Winter is great for garden planning

In the Garden
Ralph Purkhiser, Purdue University Master Gardener

     A new year has arrived and most gardeners are looking forward to spring.  These cold winter days are a great time for planning.  Of course, that means looking through the various seed and nursery catalogues, looking for the seeds and plants that one wants to order for the spring.  In coming weeks, I will be writing about some of the award-winning varieties for 2023, but do not let the lure of the new varieties sway your choices too much.  The tried-and-true favorites still deserve space in your vegetable and ornamental gardens.
     It is also a wonderful time to consider changes to your hardscape.  With the bareness of winter, it is easier to see where adjustments are needed.   It is obvious now where a garden could benefit from adding height or depth.  It is also easy to see the pathways through a garden now and decide if changes to be made.  A different paving surface can make a lot of difference during these bare months.  In summer, when plants spill over the paths, those pathway materials are not seen as much.  You will also see where more winter interest is needed.  If there is nothing worth viewing in your garden, make plans to add some structures or plants that will improve that status in future years.  A strategically placed evergreen can make a huge difference in winter curb appeal and general garden interest.  Of course, I heartily recommend winterberry for adding interest during the winter.  The stems covered with berries really made a garden pop.  Like all hollies, winterberries are dioecious and must have a male plant for the female plants to set berries.  Happily, I have found that one male plant planted in an out-of-the-way location will pollinate several females and it will pollinate females of different cultivars.  That allows me to have different colors in the gardens.  They also will provide food for the birds during the winter.
     That brings to mind one of my favorite winter garden activities—feeding and watching the birds.  The price of bird seed has increased a lot since last year, so I may have to ration the seeds a little more this winter.   Feeding the birds is more for bringing the birds to my garden than contributing to the survival of the birds.  While they will come to feeders, if there are enough wild areas around, the birds will find food for survival.  Do not feel obligated to feed the birds, but doing so will provide a lot of entertainment.  For that reason, I am repeating an appeal I made a few years ago in this column.  Check with the people in charge of nursing homes, group homes and senior citizen apartments to see if they allow bird feeders.  If they do, get people to help buy feeders to place outside the windows of each unit, or at least outside the common areas.  Volunteer to fill the feeders a couple of times a week.  Add a heated birdbath to really draw in the birds.  The avian activity will entertain the residents for hours.
     Finally, this is a good time to increase your education on garden issues.  With the availability of the internet and the collection of good books in public libraries, you should be able to find information about almost any topic.  There are many free webinars, and you may assemble a group to share the cost of a program that requires fees.  Learn something new every day.  Spring is coming, when you can put the new knowledge to work.

 

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