Winter Tasks – How They Effect Peak Season

In all the years I’ve lived in Virginia I’ve never known the severe cold and snow to come so early and stay as long as it did in December.  According to the Farmer’s Almanac we are to get another severe spell of cold and snow in January and February.

This last week we’ve had a respite and it’s been more like Virginia cold rather than the cold of Northern states. Days in the high 30s and 40s. And even up to 50 on occasion.  Nights from 28 to 32 degrees.

My attitude has improved considerably — especially since the snow has melted and the ground has thawed enough that I can work my allotted 30 minutes to an hour outside each day.

Why is that important and how might it effect you?

Well — getting all the preparation work and maintenance done in my yard, borders and gardens BEFORE spring is one of my great secrets to being able to do all that I do.

Makes it More Doable in Peak Season

Getting the mental planning and the physical preparation and maintenance done (little by little) before the season begins makes it possible for me to handle the garden in peak season.

I grow what we need, tempered by what I can handle. (An important point that deserves its own post. Stay tuned. )

The time it takes to harvest is important in determining what I can grow.

Vegetables (lettuce, onions, beans, squash, cukes & tomatoes) – even in peak time – collectively only take about 30 to 45 minutes to harvest.  But when peas and then strawberries and blueberries come in —— my time in the garden increases to a total of 1 1/2 to 2 hours a day. (This lasts about 6 weeks and I’m always glad when its over, but happy that I have lots of fruit in the freeze to carry us through the winter.)

Work on some days is such that I just can’t give harvest of berries 1 or more hours, so I’ll skip a day.  But harvesting everyday is what keeps it all coming.  The more you harvest, the more you get.

Examples of  Winter Tasks

  • I edge all my borders first. Using my hand tool I get out any grass or weeds that are crawling over into my borders. (I especially don’t want them to reseed in my borders. I’d have more to do!) Then I put heavy mulch around the edges (straw or pine). So – except for the occasional sprout — I won’t even have to worry about grass or weeds for probably 6 months.

I mark my progress by sections of the fence. Here I have completed weeding about half of one section. You can see the chickweed is pretty thick where I have not weeded.

I use my "digger" hand tool to get up the chickweed and then shake it to remove the soil.

The edge behind five sections of the fence - mulched with pine after the weeds were taken out.

  • In January I’ll start cutting the ornamental grasses that act as a fence along 2 1/2 sides of our property in the back.  I cut with hand shears and do about 3 grasses each “outing”.  (If I waited until March — I’d have panic attacks that I couldn’t get it all done.)

By the way, I leave the grass where it falls.  It seems a lot at the time, but it doesn’t take long to hug the ground and within 8 months or so it has decayed and is not even visible.

  • At least every other year I prune the shrubs that border one side of the property.  Otherwise, their branches take over the borders in the summer.
  • After that I’ll cut last years vegetation in the borders and leave that usually where it falls.
  • In between the above chores, I’ll be planning what will be planted in my garden beds.  Then I’ll begin sprucing up the beds where I’ll plant first.  For example:  Onions, radishes, spinach, and more lettuce go in first.  I plan for those beds to be ready at least two weeks or more before I actually plant.

This plan of action goes a long way towards keeping me out of overwhelm when it’s time to plant and most especially when it’s time to harvest.

Winter tasks give me back the time I require during the growing season to plant and harvest the bounty of my garden.

Happy New Year!  May your garden and borders be the best ever!


  • Good words. I am using more pine needles now since you said they don’t make the soil too acid. They are wonderful and plentiful.
    I loved the lettuce piece. I am really getting excited about planting some of those different types.
    Thanks and Happy New Year

  • Hi Beppy,

    Glad you have access to pine. It’s so nice to use.

    I can hardly wait to plant lettuce. I only have two varieties planted to winter over and as you know, I like lots more than that.

    I know you are going to enjoy the various types of lettuce. So many great ones.

    Happy New Year to you as well!


  • This reminds me of Aesop’s fable The Ant and The Grasshopper. The big difference is that the ant only worked during the summer storing up the food and you work year round! I’m more of the grasshopper, singing and fiddling around…sigh…maybe by reading all your posts, your good habits will rub off on me.

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