Going outside always makes me feel better.  Even those difficult times–freezing mornings with our new puppy.  I’m wearing my husband’s coat, thin pajamas and bedroom shoes,  but I can  still feel my mood lifting as puppy and I stare into the woods and raise our noses. 

Winter sunshine is great medicine.   I know that sounds like something  my grandma would say, but it’s true.    And that’s why I  never stop gardening in the winter.  This is the season I need my garden the most. 

Ok–so  the ground is frozen this week.    There are still a lot of garden chores that we can do outside.   

Clean up.  If you haven’t cleared away summer annuals and vegetables do it now.  Carry spent tomato and pepper foliage to the street…don’t compost these plant.  Both can promote diseases.   In the perennial bed, cut back Canna lilies and get rid of their leaves, too.    Leaf rollers love cannas and a good clean up will help keep them away.   If you’re not composting, start a pile in an out-of-the-way place and dump the rest of your spent plants there.   But don’t cut back shrubs–we’ll do that next month.    

No plants to clean up?  Then pick up sticks.  Or move some leaves out of your beds.  Toss them in the compost pile, too.

Winter is also a great time to move rocks, or wood piles, stack those bricks someone gave you–any task that might  make you work up a sweat which feels really good in this weather. 

Refine your Design.  When the trees are bare,  it’s easier to focus on geometry.   Use this season to plan new beds and paths.  Or just look at the lines of your garden.  Do you like them?  If not, think about how to make the layout a little better. 

Observe your four season garden:  Don’t forget to scout around  for changes outside.   We may be in the grip of a cold spell–but things are still happening. 

My early daffodils  are up.  They’ll be blooming in a month.   Winter Daphne and several of  my prized camellias  are in bud.  

In my southern  garden, I see lots of signs of  spring already.    How about you?  If nothing’s happen right now at your house,  it might be time to fix that.  CMR

Photo: My earliest daffodils already in bud on January 6, 2010.  The variety is Rijnveld’s  Early Sensation from one of my  favorite souces John Scheepers.