We’ve had two hard frosts in a row this week. Anything tender that was still hanging on in a sheltered spot is now gone. The last of the orchard fruit and the fall foraging is in. The pantry is full for winter, and the garden slumbers with a few hardy crops not in need of any attention other than picking. Even the sun is taking a break and wintering in the southern hemisphere. Short of watching the garlic grow, sleeping late, and celebrating the holiday season, what’s a gardener to do?
It’s the planning season. You can dream away the winter — and we have a rather short one here — but it’s better if you put your plans on paper. Which crops will go where next year? Do you want to extend your growing space or improve it? Were there problem areas in need of remediation? Did you catch up on all your notes about specific vegetable varieties? Do you want to extend your season next spring or fall by adding low tunnels or cold frames?
Do you have a complete map of your property? Because if not, you definitely want one of those. Don’t forget to include slope, sun and drainage notes and solstices and equinoxes are the best to time mark sun/shade lines as they move throughout the year. I use Microsoft Visio, which makes it easy to change things and save previous versions, but a pencil and graph paper will work just fine. The easiest time to measure is when the weeds are died down and the trees bare.
It’s also a good time to gather composting and mulch materials like leaves and pine needles. Many of your neighbors will leave them in convenient bags by the curb. And local tree services are often happy to dump truckloads of wood chips in your yard for you. Use a warm weekend to get your mulch on the ground where you need it.
If you have children with cabin fever (or maybe you are the one going stir crazy), set them to creating useful tools by making them fun art projects. Reusable vegetable markers or harvesting baskets or any number of other crafts you can find online or think up.
Get outdoors and go for hikes and nature walks. Early winter is a great time to scope out edible nut trees for foraging next year, and good oak trees for acorns and even persimmons still hanging on.
In another month or so, the sap will begin to rise and I’ll be ready to tackle any projects inspired by winter dreaming. But for now, I’m hibernating indoors and planning.
(By Nicole Castle)