Winter Gardening: Phase Three

Although Phase Three of Winter Gardening doesn’t officially start until after the New Year begins, it’s good to know about it now, so that planning for it can take place here in the midst of Phase Two.

Phase Three is all about Chilling Out, both literally and figuratively. It takes place in January and early February when we can and will have some of the coldest days of the winter.

Other than occasionally walking around outside and muttering about how cold it is, the only gardening that really goes on during this Phase Three of Winter Gardening is taking place inside and in our own imaginations.

You would think we would relax and do something else other than gardening or thinking about gardening for awhile, knowing there is nothing we can do in the garden, but that’s not as easy to do as you might think.

There are seed catalogs to read! Yes, I start reading the seed catalogs right after the last of the holiday decorations are put away. As the catalogs arrive, I might glance through them, but then I set them aside until January, the official beginning of Seed Exploration and Examination Days (SEED)

There are hyacinth bulbs to force! Yes, I put some hyacinth bulbs in the back of my refrigerator in the fall, sometime during Phase One. (Oops, sorry if didn’t remind you to do this back then). In early January, I pull the bulbs out, fill the hyacinth vases with water, and then set the bulbs on top and watch and wait for them to bloom sometime in February.

There are house plants to tend to! Yes, I get enamored with house plants about this time. I trim them a little, rotate them so they’ll grow evenly, and occasionally acquire a few new ones.

There are garden plans to make! Yes, I think about what I’m going to do in the garden as soon as it warms up. I plan out flower beds, vegetable gardens, all kinds of gardens. Some of them I actually plant in the spring, others remain ideas for years and years.

There are books and blogs and articles to read! Yes, I hope to get a few new gardening books for Christmas, assuming I’ve been good this year, and I’ll keep up with blog reading and writing. At some point, I’ll drag out the gardening magazines I’ve barely had time to read during the year and read them more thoroughly.

It all sounds wonderful and dreamy, doesn’t it, my fellow gardeners of the south who have much to do in your gardens in January. It really is a time for rest, a time for chilling out, a time for garden planning and dreaming.

But about half-way through, we start to long for that final phase of winter gardening, Phase Four. More on that later…

(If it warms up tomorrow, I’ll be pulling out those pansies pictured above. The snow melted but the cold weather finished these pansies off.)


  1. Jan/Feb are when I visit the Botanical Gardens--a lot!

  2. Oh yes, this is the season for the catalogs. My big distress comes from the fact that I misplaced one of them! At least they are online too. Oh the planning and dreaming to be done. Don't you get such a rush when another one comes in the mail?

  3. I started phase 3 early, just as soon as the catalogs arrived in the mail.

  4. hummm

    Us southern gardeners need to think about the different phases of gardening down here.

    In Houston, I think they would (brief outline) consist of stage one: start seeds in January and weed.
    February: sow cool weather crops and weed
    March: enjoy wild flowers and plant out the gardens and weed.
    April. Weed. May Harvest and weed.
    June harvest tomatoes and start pulling out cool weather crops who have no doubt dun burned up. Weed.
    July: weed and water and pray for rain.
    August weed and water and pray for rain. start seeds for fall garden.
    September plant fall garden. Weed. Pray for no hurricanes.
    October, start to harvest from fall garden. Weed
    November, Weed, harvest
    December, weed, harvest, watch weather for cold nights...


    that's about 12 stages, each of whom include Weeding. Sigh.

  5. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  6. Down here in the Deep South, it is during the heat of the summer that our gardening slows down. We sit inside an air conditioned house with a glass of ice tea and just look at our gardens. Come winter time, we can still garden most days because of the mild temperatures.

    Always Growing

  7. I think I'm at the end of Phase Two and wanting to go into Phase Three, but there's Christmas and three birthdays to get through first.

    Thanks for the reminder.~~Dee

  8. Carol, I find that Phase III is a great way to beat winter doldrums. What else can you give you such a lift as looking at brightly colored flowers in the catalogs while the snow piles up outside your door? I must admit this is the phase of gardening I am really good at:)

  9. I'm with you! I just started pulling out the year's gardening magazines and poring through them. The first heavy rains of the season seem like the perfect excuse for a hot bath with Fine Gardening.

  10. I enjoy reading your accounts of your winter gardening phases because they're so very different from mine! As Nancy lamented in her comment, weeding is a year-round gardening activity here. Every year at this time I think I've gotten somewhere in the ongoing war against Oxalis ... and a month or so later, I realize that it's been vanquished in one area only to reappear in another!

  11. Hi Carol, ever the early bird, I had to place my seed order early and have already received them even! Free shipping, how could I wait until it was time for that phase? And a heat mat to start the seeds, a new step. A couple of pots are already up, I need lights! Financier, are you reading this???

  12. I like what you said about making garden plans and maybe not getting them done right away. That sounds like me.

  13. I'm ready to start Phase III early this year. It seems like winter settled in early. Maybe spring will come early? One can only hope.

  14. I'm looking forward to that Chilling out time after Christmas. Way more busy than I'd like to be right now. I've already started those garden catalogs so I guess I'm partially into Phase 3!

  15. Nancy's comment was funny. I was just noticing the weeds in BOTH my gardens over the weekend. Ugh.

    Enjoy your rest from weeding, Carol.


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