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so, gardeners: what shall we do this winter?

vintage photo of cat in basket from Library of CongressI ASK YOU EVERY YEAR around this time, when the garden cleanup is basically done but the harvest of fresh seed catalogs hasn’t really arrived: What shall we do this winter? Shall we keep our gardening conversation going, or all dig into the woodchuck burrow with you-know-who (my nemesis)? Or maybe get snug in a basket with a blanket, like the little love bug in that vintage Library of Congress archival photo I just had to share. (Jack disdains such posing; he is macho–and, ahem, too big to fit.)

I need to do the annual gifts for gardeners thing, right? Coming up this next week, promise. I have a lot of catalog-related stories planned, too, including more expert Q&A’s–like the ones earlier this year on growing carrots and herbs and biodynamic seeds and organic vegetable-growing tips and more).

There will be regular book-related interviews and giveaways, too–cookbooks, or bird books, or nature guides and yes, of course, garden books. Admittedly, I have books on the brain, with my new one, “The Backyard Parables,” due in January.  (For news about that, with a sample chapter and video, click here.)

BUT WHAT DO YOU want to do? Any topics you wish I’d cover–any particular techniques or types of plants, or a catalog or expert to recommend that’s you’d love me to reach out to?

How about we:

So tell me, friends, what shall we do together this winter? Thanks!

  1. Lisa Addinsall says:

    Hi Margaret, While you are all snuggled up with your books this winter, I will be out working in my garden in our Australian summer. lol… So what do I want this winter? To keep being inspired by your blogs. I am impressed by what you do. I have a garden in Victoria, Australia. I have started a small blog, in its early days and also a website with my limited ICT skills. I have a garden cart at my farm gate and sell plants via my honesty box. Having fun and trying to spread the gardening bug. I am sponsoring our community garden soon – a fairy garden competition as I am keen to encourage a new generation of gardeners. I like winter in Australia as I pull on my boots and hat and coat and go out into my garden to cut back and tidy up. Winter is great as the real bones of your garden are exposed and you can clearly see what is there. This helps you to plan where your next plantings are going to be. My mother who is my gardening mentor always encouraged me to create vistas in my garden for every season of the year. I am still trying to achieve that, but that is the wonderful challenge they call gardening. Many thanks for sharing your knowledge with us all.

    1. margaret says:

      You’re welcome, Lisa. Thanks for your story, and for saying hello. I love seeing the “bones” too and also the vistas out each window are what I think of all the time. So well-put — stop in soon again!

  2. Kate says:

    Margaret, Always enjoy your soup recipes and am especially looking forward to the release of your upcoming book this winter. I will be tending (indoors) the array of lemon and lime trees I foolishly brought back from Fla. this past summer. Now that conditions are much less desirable, they have decided to attempt to produce fruit. Unlike Lou, I totally adore cats and have recently discovered and have been enjoying a live online cam of a feline rescue shelter in Defiance, Ohio. There are even a few Demon Jack tuxedo look-a-likes there. Maybe some day Jack might enjoy taking a peek: http://www.bobcats.info/ffrc.html.

  3. Burndett Andres says:

    My vote – just keep doing what you’re doing. I have no specific needs, I love reading about whatever you’re doing and when I need something in particular, I always seem to be able to find it in the archives. You’re THE BEST. Thanks for this year-long inspiration and information. Can’t wait to settle in with your new book in January. I’m giving it to myself for Christmas! All the best, B

  4. marcella says:

    thank you so much for this wonderful site, how do you get soooo much done!! I am 74 and on a limited , very limited budget so any frugal ideas are much appreciated, also phyical conservation helps as we age!!! Here in NC we garden almost year round so not so much winter rest! thanks for all your help

  5. Elizabeth says:

    I like all of your ideas, especially the custard! I would love to see the view from your window (you so often write about how to plant your garden based on your view). Then it would be interesting to hear why you chose the plants and trees you did for that view, what others you had thought about, what you wish was different…

  6. Sandie Anne says:

    Since I live in Maryland we still have some nice days and the ground is not frozen. Which is great since I have not finished cleaning up my garden. So on the nice days I will be out there working! At the end of the season my tomatoes got late blight. I had picked the green ones to turn red in the house so most of them turned this leathery brown bumpy looking awful. I didn’t know it at the time and found out later that it was late blight. Do you have any tips for dealing with late blight?

  7. Kat says:

    Lets keep all the conversations going about everything! Of course gardening for the winter, planning for next year, cooking, recipes, books, kitties and more…its all good and all wonderful to curl up with tea and read about!

  8. Jackie P. says:

    So many good suggestions from all of the readers — enough to keep us busy all winter. Gardening tips and landscape design ideas, recipes, tips for keeping houseplants happy during the winter months and just hearing about what is happening with you and your connection with the natural world! Look forward to each new posting.

  9. Beth says:

    Please write about gardening books old and new and fiction that includes a garden as part of the plot. I recently enjoyed The Complete Illustrated Guide to Japanese Gardening and Growing Bonsai by Charles Chessire, not for the bonsai but for the clear definitions and descriptions of Japanese gardens.

  10. Deborah B says:

    I’d love a post on current favorite garden books, and what everyone is reading. I can’t stop buying garden books! The house is overflowing. We have a library I love, so I rarely buy fiction anymore, but I can’t resist garden books.

  11. Betsy says:

    I vote for all of the above. There is so much to learn. I’m starting our Master Gardener training in January. Hopefully that will help, because this learning by making mistakes is just too painful. :)

  12. Chris Baswell says:

    Season extension! In my garden across the river from you, I’m amazed what a difference even light row cover makes. Where I’ve been ambitious and put plastic or heavy row cover over the hoops on beds, I still have greens (lettuces, arugula, mizuna, a few mustards) growing lustily, and the soil is still un-frozen so carrots and beets need no inside storage. I’m nowhere near as systematic or avid as Coleman-Damrosch, but even a little effort is showing really nice results — and an extra benefit of keeping the deer off. Chris

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Chris. Good idea. Maybe I should write to Coleman-Damrosch and ask them for some advice for those of us who are less advanced. :) Thanks.

      Hi, Beth. Yes, good idea. Will do a booklist roundup sort of story. Thanks for that!

  13. Chris Baswell says:

    PS yes to the idea of sharing book suggestions. I’m working my way (again, again) through Elizabeth Lawrence, such enviable style.

  14. kimberlymp1 says:

    I am new to the East coast and inherited a beautiful garden with the house we bought. Hurricane Sandy made it a decimated salt water garden!! It makes me sad every time I look out there. I’d like some tips on things I can do now besides bulbs so that we can have some garden joy in the spring.

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Kimberly. Probably best to let winter clean up the soil a bit (the cleansing from rain, snow, etc.) and also let it just drain off and plant in spring. I’d wait.

  15. Robby says:

    Let’s continue to share ideas about gardening. Some ideas may be sharing with all our favorite books, be they new or old, planting or building. Two books that I tend to go back to are “How to Grow More Vegetables (than you ever thought possible on less land than you imagine) by John Jeavons and “Perennial All Stars” by Jeff Cox.

  16. As I’ve noticed through comments by some astute readers, winter is the very best time to plan and design a garden. Plenty of dreamin’ time and time to research plants and other garden accoutrement. Here in the PNW, where I live, I garden almost year round, though. I still have hardy plants to get into the ground this week! Too busy with a new book (The Professional Designer’s Guide to Garden Furnishings published by Timber Press) and caring for my mother this summer and fall to get it all done earlier. The book will be out next spring.

  17. Beth Robinson says:

    Whatever you do, just keep writing to us! How I would miss turning on the computer and not finding you there! While so many want more gardening know- how, I’d dearly love to hear about a normal day … what’s outside your window … what’s on your mind. Just the every day Margaret.
    Looking forward to the new book!
    My best … Beth

  18. Beth Robinson says:

    PS I thought that I should mention the wonderful books written so long ago by Gladys Taber. No one quite described the seasons as she did. Some are still in print and many can be picked up for a mere song. She passed away in the 1980’s but her lovely way with words still warm the heart today. There’s gardening, cooking, pets and the joy she found in waking up each day in a 1600’s house in CT. I still reach for her books when I want to and need to go back when life seemed just a little less stressed. Look for the “Road to Stillmeadow” or maybe it is the “Stillmeadow Road” — sorry, I can’t get into our little library as it’s jammed with Christmas things waiting to be unpacked! I promise you, you will love the warmth and simplicity of this woman’s life.

  19. Leslie says:

    Hi Margaret, I apologize for asking the “deer question” again…I see now that you have lots of info on your site already! A suggestion that I really liked was how you designed and built your own garden. Do you have before and after pictures? We have a bare field in Northern California and are daunted a bit as to where to start. The raspberries are in around the edges, the blueberries are near the house….but there is a lot of space in between. I have a mound into which I have planted all the plant cuttings I can find and random seeds from plants I like (btw, this is an inexpensive and fun way to develop plants on a too-big plot until we make the decision on what we are going to do). I collect from everywhere! Of course we read landscaping books, but would love to hear about and see your process!

  20. Joyce Ingalls says:

    Good morning, Margaret. Add my “yes” vote to all the postings so far. I’m all in favor of meandering from topic to topic and stumbling upon an unexpected serendipity.

    Seeing as how I’m fast approaching 75 years of age, I’m especially interested in gardening inspirations for those of us who cannot comfortably get down on hands and knees as we did in our younger years. I’m becoming master at container gardening, my plants are thriving. I could use some ideas on displaying them around the yard. Right now, healthy as they are, they’re just keeping each other company in random “groups”. Such lovely plants deserve much more than that.

    I so look forward to your newsletter and I read it cover to cover. Thank your for all the great information. I also love reading all the comments from your subscribers. You have such a varied and interesting group of friends.

  21. Shery says:

    Keep on keeping on, Margaret. I love your blog and have learned so much from it, plus, it really inspires me to get stuff done when it needs to be done. You are a treasure and thanks.

  22. JD says:

    My Winter (if we ever get one here in North Texas) is going to be spent tincturing all of the dried herbs I harvested out of the Bell Back 400 (as in feet, not acres) garden, drooling over seed catalogs, and keeping my Winter greens coming in fast and furious all season long.

    That and working on my blog about how I became a suburban farmer.

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