Winter Warm-up – The New Normal?

Like most folks I know, I have been enjoying this taste of Spring in December. Long walks in the woods, evenings around the fire pit, games on the lawn with my grandson, cut flowers in Winter… But at the back of my mind there has been a nagging worry. What does this mean for gardens and gardeners? Is this the new normal?

First let’s focus on what it means for our plants this year. These unseasonable temperatures will have consequences this Spring. The plants themselves are not at greater risk, but blooms now mean fewer blooms in Spring. Fewer blooms mean less fruit, seed and nut production. Less food for us, less food for foraging animals, and less nectar to feed our pollinators.

I’ve seen a few bees out foraging this week.  Foraging now means they return to the hive hungry, and feed on their precious store of honey – honey that they will need to get them through the Winter. If you keep bees, make sure to supplement their food this Winter. Come Spring, they will venture out and find fewer blooms, less nectar. The life cycles of pollinators may not coincide with flowering this year, and that will have a negative effect on both pollinators and plants. We will see reduced pollination and thus less fruit production. This is sad for home gardeners, and financially troubling for commercial growers.

Whatever you do, don’t prune yet! It is tempting to get out in the warm weather and do some cleanup, but pruning now will encourage new growth that will be susceptible to winter kill when the temperatures drop again. Fruiting plants need more cooling hours before they are ready for production, so leave them be until February.

So is this the “new normal”? Climate science says we can expect continued gradual warming, and Winter warm-ups like this will become more common. http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg2/index.php?idp=353 While an individual cannot change the weather, we can do our part to reduce our personal carbon footprint, and put pressure on corporations to do the same. And we can keep on gardening, organically whenever possible. Please reduce or eliminate your use of pesticides to give our bees a fighting chance. Our Personal Edens have a net positive effect on our local air quality, soil health, wildlife health, and our own health. So keep up the good work, fellow gardeners! Keep Calm Garden On. Magnolia in December

 

Dead of Winter Garden Check List

Rainbow over Foster Hill

To avid gardeners, Winter can make you feel separated from your beloved Personal Eden. The leaves and the blooms have retreated and the ground is hard and cold. There may not seem to be one single reason to venture out into the garden, so I’ll give you 7 reasons that will allow you to reconnect with Nature and get excited for Spring. And you’ll get a little exercise too!

  1. If you’re like me and you haven’t done this yet, cut back perennials and pull up dead annuals. I should have done this in November, but… And look for Winter-damage. Ice storms can cause damage to tree limbs and shrubs. If you see ragged tears, use a sharp edged tool to make a clean cut. Ragged tears are open wounds and are very susceptible to insect and disease infestation.
  2. Pull winter weeds – in the middle and lower South, we have them! In February, you can add corn gluten to the lawn and beds where you will not be seeding. Corn gluten is a great organic pre-emergent weed killer. But for now, eliminate weeds the old-fashioned way. Weeding warms you up!
  3. Fluff your raised vegetable beds and add compost. Not all commercial composts are the same, so be sure to do your homework. I add 3-6” of Super Sod’s Soil3 compost because it is OMRI listed for use in organic gardens, and the results have been amazing! http://www.soil3.com
  4. Feed the birds with seed and suet. If you keep bees, feed them too! Food is less available in the winter months, and if we get a warm period, the bees will go out foraging, expending energy. They will return from their expedition empty-handed and dip into the stored honey they need to get them through to Spring.
  5. Walk your garden path with a pad in hand and make notes of changes you would like to make. The bones of the garden are obvious now, and it’s easier to see the need for design changes or new placement of yard art. Winter is a great time to identify areas that need screening – like your compost bins, a busy street, or the neighbor’s trampoline. Or plan a new garden! There’s always room for more.
  6. Clean, sharpen and organize your tools. You will be pruning soon.
  7. Go inside, warm up, and order seeds! Some of my favorite sites for organic and non-GMO seeds are www.seedsofchange.com www.highmowingseeds.com www.southernexposure.com

Personal Edens Returns

A few years ago, I started blogging about my garden and other gardens designed, tended and loved by avid gardeners. It was one of very many things to which I had over-committed. As often happens, the things you enjoy doing get pushed aside for the things you must do. That path has been trodden by many before me and will be trodden again by many to follow. If you see yourself falling into this pattern, take heed. Take care of what really matters – there is only one unique and special you. Take stock, decide what matters most, what you love to do, and free yourself from the energy vampires. And welcome back to Personal Edens!

I have loved the term “Personal Eden” for as long as I can remember. To me, it means your paradise, and your own garden can be just that. It doesn’t have to be magazine-worthy, it doesn’t have to follow current design trends, it just has to be a place you love to be. The plants, the outbuildings, the paths, the hardscaping, the yard art…all express your style. You walk outside and your blood pressure drops. you breath deep and relax. You want to be outside. You built this. That’s your Personal Eden. So welcome! Check back in soon for garden tours, tips, advice and lore. Follow me down the garden path…