Grow Patience: Planning Your Garden in Winter.

February 7th, 2020

By Dawn Pond, Coordinator of GreenUP’s Downtown Vibrancy Project and Depave Paradise Program.
Red Osier Dogwood is a popular choice to add a touch of red to your garden in winter. Photo: GreenUP Ecology Park.

Red Osier Dogwood is a popular choice to add a touch of red to your garden in winter. Photo: GreenUP Ecology Park.

Winter can leave us impatient for summer. In a world increasingly full of distractions, patience can seem like a rare quality. Winter is perhaps the best time to slow down and practice patience by spending time with nature, especially in a garden.

Here are some of the ways that slowing down can bring you more success in your garden.

Plan now for your spring and summer garden

Winter is a great time to curl up with a warm blanket and a hot cup of tea to make plans for spring and summer gardening. However, it is easy to overlook that ambitious garden ideas require work and time. Beware of taking on more than you can chew. Fast fashion does not apply to flowers. Commit to a manageable garden that allows you to care for it properly. The plants will reward you for this in spades. (Pun intended.)

Some plants take inspiration from the tortoise rather than the hare when it comes to growth speed. The slow and steady members of the garden are often tree species, but some crop plants require patience too. Raspberries, for example, take approximately two years after they are planted before they produce a significant crop of berries. Asparagus from seed takes three years until it produces a harvestable crop.

Hayley Goodchild, GreenUP’s Sustainable Urban Neighbourhood (SUN) Program Coordinator, is a passionate home gardener. She shared with me her experience getting to know her garden and how she is gaining horticultural knowledge as she watches it grow.

Leaving some perennials over the winter supports wildlife while also providing visual interest. This photo shows a residential garden in Peterborough with a variety of echinaceas and rudbeckia.

Leaving some perennials over the winter supports wildlife while also providing visual interest. This photo shows a residential garden in Peterborough with a variety of echinaceas and rudbeckia.

“This will be my third full season at my current home. My partner and I grow annual vegetables, perennial food crops like asparagus and apples, and maintain non-edible perennial beds too. Each year we tackle another small project based on the knowledge we’ve gained in previous seasons.”

“We waited two years before planting asparagus, which we started from seed. Since asparagus plants can live for a decade or longer, it was important that we chose the site wisely. It took us time and observation to determine where they should go”.

When designing new garden spaces, keep the growth rate of plants in mind. It takes approximately 3-5 years for the average perennial garden to become established. Anticipate increased watering needs during those first few years. Choose plants based on your water availability to make your life easier and more beautiful.

“Being patient in the garden has lots of rewards,” adds Hayley Goodchild. “By spending lots of time observing how things grow, I’ve developed a deeper understanding of the ways that plants and soil benefit one another. Patience makes for a more beautiful and productive garden in the long-term.”

Enhancing Your Winter Garden

If you struggle to appreciate your garden when it is sleeping and unseen under a blanket of snow, here are a few ideas.

  • Beech and ironwood trees keep their leaves through the winter, adding visual and auditory textures to your garden during what can otherwise be bare and silent time of year. Photo: Beech Tree at GreenUP Ecology Park.
    Beech and ironwood trees keep their leaves through the winter, adding visual and auditory textures to your garden during what can otherwise be bare and silent time of year. Photo: Beech Tree at GreenUP Ecology Park.

Grasses are also beautiful in the winter. The dry, sandy-coloured grass blades and seed heads blow in the winter wind, adding movement and structure while also providing food and nesting material for animals.

Keeping a garden journal is a great way to learn from your garden. You can record wildlife sightings, budding trees, and any other activity and look back at this in future years as a reference. It is a joy to watch and a lovely way to get your daily dose of Vitamin N (Nature) all year round.

The true joys of the garden can be appreciated not only through summer blooms, but all year round. If you are spending some time this winter planning your garden, here are a few resources for you:

  • Learn more about reducing your water use while gardening with GreenUP’s Water Wise Recognition Program (https://www.greenup.on.ca/water-wise/) Starting in spring, recycled olive barrel rain barrels are available for purchase at the GreenUP Store (378 Aylmer Street North, Peterborough).
  • For more information on pollinator friendly gardens check out the Peterborough Pollinators website (www.peterboroughpollinators.com)
  • Save the date: the Garden Market at GreenUP’s Ecology Park re-opens for the 2020 season on May 16 (Victoria Day long weekend). Located at 1899 Ashburnham Drive (just south of Beavermead Park), Ecology Park is your destination for a wide variety of plants and trees as well as advice from the experts about what is right for your garden. Hours are 10am-6pm Thursdays and 10am-4pm Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from May 16 through to October 9 (Thanksgiving Weekend).
  • The annual Spring Plant and Garden Market Sale is on opening day (May 16) so make sure to stop by for some deals.

Posted in gardening, GreenUP Ecology Park, trees