Winter in Ontario – A Gardener’s Survival Guide

by Emma Murphy, Master Gardener

If you’re a passionate gardener like me, right now you are buried in the snow and cold of winter and suffering from the January blues. You dream of your garden every night, envisioning the bright colours and textures and green of your summer paradise. You consider heading south for a vacation, not just for the warmth and sun but just to see some incredible tropical plants and green things. You start thinking about moving to some place where you can garden year round…

But I digress. Don’t get me wrong. I like the winter season. My body needs a rest from the garden, I need time to plan for next year’s garden, it’s time to order seeds and attend garden workshops, and there are so many good gardening books and blogs to read.

I thought I would share my Top 5 Ways for Gardeners to Survive Winter. I have more ways, but that’s another story..

1. Review your Garden Photos

I love to spend particularly dull winter days reviewing photos of my garden from last year or previous years. Digital cameras and our smart phones make it so much easier these days to capture our gardens in all their glory, so take the time to enjoy the beauty you created when you need a pick up. I’ve sprinkled a few of mine throughout this blog (you’re welcome!).

peony

(created by Joe and Hazel Cook at Blossom Hill Nursery)

2. Join a Local Garden Club, Horticultural Society, or Master Gardener Group

Nothing feels better than sharing your gardening love with others who share your affection for all things growing. Find your local Ontario Horticultural Society, or think about becoming a Master Gardener. In my area we have many wonderful horticultural societies including Lakefield, Peterborough, NorwoodOmemee, Ennismore, Bobcaygeon, and Fenelon Falls. I meet interesting people, chat about gardening issues or successes, and get to hear from terrific presenters. Great value for money. I also love being a Peterborough Master Gardener, sharing my love and knowledge of gardening with others.

3. Seed Catalogues!

I am relatively new to growing my own plants from seed, as my garden is mostly full of perennials and shrubs. However, after a Master Gardener field trip to William Dam Seeds a few years ago, a new interest in growing dahlias (after being inspired by a vendor at the Peterborough Garden Show) and a new vegetable garden in our back yard (courtesy of my husband – the veggie gardener), I have entered this world, and there is no turning back. Reading through hardcover or online seed catalogues (even if you don’t buy anything!) is guaranteed to put a smile on any gardener’s face. Google Canadian seed companies and many should pop up.

hyacinth

4. Find a Great Garden Blog or Website

There are so many amazing gardening blogs and website out there. I tend to follow those who have similar growing conditions to me (Zone 4b, harsh winters, Central Ontario) but I do have several (including a few in the UK like The Frustrated Gardener and the Anxious Gardener) which I like to just view and enjoy. Some of my favourites below.

The Laid Back Gardener (Quebec)

The Impatient Gardener (southeast Wisconsin)

The Gang at Savvy Gardening (Pittsburgh, Halifax, Dundas)

The Gardening Girl (just north of Toronto, Ontario)

sunflower

5. Buy a new Houseplant (or 2, or 10)

Confession – I am a much better gardener outside than inside. While I love seeing the greenery all winter, our harsh interior conditions (furnace heat and no humidity) are not ideal for houseplants. However, the arrival of two rambunctious kittens into our home in October sparked a review of my houseplants. So many plants are problematic for felines that many got rehoused with friends or just thrown out. A week ago I had a craving for some greenery, so I ventured out to a local nursery with great houseplants (Burley’s Gardens) to find some ‘safe’ plants. I came home with some Peperomias, a prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura), African violets, a money tree (Pachira aquatica), and a Phalaenopsis orchid. It appears all of these are relatively safe for cats. There is a good list here of plants that are toxic (or non-toxic) for cats. However, it’s just a general list – it depends on how much is ingested, what plant part, age of cat etc. etc. Do your research.

I hope these ideas help get your through these cold winter days and nights. And just remember, all that snow provides a lovely warm blanket for your plants, so thank Mother Nature for that and dream of spring!

Can’t wait for Kermit to reappear at my pond.

kermit

 

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