A GROWING CONCERN: Winter homework for best spring garden grade

  • Sunday, December 24, 2017 10:11am
  • Life

Merry Christmas everyone!

I hope you are all surrounded by dear friends (not deer families) and family on this most joyous day, with piles of smiles and gift wrapping adorning the household.

It is also time for gardeners to rejoice because today there is more daylight than yesterday.

What some people see as the discouraging beginning of a cold, gray winter is actually the beginning of the newest spring plant party.

The winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, was Thursday of this last week.

Days will now grow longer and nights shorter, and although it will be negligible to detect for the first few weeks, remember, it is happening!

Your plants have biologically evolved to react to such a change, and it is now your gift to welcome the change, too.

In Jefferson and Clallam counties, next year’s spectacular showing in your yard and at your businesses is very dependent on the plans you make, enacted during this winter season, not to mention getting outdoors for fresh air and activity.

Realize that these are days of excitement, creative thinking, adventurous planning and refreshing moments, not gray and gloom at all.

So let’s get busy.

It is time to decide on color combinations, themes of design, heights of plantings and structures, and sizes of scale, leaf and mass.

Plot and plan where you need berms, flower beds, trees, shrubs, flower boxes or rose gardens.

Then there are all of those important questions dealing with variety, texture and types of plants.

Will you use cut flowers, heritage plants, herbs for the kitchen concoctions or leathery leaf textures for additions to your flower arrangements?

Do trees need to be thinned or limbed?

Would a pond help in irrigation or for support of some of your exotic bog plant desires or to add shade for the koi you’ve dreamed of?

These questions are the absolute difference between an A or a B grade that you’ll want to give your garden in a few short months from today.

The big question usually result in big-project answers, with winter being the time to do these jobs, such as building rock retaining walls, pathways, raised-bed gardens or planter boxes.

Now is also the best time to build up your garden’s soil, because you have a nice break from the growing season of spring and summer, or the cleanup chore time of fall — and the double bonus round of needing to work off a few pounds that you’ve gained with turkey meals and peanut brittle snacking.

The rains of the next few months will also settle the ground around your projects, a very good thing.

In addition, the time between now and spring will allow damage done to the lawn or fauna by heavy equipment to heal and revive before precious buds appear and soil warms up the roots of plants into a fury of growth.

So what else should we be doing as we begin planning 2018?

First realize that winter is a very active time in the gardening world.

• Collect all manner of books, bookmark your favorite websites for plant or bulb purchasing, and research product ideas and costs.

• Dream about your utmost desires in your outdoor space, envisioning your property expanding outward.

• Plan long-term to achieve those desires.

• Enroll in classes, seminars or lectures.

• Go to the Pacific Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle, where we’ve arranged a luxury bus for opening day of Feb. 7 (contact me at 360-417-1639 for more details).

• Make this the year you join a garden club, fruit club, beekeeping society or any other special interest club, like mushrooming.

• Seek out new nurseries and visit them for ideas and inventory.

To everyone, merry Christmas and good fortune to you in the new year for all of you and your garden families and dear friends.

I sure enjoy watching your gardens grow and your minds expand as you sow seeds of wisdom in your yards, as the Peninsula welcomes the wonderful year of 2018.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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