Although winter is often thought of as the “off-season” in gardening, it’s really the best time to reflect on the past growing season, take stock of what grew well and what didn’t, as well as plan your garden for next season. Winter reflecting and planning also helps keep the restless gardener busy thinking and dreaming of putting her hands in the soil.
Reflecting On Your Garden Last Season
If you’re the type of gardener who is always trying something new in the garden, this is an important step. Take inventory of everything you planted last season in a garden journal; throughout the season (or at the end), take note of what did well and what didn’t. You can then go back and make sure everything is planted in the proper spot for its sunlight preference, or realize that plant might just not do well in your garden.
Taking note of what worked will help you plan for next season. If your Bleeding Hearts grew and bloomed profusely the first year, try adding several other varieties. If you really enjoyed the colorful Dahlia blooms in your front garden bed, make a note to add more to the garden this spring.
If you have a lot going on and find it hard to remember to write in your garden diary, try writing in it on each holiday of the year, starting with New Year's Day. You'll hit dates throughout the gardening season if you write on St. Patrick's Day (March 17), Earth Day (April 22), Memorial Day (May 30), Father's Day (June 19), The Fourth Of July, Labor Day (September 5), Columbus Day (October 10), and Halloween (October 31). These are just some of the many holidays that we celebrate throughout the year; if you write in your garden journal on every holiday, you'll definitely have enough information to reflect on the gardening season at the end of the year.
Draw a quick garden map to help keep track of where everything is planted.
Keeping track of what didn’t grow so well will help you learn more about your garden. It’s all about trial and error in the garden; did your Peony grow, but no bloom? This might mean it was planted too deep and can be dug up and re-planted in the early spring. Maybe your Caladium bulbs were stolen from their pots and enjoyed as a snack for the neighborhood squirrels – these are all things that are helpful to keep track of in your garden journal so you don’t have the same problem next season.
Along with your notes about plants, it’s also really helpful to draw diagrams of your garden. Once everything dies back, it is difficult to remember exactly what is planted where. If you draw a map of your garden, you will remember exactly where your Astilbe lives and just how many Daffodils you planted. This is also a great tool for planning your spring garden; you’ll know where there are open areas to plant!
Planning For Next Season
After you’ve reflected on the past growing season, it’s time for the fun part – planning your planting for the next season. One great way to plan for spring is to start several Pinterest boards to organize your ideas. Label the boards with their different purposes or ideas, like ‘For the Shade,’ ‘Container Gardening,’ or ‘Big Ideas’ to help categorize your pins. Pinterest lets you scour through thousands of gardening ideas and save as many or as few as you'd like, making it easy to come back and sort through them when it's time to plant. Learn more about planning your garden with Pinterest in our blog and follow American Meadows' boards for garden inspiration.
If squirrels and deer are a challenge in your garden, look for deer-resistant bulbs and perennials. If you’re looking to fill in your shade garden, try shade-loving perennials or bulbs. If you really enjoyed cutting your Gladiolus last summer and bringing them indoors, be sure to plant more.
If you're planning a new garden, make sure to take note of sunlight, soil type and more.
Make sure you come into the season with a set gardening budget, taking in account money for plants, fertilizer, soil, mulch, containers and more. If you’re planting a brand new garden bed, think about its theme. Do you want to plant for pollinators, create a cutting garden, plant all fragrant varieties or build a moonlight garden? Maybe you want to try planting all one color and love the cool look that blue blooms bring to the garden.
If you're planting in containers, think about re-purposing items you already have for pots and making sure you have a nice variety of containers. Plan your containers with annual and perennial varieties that go well together and add texture and color all season long. Designing a container with perennials is really like designing a small garden bed, you’ll want to make sure you put varieties together that require the same amount of light and that will complement each other with foliage and blooms at different times in the season.
Colorful Begonias are a great choice for both the garden and containers. If you're thinking about adding these shade-loving beauties to your garden this season, plan ahead as these tubers need to be started indoors in February to make sure you get full, colorful blooms all season long.
The garden possibilities are endless and once you’ve taken stock of what went well last year and what didn’t, it will be easier for you to choose varieties that have a better chance of thriving in your garden. And what better way to spend the winter months than dreaming, scheming and longing for spring?