10 Things to Do in Your Garden in the Winter

I know. Trust me. The itch during that first mild winter day to get out there and start putting seeds in the ground, tilling, raking, etc. Here are a few things you can (and should) do to prepare your garden this winter. We are in garden zone 7a. 

1. Plan Your Garden

What worked last year? What didn’t? If disease plagued one of your vegetables, consider moving it to a different bed this year. Typically, you’ll want to rotate crops to confuse pests, but also to give the beds a break from heavy feeders, like kale. 

If you don’t take notes during the season, you should start this year. Every year is an opportunity to learn and adjust based on your experiences. No two gardens are alike and no two seasons are alike. 

For the last five years, we’ve grown a huge garden for our CSA in order to feed over 50 families in the community fresh, locally grown produce. This will be my first year dialing it back to feeding our family. We relocated the garden, scaled down, so there will be a learning curve for me to get back in the groove with a small scale – but I’m excited for it! 

2. Purchase Seeds

Take a look at your seeds and make your order! I love Baker Creek Seeds. I’ll always grab some fun new varieties. Johnny’s Selected Seeds is also a great choice. Another fun opportunity is looking into community seed swaps. Personally, I love getting the seed catalogs and comparing the varieties with the full descriptions right there on paper.

There are so many different varieties of seeds these days, it’s so easy to get lost in the mix. I find it easier to compare apples to apples on paper. 

3. Start Seeds Indoors

Most cool weather crop seeds can be started 8-12 weeks prior to your first frost date. At minimum to start seeds you’ll need trays, seed starter, a watering can or spray bottle, and a south facing window or grow light – and seeds, of course. 

4. Learn

There are many different things to learn about gardening. Companion planting, pests, diseases, soil, raised beds, greenhouse hoops, composting, till, no till, fertilizers, heirloom, organic, natural and synthetic pesticides and herbicides. There are endless opportunities to learn a new facet of gardening. 

5. Add Compost/Mulch

If you have the itch to actually get into your garden, consider top dressing your beds or ground garden with compost, mulch, or leaves. Especially if you didn’t do this in the fall. Don’t till yet – even if you plan to in the future. Bugs and critters burrow into the ground during winter, you don’t want to disturb them.

If you have raised beds with no bottom, you’ll often lose a few inches of soil each season. This is a great opportunity to fill up those beds. 

6. Repair

This is the perfect time to get into the garden and make some repairs. During the busy growing and harvesting season, it can feel like you don’t have enough time to make repairs or move things around. Use this time to reinforce your raised beds with braces or extra screws.

You could also take this time to replace and broken or rotted boards, and fix up garden fence. 

7. Weed and Clean Up

Maybe this one will make you reconsider your desire to get into the garden. If you’ve had a mild winter, like we’ve had, and your ground isn’t frozen, consider pulling some weeds.

If you’re anything like me, by the end of the growing season, you just want to rip everything out and be done with it. This often means tomato cages get left in, cucumber vines are still hanging on the trellis, and no weeding is done. 

You should hold off on pulling weeds inside your garden bed during this time to avoid disturbing any critters, but if you know that this is likely the only time you’ll have to get to doing this before planting craziness starts, go for it. Typically, I’ll take this time to weed the walkways at minimum. 

8. Take Stock of Tools & Equipment

Replace or fix anything that is broken. Consider new tools you may need that will make life easier during the growing season. It was a total game-changer when we added sprinklers with a timer. My favorite tool of all time is the Amazon Garden Weasel – it can loosen packed dirt, it can pull weeds, and it can make your shoulders look ripped. 

9. Prepare for the Pollinators

Attract pollinators and increase the yields and success of your garden by planting native flowers and herbs in and around your garden. Limit the use of pesticides. I am adding an insect hotel to my garden this winter! It touts to attract ladybugs, bees, and butterflies. We will see how it does! 

Want to go crazy? Add some bee hives! 

10. Remove and Replace Soil

Seems a little backwards, right? Here are some reasons you would remove and replace the soil in your garden this winter. 

  • Relentless plant disease
  • Garden pests with no resolution
  • Soil is completely lacking nutrients and is not remedying with adding nutrient-dense compost and soil.