6 winter gardening tips to stay green and happy all year round

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gCuring is a classic pastime for a pretty simple reason – it makes people feel great. Whether you figured this out during the pandemic (along with a whole bunch of other people) or are a lifelong gardener, it’s clear that the benefits of working with plants are many. The data also supports this claim; according to a recent survey of 1,000 gardeners by Home advisor, four in five people say gardening gives them a daily boost, and nearly three-quarters believe that activity promotes their physical health. In addition, research published in the journal Landscape and town planning have found that gardening can provide similar happiness effects to exercise.

Of course, as the weather turns colder, the ambitions of the green thumb can be harder to fulfill. But that’s no reason to put your happiness ambitions to bed until warmer times. Experts say gardening shouldn’t stop during the winter and have tips on how to make it possible. “During the winter, you can extend your gardening season outdoors or grow things indoors,” explains William James Lamont Jr., PhD, professor emeritus in the Department of Plant Sciences at Pennsylvania State University. “In colonial times, people harvested root crops and survived them in winter,” he says. “You can grow these ‘surviving vegetables’ outdoors and garden inside.

That said, gardening in winter can be more difficult to succeed than in the warmer months, especially if you are still a beginner in horticulture. Fortunately, the gardening experts have tips to help you achieve your winter gardening goals.

Horticultural experts share 6 winter gardening tips to keep things growing and happy all year round.

1. Choose the right plants

You can technically plant whatever you want in the winter, but if you don’t live in a place with the right conditions, it is unlikely to survive for long. If you want to maintain an outdoor garden over the winter, the right plants to focus on “depend on where you live,” says Pamela J. Bennett, associate professor and director of the master state gardener program at Ohio State University. If you live in a warmer southern state, you can probably grow plants like winter pansies and kale without a problem, she says. You can even grow these plants in the middle of the country, as long as the temperatures aren’t too low, she says. “But, the further north you go, the harder it can be to grow certain crops. Dr Lamont suggests planting resistant crops like kale, spinach, cabbage, carrots and onions with the right tools (more on this in a moment).

Indoor gardens are a bit more flexible to the elements, as long as you have the right conditions, again, says S. Cory Tanner, Horticultural Program Team Director at Clemson Extension. “There are a few plants that have proven themselves and are real winners,” he says. These include snake plants and ZZ plants which he says are “tough as nails” and “really well suited to indoor gardening.”

Still, says Bennett, “you can grow all kinds of plants indoors with the right setup.” She says succulents, orchids, begonias, terrarium plants, and bromeliads are great options. “You can also start vegetable seeds, grow herbs and green shoots, and even extend the life of some bedding annuals like geraniums,” she says.

2. Try to shelter outdoor plants

You don’t have to, but it can certainly help. Dr. Lamont suggests making plastic tunnels or row covers to cover your crops. (You can find them online or at many garden supply stores.) These tunnels “protect your crops and allow you to harvest them all winter,” he adds, even when the weather is far away. be optimal outdoors.

3. Make sure you have plenty of light

Tanner says the lack of light is “one of the biggest mistakes I see with indoor gardening.” Houseplants, like other plants, need a lot of light, he points out, noting that some homes have better lighting conditions than others. Pro tip, by Tanner: “South-facing windows provide more light than north-facing windows. If natural light is scarce in your home, you can invest in a plant-specific light to illuminate your plants, says Bennett.

4. Don’t forget to water your plants

It’s easy to assume that the water would be too plentiful for the plants on a cold day, but Bennett says it’s always crucial. “If the soil stays dry, the roots are not established,” she says. His advice if you are afraid of frost: straw your plants when it starts to cool. This will help push the roots out of the soil and keep them from freezing.

5. But beware of overwatering

So … how many times should do you water your plants? Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule here. “Much to the dismay of novice gardeners, there is no fixed schedule,” says Mira Talabac, Horticultural Consultant at the University of Maryland Extension. “The answer is simply, ‘when it’s dry enough that it needs to be watered.’ This can depend on a number of factors, such as the type of potting soil you are using, the heat and humidity, the amount of light, the type of pot you are using and the airflow around your plant. , she says.

One trick used by many gardeners is to simply feel the soil at least an inch below the surface of the pot, Talabac explains. “If it is dry, the plant may need water; if it’s wet, it probably won’t, ”she advises. It’s best to “soak the soil” so that excess water drains from the holes in the bottom of the pot, Talabac says. But, if you’re using a saucer underneath, she recommends emptying it right away so the plant doesn’t get stuck in the water. Otherwise, she says, “it will be reabsorbed to the point of drowning the roots.”

6. Keep an eye on humidity

Homes tend to have low humidity in the winter when people heat indoors, Tanner says. “For some houseplants this can be stressful,” he adds. You can increase the humidity levels around your plant by spraying it daily or by placing your plant on a saucer with stones and filling the saucer with water to provide moisture immediately around the plant. Nevertheless, according to Talabac, “the most effective way to increase humidity is to use a room humidifier”. You can place it near your plant to maximize the humidity around it.

If you’re ready to garden in the winter, but still aren’t sure you can, feel free to ask your local garden store any questions. They are usually staffed with experts who can help offer personal advice.

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