The Winter Solstice , generally, December 21st, signifies the shortest, darkest day of the year. The good news? The days will begin to get longer, working their way toward spring. For gardeners, though, the next six weeks seem to drag on forever. The weather numbs our fingers, the ground is frozen, the plants are hibernating and we just want to get outside and play in the dirt (I mean soil).

Winter Solstice. Original photo by Flemming. D5000 used under a Creative Commons License. Modifications by Armando Emanuel Roggio, the Elder

Since we can’t do much outside right now, it’s a good time to reflect on last year’s garden. Are there things you’d like to change? This is the time to start making the plan. Look at the pictures of your garden that you took last summer. (Remember when I suggested taking  pictures of your garden? Those pictures).  I’m usually surprised to see that my garden looks better in pictures then I thought it did and I think you’ll find the same. Also take a look at your winter garden. Observe the colors and shapes. Could it be you are ready for a change?   Are plants overgrown?  Divide them.  Don’t like something? Get rid of it. Plants aren’t like kids; we aren’t obligated to keep them forever. Too many?  Pass them on. We all have plants in our gardens that were passed on from a friend. Sometimes those turn out to be our favorites because they come with memories.

If you have some plants that are taking over your garden a rule of thumb is that if a plant blooms in early spring, divide it in the fall. If it blooms later in the season, divide or transplant it in spring

Do you want less lawn?  If you’re on a city water system, eliminating turf and rethinking the way you irrigate could be a wise financial choice.  Shrubs and perennials generally take less water then a lawn. Want a new bed? Put down 6-8 layers of black and white newspaper and cover with 4-6 inches of good top soil combined  with compost. This will suffocate the turf. Come spring, you’re ready to plant. This new bed will have pretty good soil because of the decomposed grass, newspaper and the compost.  It’s not too late to do this project now, before the grass begins to actively grow.  Earlier would have been better but now is better then later.

Does your garden include garden art? That is totally a personal choice but generally, the art should accent rather than overwhelm the plants.

Gardens are ongoing projects. Just when we think we have our perfect garden, the plants outgrow the space. Or the neighbor’s tree starts shading our garden and nothing blooms. Or we decide we hate yellow flowers.

Failures happen, but are rarely permanent. As gardeners, that’s how we learn. Roses can be replanted, invasive plants removed and we can move on to a new gardening adventure. Get ready; we’re about to be given the gift of another gardening season.

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