Category Archives: Winter Gardening

5 Winter Garden Projects to Help You Get Ahead

Winter is a lovely season to rest and spend free time flipping through the seed catalogs, earmarking way too many varieties, and doing a bit of dreaming and garden planning. We spend these months looking forward to spring when we can get out in the garden again. Unfortunately, spring can be both a fun and overwhelming time. There’s so much to do! Here are five garden projects you can complete this winter to get ahead for spring. 

Start or Maintain a Compost

Compost is one of the best garden amendments. It adds nutrients, builds soil structure, and improves drainage. Composting is also a great way to reduce your household waste and you can start a compost pile any time of year. Visit Black Gold: Making Compost for a beginners guide or Winter Composting for more seasonal advice. 

Build Season Extenders

You don’t have to build an enormous greenhouse or a desire to grow food year round to create and use season extenders. Simple cold frames can help you start and harden off seedlings earlier. Low tunnels allow you to harvest cold hardy greens and brassicas earlier in the spring and protect them from summer heat and insects as the season continues. 

Create your own cold frames this winter with simple materials like straw bales, wood, and old windows. You can also gather supplies for low-tunnels. You can purchase low tunnel supplies from many garden suppliers or you can diy your own with materials like PVC, tulle, and plastic. 

Maintain and Repair Tools

Don’t wait until you need them next spring to get your tools in order. Winter is a great time to sharpen blades, replace broken handles and in the case of power equipment, gather supplies for spring oil changes and other needed maintenance. 


One of the cardinal rules of sustainable gardening is to never leave bare soil. Bare soil creates opportunity for erosion and is poor habitat for beneficial insects, fungi, and organisms. Take advantage of any warm days this winter to cover bare spots in your garden. Old leaves work great for this!

Keep Learning

On the days where the weather is truly to bad to be out, you can continue your gardening education. We’re never done learning! Read some seed saving books, listen to your favorite garden podcasts, or settle down with a show and some popcorn.

The growing season is often too busy tackle all the projects we’d like. Get ahead this season with these five winter garden projects.

What to Sow in January

Written by Lisa Dermer. Source materials include conversations with Ira Wallace.

As the year begins we’re eager to start sowing seeds, but nervous about starting too early and having big, leggy transplants and nowhere to plant them. There are lots of crops we can and should start in January: bulbing onions, rhubarb, artichokes, celery and celeriac, parsley, and spring flowers (like poppies, chamomile, and evening primrose). Long season hot peppers (like habañero) can be started at the end of January; peppers are generally slow to germinate. We’ll start our seeds indoors, or outside in cold frames or the hoophouse, for transplanting later in the spring.

Be aware of when you want to plant and decide when to sow transplants by counting back from then! Overly large transplants suffer greater transplant shock and may have reduced yields. Brassicas like kale, collards, cabbage, and broccoli should have 3-4 true leaves and be about six weeks old when you transplant. Tomatoes and eggplants also need about six weeks, and peppers need 8-10 weeks. In our area we transplant most brassicas in mid-March, so we’ll wait until early February to sow. We provide recommended planting dates (PDF) >>

Sow bulbing onions for transplant now if you haven’t sown them already. Those in the lower South should have already sown Short Day Length bulbing onions, like Vidalia, last fall. In-between areas like us will have the best results growing Long to Intermediate Day Length bulbing onions, and starting them in December or January. Transplant out when they’re still thinner than a pencil! Read about growing bulbing onions >>

Artichokes and rhubarb should be sown in January and grown in cold frames to vernalize. They need the exposure to colder temperatures now to put on much growth later.

Winter has been warm all over the South: we’ve been sowing greens in cold frames and the hoophouse every couple weeks since fall. You can sow a variety of winter hardy greens (spinach, cress, mustard greens, arugula) throughout January. Remember, plants grow slowly in winter’s low light – even in warm greenhouses your starts may not put on much growth until the sun is stronger.

There’s still work to be done outside, even if it’s too early to be putting out plants. On nice days, prepare your beds if the weather is warm and dry enough. Then cover with mulch or row cover (prevent erosion on bare soil!) until you’re ready to plant. And don’t forget to look after your perennials – most fruit trees need pruning in winter, before they start to bud.

Request a free copy of our new catalog if you haven’t received one yet. We do expect to run out of some varieties, so order early while things are still in stock.

Happy winter gardening!