Winter Gardening: Phase Four

The fourth and final phase of winter gardening will be upon us before we know it, if we can just hang on.

If you are not familiar with these four phases of winter gardening for us northern gardeners, a quick review…

Phase one is all about Putting Away all that ‘stuff’ in the garden that won’t withstand the vagaries of winter weather. I started this phase a little too late this past fall and was out there in the already cold weather trying to put two large brown tarps over chairs, benches, tables, pots, etc. Twice since then I’ve had to go out and fasten down the tarps again or risk them sailing across the garden.

Phase two is all about Settling In and enjoying the holidays. The holidays were just grand here at May Dreams Gardens and after I showed off my new hoe and set up my new weather station in a manner that will get it through the winter until I can do it properly in the spring, I actually painted my kitchen and breakfast area. It gave me a great sense of accomplishment to have that project finally finished after I had foolishly started doing it during the height of gardening season. Everyone told me to wait, that I wouldn’t get it done as long as there was gardening to be done, and they were right.

Phase three is currently going on and is all about Chilling Out. It’s about seed catalogs and indoor plants, forcing bulbs and dreaming of the garden and how it is going to be the best ever this year. Because it is.

Up next is Phase four of winter gardening which is all about Surviving It.

As winter drags on, we complete our seed orders, watch the forced blooms fade, and realize our house plants really don’t need all that much attention.

We look out the window hoping it won’t snow or ice up, again.

We’ve placed the snow blower in the ‘ready position’ in place of the lawn mower, and we spend more time with snow shovels than with hoes.

We notice our winter coat weighs a ton, and the scarf and gloves we’ve been wearing almost daily really could stand to be washed, again.

We wait. We wait some more. We look out the window. We sigh. We read the garden blogs of southern gardeners and want to see our gardens in bloom again, too.

And then one day, a crocus will bloom.

And then a tiny dwarf iris will add some color, like the Iris danfordiae pictured above, which bloomed in my garden last year on March 14th.

Then we’ll be on our way again, excited for spring. And looking back, it won’t seem like winter took that long, after all. We will have made it through all the holidays, another birthday, another Ground Hog Day, another Presidents Day. We will have survived the winter, all four phases, and soon…

We’ll be outside gardening again!


  1. This picture? Is this an iris? It is so beautiful.


  2. Very pretty. Is that your first flower, Carol? No snowdrops?

  3. Our winters are so different, Zone 7b, but effectively the phases are the same, save the snow. I like looking at gardening that way. Soon, our winter blooming plants will begin. We will rock on Bloom Day!

  4. Carol — you are breaking my heart! Last year's first flowers were snowdrops on March 15 in the only bare spot in the garden: next to the house on the south side. We still had so much snow front and back on 3/30/08 that we took pictures.

    It's 0 degrees as I write with an Alberta clipper blowing in and about six inches of snow predicted tomorrow. Phase Four seems like it may last a very, very long time here. I will be counting on your posts and pictures to get me through til I see green in my garden.

  5. Hang in there, northern gardeners. Just as you've listened to us grouse about the long, hot summer, you can cry on our shoulders about the long, cold winter. Nice how it works out that way, eh?

    By the way, it was 81 F here today. Diana (Sharing Nature's Garden) and I enjoyed lunch outdoors on the patio at El Chile.

  6. That is a beautiful dwarf iris. I have several of those in my garden too. Thanks for the pep talk today Carol. :)

  7. I do love the divisions you've created for the gardening year -- they're bang on!

  8. I've enjoyed all your installments. Thanks so much for "schooling" me on cold climate gardeners.

  9. I'm glad to say that our winter phases don't last so long as yours but they are all there. Phase one: only move a few pots but this winter has been colder than any for a long time - should have moved more! Phase two: I noted that the warm climate gardens has to prepare for the holidays and garden - a lot of work! Phase three: I make last as long as possible - great fun! Phase four: spring bulbs are going to be later this year, though I have flowers outside all winter but a garden near us has daffodils flowering now!

    Thank you for a good series of posts. Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  10. Well, I missed the first phase and am embracing the third phase! So much to read and learn and plan!

  11. You are right Carol. Spring is just around the frosty corner. We were buying birdseed at Rural King yesterday and they have their big rack of garden seeds set up. It was such a temptation. I just stood there and read the pictures.

  12. Stage Four is the hardest one for me. I find myself standing at the window, muttering "come on, already---how much snow do we really need???" But I have to keep reminding myself that spring really is just around the corner, and that there are plenty of northern gardeners suffering right along with me. Misery loves company, right? :)

  13. As a northern gardener, I can safely say that I am ready for spring/warmer weather. When the holidays are over, the cold weather should be such luck though.

    I've been making my computer background a new flower each week...

  14. Although I'm not finished with Phase 3, I have definitely moved on to Phase 4 already. An "arctic blast" is forecast for next week. I can't wait:(

  15. Love the phases - they're so perfect for Spokane's winters, too! Though maybe I should have a stage 5: Jumping the Gun, where overeager gardeners like myself foolishly prune, uncover mulched plants, buy tender annuals, etc. before the frost season is truly over. Regards, VW

  16. I have never heard of the 4 phases of winter. We primarily have what we call cold snaps. It turns cold for a few days, maybe even a hard freeze (which lasts maybe 8 hours) and then it warms up some again. Oh, don't get me wrong, when it's cold here, it's cold and you don't see me much outside!!

  17. I been reading through your older posts, just fascinating, added you to my bloglist!

  18. I'm stuck on the first phase, putting away. Oh, you meant putting stuff away outside? I'm putting away all the stuff inside I just threw in a corner when I was too busy gardening

  19. I'm with Kathy, still on phase 1. I knew I forgot to put some stuff away, but it's too cold to go outside and do anything about it.

  20. I love gardening. Wish I have more time to spend on it. Now, I'm into orchids. Beautiful!

  21. OH I can't wait to get my hands dirty.
    By the way, Carol, TAG you're IT!


  22. I'm still in Phase 1 also. I didn't put anything away and the yard is a mess under all the snow.

    Hopefully I'll catch up by the time spring comes around.

  23. I miss the beauty of my gardens and I ready for phase four too.


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