Gardening in Winter

I talk all the time about how I garden in the “frozen north.” This year, it has alternated between being frozen and being something else. We have had stretches of milder days (40s and 50s when it should have been in the 30s) and then downright unreasonably warm days in the upper 60s and low 70s.

By the time this is posted, we should be back to something approximating “normal” for us or even below normal–20s or low 30s and blustery winds. That’s certainly not the sort of weather that makes one say, “Gosh, I want to get outside and do some gardening!”

But on the warmer days, there are things that can be done if the ground underneath is still frozen and you don’t risk compacting wet soil by walking on it.

First, you can prune small dormant trees. Any large-scale pruning is best left to the arborists of course. But removing dead twigs from a Japanese maple, for example, is a great thing to do, and will stimulate growth in the spring.


It’s easy to tell the dead from the living twigs. The dead twigs are usually ashy gray while the living twigs are “tree colored” for lack of a better description. On my red Japanese maples, they are reddish and on my green Japanese maples, they are greenish.


With small hand pruners, remove the dead twigs neatly back to the living branch. It’s that simple.

Other easy chores are to just walk around and collect small branches that have accumulated (already) during the windy days. You can stack them somewhere for a small animal burrow, or tie them into bundles for your town to remove, if your town does that.

Or you can take a walk and enjoy the lovely weather and get ideas from other people’s gardens, when you can see the structure more clearly.

Or you can just enjoy taking a walk, without spring pollen (if that irritates you!)

While winter warmth can be troubling, it’s also a gift and a blessing in many ways. I always try to use those warm days to my advantage–there are never enough of them!

2 thoughts on “Gardening in Winter

  1. tonytomeo February 10, 2020 / 5:17 pm

    Winter can be so brief. We have too much dormant pruning to do in such a limited time, and I happen to be our arborist.

  2. gardendaze February 10, 2020 / 5:48 pm

    And for us, it’s the summer that’s brief. You have seen my comment about winter and July here. It seems as if I just get the containers and gardens planted and it’s time to bring everything in.


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