Garden Planning During the Winter

Stuck inside on a cold Winter’s day? It’s a great chance to take some time to reflect on what worked well in the garden last year as well as what didn’t, then start a little garden planning for the changes you want to make this year.

Growing hostas need to be divided - something to consider when garden planning
These hostas have grown into each other and need to be divided. The best time to to do that is in the Spring, just after the shoots emerge.

I often try to make some changes in the Fall, but usually there are some things that I just don’t get time to do, and others that are either best done in the Spring.

For example, there are some hostas that I would like to divide or move in my garden, which is best done in the spring once the shoots have come up. I’d also like to  expand the gardens in the front yard to accommodate some vegetables this year (yup, I’m doing it!) as the front yard gets more sun than the backyard.

Taking Notes

It’s helpful to keep a journal, including pictures of the things you love about your garden and those things that you’re not too fond of. Then, when you get to January you can take a look at it and start to make plans.

  • Take photos of the garden at all times of year, even in the dead of winter.
  • Look at plant combinations for colour, texture and size
  • Consider the health of plants, perhaps lighting conditions have changed and plants are no longer getting the light they need. This is the case in our backyard where trees have grown taller.
  • Were pests a problem? Could some companion planting help to fix this?
  • Are there some plants that have become too ambitious and need to be divided or removed? Some plants are voracious self-seeders with no consideration for their neighbours.
  • Consider the weather conditions in the past year. Many of my plants grew tall and leggy this past year, then promptly fell over at the first sign of snow, where usually many provide good structure for some of winter and are good food sources for birds.
A lack of garden planning: A messy garden
Some better garden planning could have helped with this. This messy garden in the backyard contained plants that had grown, bare spots where some had died over the winter, and a bunch of weeds. In the background is the old cement patio that we’ve since replaced with a low deck.

Sketch It Out

Whether you think you can draw well or not, it’s very helpful to make a quick sketch of your ideas. Even if it’s a few simple roughly-circular blobs in a scrap piece of paper, a sketch can help you visualize spacing and heights.

Maltese Cross & Tiger Eye Sumac
Maltese Cross grew into a Tiger’s Eye Sumac. While the colour combination looked good, it was a mess, and didn’t match with the colour scheme of the rest of the garden. I pulled out the Maltese Cross last Spring.

Garden Planning: Budgeting – Time and Money

When planning for changes to your yard or garden, consider how much time the changes you have in mind will take, and any associated costs.

Are the changes something you can tackle yourself? Be realistic about the time you have and other commitments, even health conditions may come into play.  Having a full-time job and being a parent restrict the amount of time you can spend in the yard. Having tendinitis is going to limit what physical you can safely tackle on your own.

You may have to break projects down into manageable tasks to be undertaken a few minutes at a time in the evenings or on weekends, and don’t forget that allowances for weather need to be taken into consideration. Just because you plan to spend every weekend in late April/early May outdoors getting things into shape doesn’t mean the weather will cooperate.

Some things you just can’t do yourself. If you plan to invest in a landscaping company or hired help of some sort, what’s your budget? Even if you’re enlisting the help of partners or family members, you will likely have to take their availability into count. Is this something you can afford to do in one big lump or do you need to prioritize and tackle bigger changes over the next several weeks, months or even years?

Grab a hot drink, a notepad and pen, and find someplace quiet and comfy to sit for a bit. Garden planning now will save you time, frustration and maybe even some money in the very near future!

JCCarnegie Written by:

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