as black sunflower oil, suet, and peanuts. Each of these foods attracts different species of birds. You might consider buying a bird book to identify species you don’t recognise. Don’t forget to provide a source of fresh water for bathing and drinking. Water features with moving water often remain unfrozen throughout the winter, or you can use a simple heater to warm the water in the winter and prevent freezing.
Make a winter bouquet
You can find something that blooms even in the dead of winter. Grab your cut flowers and step outside to pick up a winter bouquet. Look for the pink flowers of Japanese camellias or the fragrant blooms of winter daphne. Add yellow flowering stems of winter jasmine or witch hazel and clusters of bright pink winter heather. Finish flower arrangements with cut evergreens of holly, magnolia, and colorful loropetalum, or berry-covered branches of wild holly.
Clean and sharpen your pruning tools
Late winter and early spring are the best times to prune trees and shrubs, cut grasses and prune perennials. Prepare for these tasks by sharpening your secateurs and pruners. Pruning is much faster when your tools are clean, sharp and oiled.
build a terrarium
Terrariums date back to Victorian England where they were first used for botanical purposes and later as interior decoration. They are simple enclosed gardens of glass or plastic. Terrariums provide an ideal growing environment that can be tailored to specific plant material, allowing you to grow a wider variety of houseplants. You can create a moist environment for ferns, mosses, and even Venus flytrap. Arrange a dry terrarium to showcase miniature cacti or design a humid tropical scene with vibrant foliage. The possibilities are limitless.
Forcing woody branches to flower
Just as you can force bulbs to flower out of season, you can force woody deciduous plants to flower early by bringing stem cuttings indoors and placing them in a vase of water. Late winter is the time to force out woody branches, after the plants have already experienced at least six weeks of cold temperatures. Spring-flowering trees and shrubs, such as forsythia, flowering quinces and peach trees, are best suited for winter forcing.
Start the seeds
Planting seeds and nurturing seedlings is a great way to spend a winter day. It also saves you money on transplants and allows you to choose from a much wider selection of cultivars. When you start your own seeds, you can also time the sowing according to the planned planting date so that the grafts are ready when you need them. Refer to seed packets and research the average last frost date for your area to determine the optimal seeding time.
Clean and repair nesting boxes
Winter is the perfect time to prepare nest boxes for the arrival of breeding birds in the spring. Remove old nests and disinfect homes with a diluted bleach solution. A clean home is more attractive to birds looking for nesting sites, and proper sanitation improves the chances of having a healthy and successful brood. Make sure your nesting boxes are in place well before the start of the breeding season.
Potted summer flowering bulbs
Give summer-flowering bulbs in storage a head start by repotting them in late winter. While you can certainly wait for the soils to warm up before planting stored bulbs such as canna directly outdoors, why not give them a boost? By initiating growth indoors, we can encourage plants to flower earlier once they are moved outdoors, giving us a longer flowering season in the garden.
Growing Sprouts or Microgreens
We all know that good things come in small packages, and it seems that adage holds true for vegetables, in the form of sprouts and microgreens. Sprouts are basically immature miniature plants harvested soon after germination, while microgreens are tender young plants harvested as seedlings. They’re packed with flavor and nutrients, and are easy to grow right on the counter.