5 Ways to Work On Your Garden in Winter

| Prepare, Video

We work so hard in our gardens from spring until fall, but it seems like most of that time we’re just trying to keep up rather than developing a proactive strategy to finally get ahead of it all. That’s why the winter, when things slow down, is the perfect time to work on your garden — rather than in it. In this video, I show you five things you can do right now to make your gardening life better and easier come spring.




1. Take Stock

The first step for every gardener is to take stock of the past year. What went well in the garden, and what didn’t go so well? What “aha” moments did you have? Record these thoughts and observations now while it’s fresh in your mind, and you’ll be positioned to apply that information next year and beyond so you can repeat the wins and avoid the losses.

Gardening is all about change and adaptation so that you and your garden can continue to grow. I find the best way to do that is with the journaling app on my phone. (I use Day One, but there are other apps to choose from as well as good old-fashioned pen and paper.) My app allows me to add pictures as I go or import shots from my photo library. I can type up notes or use the dictation function. It captures real-time information such as date, location and temperature, and it updates the data across all of my devices — phone, tablet and computer. It’s the best resource I have found to document each gardening season’s wins, challenges and special noteworthy moments.

When in doubt about whether to record a note or not, I say it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Your only regrets will be the photos and observations you didn’t capture.


Day One app screen shot

The Day One app is a favorite for keeping my garden journal.


2. Nurture Your Mind

What gardening subject do you want to learn more about? Commit right now, while you can, to educate yourself by picking up books on the subject, taking an online course or attending lectures and workshops by connecting with local gardening societies. What I love about gardening is there is always more to learn and various opportunities to strengthen your skills. Winter is the perfect time to enrich your gardening knowledge, and it’s easier than ever to learn from the comfort of your own home. 


An armful of books

Winter is the perfect time to enrich your gardening knowledge, and it’s easier than ever to learn from the comfort of your own home.


3. Make Your Plan for Next Season

Decide now what you want to plant in spring and summer, and take the necessary steps to prepare. If you intend to start plants from seeds, now is the time to start pursuing seed catalogs. Once you’ve picked out what you want to grow, order those seeds without delay. They go quickly, and if you wait, there is a good chance the most popular varieties will be sold out. 

If you plan to refresh or expand your garden beds, decide what plants you want. Do you know the varieties and where to get them? Get that decision-making off your list before the gardening season picks up. 


Seed Catalogs

Peruse seed catalogs now and order soon — before the seeds you want are out of stock.


4. Pick a Project to Improve Your Garden

There are always things we want to add to our garden that we never get done. That’s because we don’t schedule it, and what doesn’t get scheduled doesn’t get done. If you really want to add that water feature or that greenhouse or start a wildflower garden, now is the time to map it out, including the steps and the timeline. Time is your most precious resource, but it goes by so fast. Seize the moment.


Joe on the site of his future greenhouse.

Here I am sitting on the slab poured for the greenhouse I’ve wanted for quite some time. It’s easy to keep putting off projects that you haven’t scheduled., so make a plan and put a date on the calendar to get it done.


5. Grow at Least One Thing New

As gardeners who have been at it a while, we tend to get stuck in ruts and grow the same things over and over — and that’s such a shame. There are so many opportunities to try something new, and in the process, we grow with it and learn so much more.  

If you’re a food grower, what’s one edible you’ve never grown before? Pick one now and grow it in your garden next year. Likewise, if you are into flowers, what’s one flower that you have never grown before? 

And we can all benefit from adding a native tree or shrub to our landscape. Not only will it be beautiful and make us happy, but with a little thoughtful planning, it will add so much ecological value to the environment and make habitats healthier too. And that’s what it’s all about.


tree depth

Pick a species or variety of plant, shrub or tree to plant for the first time next growing season, because when we try new things, we grow too.


As the year winds down, take some time and give some thought to what you can do so next growing season you can put those thoughts into action.

What proactive steps do you take in winter to prepare for the gardening year ahead? Let us know in the comments below.

Links & Resources

Some product links in this guide are affiliate links. See full disclosure below.

Episode 080: Putting the Garden to Bed: End-of-Season Advice from Margaret Roach

joegardener blog: Winter: The Best Time to Work on Your Garden

joegardener Online Gardening Academy™: Popular courses on gardening fundamentals; managing pests, diseases & weeds; seed starting and more.

joegardener Online Gardening Academy Organic Vegetable Gardening: My new premium online course membership opens in 2023. Sign up for the waitlist here.

joegardener Online Gardening Academy Beginning Gardener Fundamentals: Essential principles to know to create a thriving garden.

Earthbound Expeditions: Great Gardens of Italy & France with Joe Lamp’l

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Growing a Greener World®  

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Day One app

Disclosure: Some product links in this guide are affiliate links, which means we get a commission if you purchase. However, none of the prices of these resources have been increased to compensate us, and compensation is not an influencing factor on their inclusion here. The selection of all items featured in this post and podcast were based solely on merit and in no way influenced by any affiliate or financial incentive, or contractual relationship. At the time of this writing, Joe Lamp’l has professional relationships with the following companies who may have products included in this post and podcast: Rain Bird, Corona Tools, AeroGarden, Milorganite, Soil3, Greenhouse Megastore, PittMoss, Territorial Seed Company, Earth’s Ally, National Wildlife Federation  and TerraThrive. These companies are either Brand Partners of and/or advertise on our website. However, we receive no additional compensation from the sales or promotion of their product through this guide. The inclusion of any products mentioned within this post is entirely independent and exclusive of any relationship.

About Joe Lamp'l

Joe Lamp’l is the creator and “joe” behind joe gardener®. His lifetime passion and devotion to all things horticulture has led him to a long-time career as one of the country’s most recognized and trusted personalities in organic gardening and sustainability. That is most evident in his role as host and creator of Emmy Award-winning Growing a Greener World®, a national green-living lifestyle series on PBS currently broadcasting in its tenth season. When he’s not working in his large, raised bed vegetable garden, he’s likely planting or digging something up, or spending time with his family on their organic farm just north of Atlanta, GA.

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