After a mild fall and delayed start to winter – the snow arrived along with cold temperatures for much of our region. This has put the brakes on any outdoor work with the exception of trekking outside to feed the birds or take vegetable clippings to the compost. Most of the ‘gardening’ in winter is looking after the Christmas plants such as trees, poinsettias and cacti. Come January I might even have an amaryllis to take care of too.
One of the first things that I like to do in January is to clip some forsythia limbs and bring them indoors to force into bloom. They stay in a bucket in the utility room until the buds are about to break, then taken into the hallway or a bright table to bloom.

Amaryllis bloom

Blooming while there's still snow outside

 Indoors it will be time to assess and plan for the upcoming year. Each year I use some of the tomato seeds or cabbage seeds but still have a lot left over. Some will last a few years but most will need to be thrown away. It is a great time though to remind myself of the varieties that I tried last year and which ones I liked and want to try again.  Some of the seeds for the early blooming kales and lettuce will be used up in the hydroponic system indoors. This is a great way to get a jump on some green leaves for your salads in winter.

Seed sorting

Hydroponic lettuce and kales

Each fall, I convert one of my 4x4 raised beds into a little cold frame for a few months in winter and the lettuce and kales from last year still stay green and harvestable all through winter. This simple cover is an 8x2 piece of clear roof material cut in half to fit over the 4x4. Even in the middle of winter with snow around, you need to watch the weather – winter sun can heat up the area very quickly and fry your lettuce in a morning while you are snug inside by the fire. One caution when you start doing this winter growing in a cold frame – it is a short hop from first wanting a larger cold frame and then a greenhouse to grow in!

Covered raised 4x4

Vent covered bed