Winter Gardening: Phase One

Are you wondering how we "northern gardeners" make it through winter without "gardening"?

On her blog Edenmakers™, Shirley Bovshow asked, "Garden Coma: What will you do while your garden sleeps?"

I commented there about the four phases that I go through each year.

And I am pleased to report that phase one is done. I awoke this morning to see a white substance on some of the bare ground, a sure sign that even if phase one isn't done, it is time to move on to phase two anyway.

Do you know what that white substance it is?

No, it is not gypsum sprinkled on the ground to complete a secret end of the season ritual that involves paying homage to the rabbits to appease them so they will keep winter damage in the garden to a minimum.

But that was a good guess.

It's actually a snow and ice mixture, a wintry mix. Brrrr... just that phrase, 'wintry mix', leaves me cold.

So what is involved in phase one of winter gardening? In two words... Putting Away.

We put away or cover anything in the garden that would not survive snow, ice, snow and ice mixture, wintry mix, alternating freezing and thawing, or just plain cold weather. We definitely disconnect hoses and stow them where they won't freeze, and if we are going to keep a bird bath through the winter, we add a heater to keep it from freezing solid.

We also selectively cut back perennial flowers, pull out all the annuals, rake up fall leaves, and clean up the vegetable garden, all with the idea of leaving just enough in the garden for 'winter interest'.

You can see that behind the rabbit pictured above, I've left the some Sedum flowers for 'winter interest'. At least I've left them for now. If we get another nice day, and I feel a need to use my pruners, I might cut them back, too.

This 'winter interest' is in the eye of the beholder, I think. What is interesting to some gardeners in the winter just looks to others like someone didn't get around to cleaning up the garden. To be honest, we have to admit that sometimes 'winter interest' just looks like a bunch of dead branches. But most would agree that it is enhanced by a gentle snowfall.

I don't think anyone would think this is winter interest.

Under two brown tarps, I've stashed pots, benches, a table, five chairs and several 'garden ornaments', including a sundial and bird bath. This is why I think twice about some of the stuff people try to sell to put in the garden. What goes out in the spring, has to be put up in the fall. It can involve a lot of work, all that carrying out and carrying in, and it can take time, time I'd rather spend actually gardening.

I laugh at all the 'outdoor rooms' and impractical garden furniture I see on all those television makeover shows. Who has room to store all that stuff in the winter time? Or the time to completely put it away in the winter and get it out again in the spring? I try to think it through carefully before I buy something to put in the garden that has to be put away in the winter.

But I digress.

Phase one of winter gardening is now complete. Everything is put away. I've mowed the grass one final time, cut back what I plan to cut back, and now there is a bit of snow on the ground.

It's time to move on to phase two of winter gardening... a topic for a future post.


Related posts:

Embrace fall clean up for a happier life

Who's behind in their fall clean up: Five lessons

More fall clean up tips


  1. I read this post with interest because the putting away phase is such a foreign concept to those of us who garden in mild climates. Well, maybe not ... we have such a phase, too. It's called preparing for a hurricane!

  2. Snowing here, too, the 'wintry mix' that you mention. And everything is put away; event eh tractor, just back from service and tucked into a clean barn. Love the sense of closure and control that happens for like 5 minutes now, when nothing "has" to be done.

  3. After I read the post title, I was expecting to get very jealous while reading about a plush heated greenhouse or a basement full of high powered lights and grow racks. But instead, your winter gardening projects sound a lot like mine.

    It's all about cleaning up and catching up when the weather gets cold.

  4. Yes, it time to settle into winter.Taking down the Fall decorations yesterday while the weather was pleasant and putting up some Christmas decorations before the snow comes in today and tomorrow. Also had to give the lawn a final mowing to chop up the oak leaves that never crumble up in the winter and last forever, but if not mowed they all end up blown upon my front porch somehow. So we are settled in now and ready for whatever winter has in store, along with our seed catalogs and blogs. Glad I am not the only one who wonders about these makeover shows and their impractical lawn decor.

  5. This morning when I looked out back, green leaves from the Weeping Willows were falling like snow all over the back lawn. Guess who was out there raking in the snow? I also noticed that I hadn't got all the Cottonwood leaves out of the beds. I ended up with cold, sodden mittens, red fingers & a feeling of closure. It can snow now. I'm ready.

  6. I bet phase two will be your indoor gardening?

  7. I am very careful not to buy pottery and garden ornaments that can't take the freeze/thaw cycle. Its just too hard to haul them all to a protected place. Same with plants. Only bring three pots into the garage and those have succulents in them which are marginally hardy here.

    Looking forward to Phase II. What will it be?

  8. Hi!
    I love your blog! I was blog hopping today and found you. I live in Zone 5 also, Northeastern Indiana. We are also getting a rain snow mix today. My gardening chores are all done, now for spring, I'm ready!! LOL I was looking at some of your blogs. They are really great. I've just started my Gardening Woes blog. Not much on it. Just thought I would drop a line and say hi! Take Care!!


  9. Carol - great post. We missed the snow - my in-laws got 2 inches today and we flew back home yesterday. I never realized how much work winterizing is for you and how much you have to put away. That'll keep you busy even though you are not "gardening!"

  10. I need to be getting busy with that Phase one. I have only about half of my stuff put away.

  11. They're calling for six inches of snow but so far it's just wet and gray. I have done exactly three things to prepare the yard for winter: brought in the hose, swapped one of the birdfeeders for a suet cage, and mulched the leaves to dump on the gardens. I leave all the plants for the birds and mousies and anyone else who comes by. Plus, it gives my dog places to investigate when she goes outside. I clean up the front yard gardens but the back yard is au naturel!

  12. Hi Carol,
    Today was going to be my 'catching up' day in the garden(s) around my house. But nature had other plans...a nice cold rain. It's too wet to go out and clip and/or bring stuff into the garage...and, it's also too wet to put the Christmas lights on the bushes! So, my rainy day has been spent blog-cruising! I will SOON get outside, however, and finish my clean up. It's at least a few weeks past-due. Thanks for the reminder! Jan

  13. I don't know, Carol...with a nice covering of snow that tarp might have some "winter interest," too.

    As you saw today, we had a few inches of REAL snow last night, so I guess I'm done with phase one, except I realized while traipsing about taking photos today that not everything is put away. I hope I can get that done before I need to start phase two...whatever that is.

  14. Ah, yes, Phase One is completed here as well. The last of the pots have been emptied and put in the garden shed, and I'm pretty sure I've located all of the tools I've managed to lose over the course of the season. Looking forward to seeing what Phase Two is!

  15. Perhaps people who live in no- or seldom-freeze zones are the ones who buy all that garden stuff? I don't put anything away for the winter here in Austin.

    I notice that, despite the snow and cold, your grass is very green. It looks almost spring-like.

  16. I've been feeling guilty about not cleaning up around my yard because it's just too darn cold for me out there. Well I guess I'm a wimp since you all are already getting snow! Thankfully I don't have to put away as much stuff as you, just remove the dead stuff that will never get a beautiful covering of snow. I'm interested to hear about phase 2!

  17. All, thanks for the nice comments. The grass looks green because we had mild, sunny weather in the week leading up to the day I took the picture, when we got that little bit of snow.

    It seems I have much in common w/ my fellow gardeners, especially when it comes to putting off the Putting Away for as long as possible!

    A post on Phase Two is forthcoming on Thursday, the 4th!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  18. Hi Carol,
    Great information. Thanks for mentioning my blog post on the sleeping garden. You shared even more info here and I look forward to reading about phase 2!

  19. I'm so glad you said that about winter interest being in the eye of the beholder. Yes, indeed. I tend to trim back for just the reason you said. I hate a messy look. I force myself to leave some things for the birds and I left the heleniums at about 24" so that they stop the snow from blowing on through the garden. But in general, things have been trimmed back.

  20. I have gotten behind in my reading, and am going through all the blogs I follow this evening, and reading what I missed. Here I thought I was original in my recent Wordless Wednesday post in showing a photo of our picnic table all wrapped in tarp with two snow shovels leaning against it. You had already shown a tarp. LOL

    I am looking forward to the end of the month, when the days start getting longer.


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