Finding Joy in the Garden in the Dead of Winter
Let’s talk about ways for finding joy in the garden in winter. From a gardener’s perspective: what is your favorite season? If I had to number the seasons from my favorite to my least favorite seasons for gardening, it would be: #1: Spring!; #2 Fall; #3 Winter; #4 Summer.
For many people, they probably put summer above winter for their gardening season preferences. I know that I’m a bit odd for being a gardener that does not care for summer.
However, it occurred to me the other day that many people don’t really think about gardening in the winter. And when they DO think about gardening in the winter, it’s usually focused on statements like ‘Winter is a time to plan your next garden!’ and ‘Winter is the time to get gardeners some great gifts for their future garden!’
While those statements are lovely and true (because winter IS the perfect time to plan your garden), I often find myself wishing that people would see their garden in the winter as MORE than just a ‘waiting phase’.
I truly believe that a garden should be enjoyed in all seasons. I do not see gardening as a part-time hobby for part of the year. No, I see gardening as a lifestyle. I am a nurturer and caretaker of the natural world. And the natural world, in turn, takes care of me: It is where I find my peace and my joy, and I reassemble my sanity by spending time in my garden.
I try to spend at least a few minutes in my garden every single day. Do you? Do you spend time in your garden during the winter? You should! Because there are ways to find joy in your garden…even in the dead of winter.
This is part of my Seasonal Joy in the Garden Series. Make sure to check out my tips on How to Find Joy in Your Garden in the Summer and How to Find Joy in the Garden in Fall: Dealing with Harvest Overwhelm.
Here’s a list of ways for finding joy in the garden in winter. If I missed any ways for finding joy in the garden in the dead of winter, please let me know in the comments section below!
7 Ways of Finding Joy in the Garden in Winter:
1. Enjoy the Rest and Silence:
I don’t know about you, but fall season can be crazy hectic as a gardener. I’m constantly rushing around harvesting and preserving everything. The later it gets in the fall season, the more urgency I feel about getting everything harvested before the first frost. It’s rush, rush, rush….which is okay for a season. However, I think I would get very burned out if I was rushing around in my garden all year long. Winter is a blessing! I get to take some time to rest. And I enjoy the rest in my garden.
Last year, I made a bench for my garden (this is the garden bench I made). Now I make sure to sit in my garden every day, at least for a few minutes, to soak up the beauty around me. Even if you get feet of snow and super cold temperatures in the winter, you can spend even just ONE minute resting in your garden every day. Enjoy the feeling of resting in your garden. Soak up the layout of your garden, the textures and colors of your garden (even if it’s just lumps under a blanket of snow…that’s texture and color!).
And the silence! There is something magical and beautiful about the silence of winter. Especially after a snowfall. The silence is so peaceful; so restful; so calm.
You might have been too busy in the fall season to stop and actually enjoy your garden. That’s what makes winter a blessing. Stop what you’re doing, and go and enjoy some rest and silence in your garden this winter. It will make your day so much better, trust me.
2. Add Winter Items to Your Garden:
Do NOT think of your garden as a dead place in the winter. Instead, change your perspective: how can you bring beauty and life to your garden in the winter?
For example, you know what looks amazing with a blanket of white snow? The color red. How can you bring the color red to your garden? One idea is that you could plant winterberry plants. They have the most beautiful red berries in the winter, and the birds love them. There are other plants with red berries that could add a spectacular splash of red to your garden. Ask your local greenhouses for ideas.
There are many other ways to add winter items to your garden. Add some statues (like this dragon statue), add some solar lights (these solar lights look pretty), etc. You could even decorate your garden for the holidays. Why not add some garlands of pine branches, pine cones, and holly branches, maybe make a snow man or two, add some solar strands of lights…you can make your garden look beautiful all winter long. And some of those items are good for wildlife, too. Bonus!
3. Appreciate Your Winter Herbs and Vegetables:
You know what herb I hardly ever think about for most of the year? My chives. Those poor, neglected chives. All year long, they provide me with their tastiness, and I don’t think about them much. Why? Well, they don’t have issues with pests and they are really tough plants with very few issues. For three whole seasons, I don’t give them much thought. And then winter comes….and chives THRIVE in the winter (at least for me in my garden zone). Their happy and vibrant spikes of green give my heart such joy in the dead of winter. Whenever I crave the color green in the winter, I look for my plot of chives. I am so thankful for their splash of green in my mainly-brown landscape in the winter months.
Of course, there are other plants that I appreciate during the winter months, too. There are some lovely herbs that stay green almost all winter (some die back a bit during the colder days). My favorite winter herbs include: Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, and Mint. My mint dies a bit whenever I get frost (I live in a mild climate right now), but it bounces right back to life when the sun comes back out. I also love the fern-like leaves of my yarrow plants. They might not have flowers in the winter, but they keep their vibrant bright green ferny leaves all winter (again, at least for me in my mild garden zone 7b/8a climate).
There are some wonderful vegetables that stay alive in the winter, too. My favorite winter vegetables include: Cabbage, Collards, Kale, Mustard Greens, Turnips, Rutabagas, and Arugula. These lovely vegetables stay green all winter long in my climate (some die back in extreme cold). In fact, I find Kale, Mustard Greens, and Arugula to be easier to grow in the winter than any other time of the year. They also take very little maintenance. I find joy in my winter herbs and vegetables. It is so nice to still see life in my winter garden.
4. Watch the Birds:
Since I live in South Carolina, a mild climate, there are TONS of beautiful birds that migrate to the area during the winter. My favorite are the vibrantly-colored blue birds. However, I love the splash of red from cardinals, too. I know that there are beautiful birds in the winter in the northern climates, though, since I used to live in Michigan and Wisconsin.
When I sit in my garden in the winter, I often find joy by watching the antics of the birds in my garden. They are flitting about, here and there, looking for things to eat and for stuff to use for nests. They chase each other away and chirp their happy songs.
You can make your garden BURST with life by inviting the birds to your winter garden. Add some pretty bird feeders to your garden. Birds can add splashes of color to your garden, so add some pretty but also practical bird houses and bird feeders.
Sit and feel joy in your garden by watching the birds. It can bring a smile to your face. 🙂
5. Plant Some Flower Bulbs…Yes, Plant Something in the Winter!
If you’re reading this list so far, and you’re still feeling sad, because you just cannot imagine being in your garden and not planting something, good news: you CAN plant some things in the winter! Plant some flower bulbs!
True, it’s not practical vegetable gardening, but I like to see splashes of flowers in my vegetable patch, and the bees love it, too. And planting anything in the winter really helps satisfy that gardening itch.
So what can you plant in your garden in the winter? Well, if your soil is even remotely workable, dig it up a bit and plant spring bulbs. This article shows how to plant hyacinth bulbs in the winter. When I read this awesome news, I immediately bought some hyacinth bulbs and planted them. It was the day after Christmas. I am not kidding. It was very enjoyable to be able to plant something….anything….even in the winter.
However, you don’t even need to have workable soil to plant some bulbs in the winter in your garden! Check out this article about how to plant tulip bulbs in the winter. You place the bulbs on top of the soil and add mulch and/or organic compost. Score!
So find some joy in your garden in the winter by planting some flower bulbs. Feel that dirt (or compost or mulch) on your fingernails. Feel that satisfaction of planting life and beauty in the land.
6. Acknowledge the Hidden Life in the Garden
It’s so much easier to acknowledge the life bursting forth in the garden when it’s spring, summer, or fall. For starters, there’s bugs, butterflies, and buzzing bees all over the place. Plus, all the plants that show happy and healthy life and grow heavy with produce. It’s a lot harder to acknowledge and appreciate life in the garden when it’s winter.
“How lovely the silence of growing things.” I see that quote all over the place when I try to find good gardening quotes. I love reminding myself of that quote when I am in my garden in the winter. Your garden might seem dead in the winter, but that’s not true at all.
As I sit on my garden bench in the winter, I think about what might be growing and thriving and living in my garden that I cannot see. I know there’s at least two garden toads in my raised beds. They leave quite the mess in the fall, when they dig holes and bury themselves deep into the earth to hibernate away the cold months.
I know there are worms in my soil, too, aerating the soil and providing me nutrients for my future spring garden. They slow down a bit in the winter, but they are still there. My garden lizards….I haven’t ever found them, but I know they like to hibernate under rocks, debris, and tree trunks. I refuse to clean up my garden in the winter so that they have plenty of places to hide and hunker down until the return of warmer spring weather.
There is life in the garden in the winter. It’s just more hidden. I’m reminded of it when I pick some chives. Or when I walk by my garlic patch, clear away some sodden leaves, and see the garlic plants peeking through the soil. Life in the garden is louder and more obvious in the other seasons, but I think I might prefer the hidden and quieter growth of winter.
7. Plan and Prepare For Your Future Garden.
I couldn’t help but add this last point. I know I wrote at the beginning about appreciating the winter garden as it’s own thing. However, you know when I get my best inspiration for my future spring garden? When I’m sitting on my garden bench in the winter.
Even if I’m just sitting there for 5 minutes, that’s actually a nice bit of time to think about my upcoming garden year, especially through observations. Things like “Oh, I should plant my tomatoes in that raised bed, because it gets more sunlight than the others.”
I also think about future garden projects, especially ones that I can make indoors during the winter. For example, making a bug hotel (or buying a bug hotel) for one of the corners of my garden. And thinking about hanging a mason bee house from the tree right above my garden bench. These are some things I can do to prepare for my upcoming gardening season. Why not get them out of the way during the beautiful and joyous rest and silence of the winter season?
I also love using winter as my time to cozy up by the fireplace with a good hot chocolate, pore over seed catalogs, plan my garden thoroughly, and read and research new gardening books and techniques (this is my current favorite gardening book).
I hope that I have inspired you to think differently and more positively about your garden in the winter. Just in case you need some more reasons why you should find joy in the garden in the winter, here are some famous gardening quotes that make my heart smile:
“Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle … a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl. And the anticipation nurtures our dream.”
– Barbara Winkler
“And don’t think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It’s quiet, but the roots are down there riotous.”
Finding Joy in the Garden in Winter is possible, my gardening friends. If you look closely, there is beauty in the natural world, no matter what the season.
I leave you with this blessing: May you find Joy in the Garden in the Winter. And while you’re at it, I hope you find joy and knowledge in the land, no matter what season of the year.
More Gardening Inspiration Posts:
- How to Recover from a Poor Gardening Season
- How to Find Joy in the Garden in Summer
- How to Find Joy in the Garden in Fall: Dealing with Harvest Overwhelm
- 8 Lessons from My Summer Garden
- 10 Reasons Why I Love Watering My Garden By Hand
- Pondering Permaculture