Winter Tasks in the Flower Garden: Cold Weather Jobs and Projects for the Organic Gardener

Some organic gardeners are geographically blessed to live in a zone where all year flower gardening is a reality.

 

However, for most organic gardeners, there is a time in the winter months when the flower garden lies dormant. There are still projects you must do to help the flower garden survive winter’s snow, ice, and wind.

Roses

  • Tidy up your rose beds, removing as much leaf litter from around the bases of the rose bushes as possible. This prevents diseases like black spot from overwintering in the dead foliage.
  • Mulch grafted roses with a pile of compost at least 8 inches deep directly on the crown of the bush. Compost looks better and works better than Styrofoam “rose cones,” and in the spring the compost will serve as the first feeding.
  • Prune roses back to 18 inches to prevent ice from accumulating on the branches, causing them to snap in winter storms.

Perennials and Annuals

  • Empty all flower containers, and store terra cotta, stone, and concrete pots in a garage or shed to protect them from freezing and cracking as water enters the pores.
  • Mulch flowerbeds with a 3-inch layer of compost, or a combination of compost and shredded leaves.
  • Walk through the perennial flowerbed weekly and check for signs of frost heaving. This is most common in late winter, when repeated freeze-thaw cycles thrust shallow rooted plants from the ground. Tamp the roots gently down with your foot, and cover with a protective layer of organic mulch.
  • Keep a journal of winter precipitation. If your region experiences no precipitation for weeks, water your perennials when the ground isn’t frozen.

Bulbs

  • Continue to plant spring flowering bulbs until the ground is frozen. Take advantage of December bulb clearance sales and plant them when that inevitable unseasonably warm day occurs.
  • Check any tender bulbs you’re keeping in storage, such as cannas and dahlias. Discard any bulbs that show signs of spoilage or rot.

Preparation for Spring

  • Peruse garden catalogs for certified organic seeds. You may also choose to avoid genetically engineered seeds, altered by the mechanical transfer of genetic material between plant genera or families.
  • Look for the announcement of the newest Perennial Plant of the Year, and decide how you can incorporate it into your organic garden. The Perennial Plant Association chooses worthy low maintenance specimens that are pest and disease resistant.
  • Start seeds of pansies, snapdragons, and flowering kale in late winter to brighten your early spring containers and window boxes.
  • Add plenty of green matter to your compost bin to keep the contents cooking for your spring garden.