As shorter days and colder weather arrive, many people assume their gardening days are done until spring.

But Todd Haiman, the resident landscape designer at 30 Warren condos in New York City and principal of Todd Haiman Landscape Design, says that gardeners don’t have to wait out the winter months. He recommends using the time to take stock of your garden, identify areas to improve and create a plan. If you don’t have a garden, you can plan one.

Haiman recommends these seven activities for people who have a garden or who want to plan one in the future on a terrace, a small yard or a bigger space. Haiman supplied the following recommendations by email:

1. Design the winter landscape first. Many garden designers design for the winter landscape first, then orchestrate their plant palette for the remaining three seasons afterward. Whether a suburban garden, townhouse or terrace, try to establish a structure to your landscape. Think of the garden in terms of “plant architecture” using shapes, masses and voids to create that structure. Evergreen shrubs are an often-used design motif to create that skeleton structure. Additionally, consider trees or shrubs with interesting bark and focal points such as outdoor sculpture. The winter landscape consists of predominantly muted colors and silhouettes with splashes of color from plants with seed heads to those with persistent winter fruits. Ornamental grasses and structural perennials can contribute to the vertical construction of your garden.

2. Curl up with a seed catalogue. In gardening, like baseball, with spring comes a new planting season and hope is eternal. A favorite winter pastime in planning for your garden begins with packages of seeds. Scour seed catalogues, order annual and perennial seeds. Start seeds indoors or try them outside in a cold frame before the temperature warms. If you have young children, gardening is a great way to spend time with them and develop a love for the wonder of nature.

3. Welcome spring a few weeks early. In addition to orchestrating flower bloom interest throughout all the seasons, consider planting bulbs or spring ephemerals that naturalize. Spring ephemerals fill an early void in the spring landscape design. These are woodland species that have evolved to take advantage of the month or two in late winter/early spring when the earth begins to warm, is considerably moist from the winter snows and trees have yet to leaf out and shade the forest floor. They quickly send up their leaves, flower, get pollinated, produce seed and then disappear by summer, only to return the following year. Installing these natives that bloom in early spring extends your gardening season for an additional four to six weeks. Along with spring bulbs such as crocus, daffodils, hyacinths, scilla, tulips — fall in love with Virginia bluebells, trout lily and trilliums.

4. Plan in winter, build in spring. Planting plans should be developed in winter with orders to nurseries and growers scheduled for spring installation. Arguably spring planting is a bit more favorable as nature assists us with frequent precipitation.

5. Think adaptability. Choose plants that are adaptable, and if you can, plant native. Plant species with a wide hardiness range and avoid choosing species outside of their hardiness zone or just on the edge. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location. The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree-Fahrenheit zones. Understanding microclimates within your garden may tempt you to plant a fig tree on a sunny New York City terrace garden but there is great risk — with temperature extremes, one or two very cold winters may kill the plant.

6. Don’t leave garden soil naked. In the forests, leaves fall in autumn and break down under winter rains and snow, composting to humic acid which enriches the soil. During the fall, instead of bagging fallen leaves, leave them in place and turn them into leaf mulch. If you are concerned with leaves flying away, throw some heavier natural cedar mulch on top. Don’t cut back perennials, grasses and shrubs until spring. Avoid a sanitized garden. Bees nest in hollowed out stems. There are insects’ eggs attached to those fallen leaves and that provides food for birds. Birds will use much of the detritus for nest building as well. Using your own homemade compost also doubles as a form of recycling that not only reduces methane emissions from landfills but also improves your garden’s soil. For terrace dwellers, mulch planters heavily to provide a “winter coat” for your plans. Recently planted trees on a windy roof may need to be wrapped to reduce the impact of winter winds. As the weather grows colder, plants still need access to water. Covering garden soil with organic matter such as bark, compost or mulch helps to prevent evaporation of water.

7. Educate yourself. Botanical gardens such as Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Mt. Cuba Center offer countless resources online for the home and advanced gardener. During the pandemic, you can become a member of the ELA (Ecological Landscape Association) and watch educational videos in the safety of your home. If you are fond of listening to podcasts, check out Margaret Roach’s “A Way to Garden” or laugh with the editors of Fine Gardening magazine as they argue about plants in “Let’s Argue About Plants!” If you’d rather curl up with a good book on making a garden, try one by Jan Johnsen, Tracy DiSabato-Aust or the eminent Russell Page. Or you can subscribe to a magazine such as Garden Design or Fine Gardening.

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