5 Fun Things Flower Gardeners Should Do In The Winter
Once fall hits and the peak of summer production is gone, you might think that flower gardeners like myself take the whole season off. Nay, nay! There are plenty of fun and important things to do during the fall and winter seasons.
Cut flower gardeners have plenty to keep them busy during winter. To start, some plants can survive the colder weather and will need attention throughout the season. Additionally, there are tasks such as recording information about the season that has just ended, ordering seeds and plants for spring planting, and planning any new beds that need to be built.
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Can you have a garden in winter?
You can still have a garden in winter, giving you one less reason to take the season off! While the cut flower garden especially will look very different than in the summer, there are many plants that you can overwinter in the ground.
Perennial plants, which live multiple seasons, may need trimming to remove any dead or diseased branches. Depending on your climate, they may also need a good layer of mulch to keep the soil just a little bit warmer.
Some annuals, such as nasturtiums and calendulas, can take a little nip in the air. They won’t survive a hard freeze but might make it through a light frost. At the very least, you can expect to see some cheerful blooms later into the end of fall and the beginning of winter when your other cut flowers are already dead.
These can also survive the winter if you’ve grown any greens or herbs as part of your cut flower garden. Edible kale, ornamental cabbage, and mint can make it through colder temperatures. Their growth will be much slower than summer growth, but even a good frost won’t kill them.
You can make a little green bouquet to freshen up your kitchen or throw those leaves into a dish you’re cooking.
If you’re flowers are still kicking, learn which ones you can expect to survive further into the fall season with this article, Will A Fall Frost Kill Your Cut Flowers?
1. Prepare your flowerbeds for winter
At the beginning of winter, flower bed clean-up and preparation will give your garden a head start come next spring. Instead of cleaning up debris from the last year and getting your soil ready to receive new plants, that work will already be done.
It’s a good idea to leave behind some plant material to provide a habitat for insects and small creatures that live in the garden, but that can be balanced with removing big piles of debris that would otherwise get in the way next spring.
Once you’ve pulled out the annual flower plants that won’t survive the winter (or are already dead), you can pile mulch on top of the bed to provide some insulation and organic matter to the soil.
For example, take advantage of the leaves falling in your yard. Lay them on top of the garden beds to decompose over winter. You can pull the much aside in the spring and plant straight into the soil.
You can read more about why leaving old plant matter in and on the garden bed is beneficial in this article, You Should Leave Dead Plants In The Garden For Winter (Here’s Why).
2. Fill out your garden planner or journal with records
Many gardeners promise themselves that they’ll take good records of their growing year. What was planted, when it sprouted, and what kind of harvest that one variety of snapdragons provided. But once the season gets going, it’s very easy to say, “I’ll do it later,” and then never actually do it.
Your memory of seed sowings and flower harvests won’t be as clear as when they happened, but it’ll be worse if you wait until next spring when you wonder just how many transplants of bells of Ireland you meant to grow this year. So do yourself a favor and record what you can now in the lull of winter.
Use the photos on your phone to jog your memory, and use the date stamps to make at least a sketch of your past season. Ask yourself these questions:
- Were there any big flops that you want to avoid next season?
- Any clever successes that you want to replicate?
- Which seed varieties do I want to grow again?
3. Order seeds and plants for the spring
Speaking of seed purchases, winter is undoubtedly the time to dream and plan for next year’s cut flowers. Once your mailbox starts overflowing with seed catalogs, set aside some time to dive in and see what’s new for the year. It’s fun to try a few new varieties each year to add to your collection of tried-and-true staples.
I’d never plant a cut flower garden without Queen Lime series zinnias, but next year I’m giving the Oklahoma series a try. Maybe I’ll find a new favorite!
If you don’t want to start any seeds indoors, winter can be the time to decide which plants to buy. Cut flowers such as lisianthus can be a pain to start from seed, so purchasing starts can spare you a headache.
These are some of my favorite seed companies to order from: 10 Best Places To Buy Quality Flower Seeds Online.
4. Plan out a new flower bed
Once you’ve ordered way more seeds than you need (don’t worry, we all do it), you’ll probably need more beds to put them in. There are a few ways to do this: rearrange the layout of your current beds to find more room, eliminate some cut flowers from last season that you don’t plan to grow again, or keep everything and make more room for them all.
One guess which is a flower gardener’s preferred method…
Once you’ve decided to create a new bed, you can spend time planning where to locate this new growing space and its layout. Even if you don’t build the bed right now, it can be beneficial to gather the supplies, so they’re on hand for when you’re ready.
Compost, lumber if it’s a raised bed, stakes, or netting that you’ll need for the taller cut flowers, and any new irrigation supplies can all go on the list. Not only will your supplies be ready, but you’ll also beat out the spring rush of other gardeners putting in their orders.
Get all the planning tips to help you get started in this article, How To Plan A Cut Flower Garden: Beginner’s Guide.
5. Read flower gardening books for inspiration
Finally, on those days when the weather is just too dreary to want to go outside, have a stack of books waiting for you. Whether you’re digging into Floret’s photographic inspiration or Lisa Mason Ziegler’s in-depth knowledge of hardy annuals, there are many books to learn from.
And don’t feel you have to limit yourself to books only about cut flower gardening. Soil science, companion planting, and flower farming are other topics that can teach us, flower gardeners, more about our craft. Read up on how to start herbs seeds, how to make your compost, or how to find cut flowers that will also attract pollinators.
Here are some of my favorite titles:
My favorite flower gardening books
- If you’re new to cut flower gardening, Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden should be first on your reading list. Plant profiles, seasonal tasks, and arrangement tutorials will get anyone started with growing their own bouquets.
- Vegetables Love Flowers will show you how effective companion planting can be for adding plant diversity, attracting pollinators and birds, and squeezing a few more plants into your garden space.
- If you need some science to inspire your planting combinations, check out Plant Partners: Science-Based Companion Planting Strategies for the Vegetable Garden. Never a better reason to grow some flowers!
No matter the topic, a cup of tea and a good gardening book are a classic combo while dreaming of next year’s garden.