A Winter Laundry List

Many wonder what on earth I do in the winter time. I smile when people say, “Oh, this must be your down time.” I may not be in the midst of spring and fall hustle and bustle, but there is still plenty to keep me busy; more than I can possibly complete in our (relatively short) “down” time.

There is a laundry list of gardening activities to accomplish as the snow flies. This list is certainly not exhaustive, but gives a sense of my seasonal duties, along with some action items for the home garden. Some of the action items on my list include:

  • Clean up those hand tools– These links provide some easy tips for caring for your tools. Honestly, this is one of those simple things we need to do more often than a couple of times a year.
  • Tune up mechanical tools– I like to begin taking my two- and four-cycle engine equipment to the mechanic. He gives them the typical check over, replacing and updating anything the engine needs. Spring time is crunch time for most small engine mechanics, so I start now to beat the rush.
  • Shake off that snow– Do not let significant amounts of heavy snow build up on branches. Some evergreens are especially prone to this. We cover some of our tall upright junipers here at the Gardens with burlap to prevent winter burn and heavy snow loads. I find it more effective than spraying wax products to seal the needles shut.
  • Watch for plant rocking– Newly planted trees and shrubs, not yet rooted into their new soil homes, are vulnerable to coming loose as winter gales buffet them. As the root ball comes loose, you will notice a hole opening on its edge.
  • Burn those weeds– If I get time during the inevitable winter thaw, I might try to get ahead of the winter annual weeds waiting patiently for a warmer day to spring up. Springtime is busy, so the more that helps me get ahead of the flush of weeds, the better.
  • Snow removal– One of my winter responsibilities outdoors is to keep our primary paths free of snow and slippery spots. While our main path is just a half-mile around, this can take half or a full day sometimes. We keep the main path open for the winter strolls (for our winter hours, click HERE), but we do not always have the time to get to secondary or tertiary paths. We spray a corn byproduct to melt thin patches of ice, and we use salt covered in beet juice for tougher, larger areas. I have found that something about the concrete tends to melt almost all leftovers of a storm even on the coldest days if the majority of the covering snow is removed.
  • Prune trees and shrubs– There are a number of very informative links one can follow to learn what to prune when. It is my yearly goal to touch every tree and shrub at least once a year, making pruning decisions on each.
  • Draw up those plans– Like most gardeners, I spend my winter getting cozy, dreaming, scheming and ordering plants. Unlike most home gardeners, I have acres this year for which to plan. Besides designing and ordering the usual yearly cadre of annuals for the Annual Garden, containers and other places annuals are tucked, I must design and order plants for several new permanent gardens currently under construction, such as the new Children’s Garden and Island Garden.

Needless to say, I might not keep farmers’ hours in the winter, but I have more than a full plate. Merry Christmas!

Josh Steffen
Horticulture Manager

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