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10 Winter Gardening Ideas You Do During the Cold Season

Experienced gardeners know just how long a cold, frosty winter can be! It’s never easy to watch your outdoor garden succumb to the cold temperatures. However, with a few winter gardening ideas, you can keep growing throughout the cold season!

Whether you focus on maintaining your outdoor spaces or preparing for spring, there’s plenty to keep you busy. Outdoors, you can still tend hardy, cold-season crops. If freezing temperatures push you inside, don’t worry! There are plenty of gardening tasks to do indoors over the winter months.

Here are ten of our favorite winter gardening ideas!

A garden shed in a snowy winter garden. Winter gardening ideas.

Outdoor Gardening

1. Tend a Greenhouse

Greenhouse gardening is the most popular way to keep your garden growing year-round! A greenhouse creates a climate-controlled environment right in your backyard. You can keep your tomatoes, berries, and salad greens going all winter long! You can also use your greenhouse to start new seeds or grow tender or tropical plants year-round. No wonder greenhouses are the site of so many winter gardening ideas!

The inside of a greenhouse growing edible crops.

Your greenhouse doesn’t have to be a full-scale glass structure to be effective. Start small with a cabinet-sized structure or lean-to design. As you get the hang of gardening throughout the year, you might decide to expand to a larger structure. Or, you might decide to stick to your small-scale greenhouse gardening!

Rather than size, success really depends on how well you can keep your greenhouse warm in the winter. Keep your greens cozy so you can garden all winter long!

2. Plant Colorful Winter Blooms

Most flowers won’t survive frosty weather, but there are a few you can plant for cool-season color. For this winter gardening idea to work, be sure to get your bulbs planted before the ground freezes.

Closeup of snow drops flowers blooming in the snow.
Snow drops are an early sign of the approaching spring.

Snow drops often bloom in late January and early February. Crocuses, another popular bulb, will send up purple, white, or yellow flowers in February or March. These cold-tolerant flowers are often considered the first signs of spring.

In cold climates, the Lenten Rose or “Hellebore” adds a rainbow of color to your winter garden. These hardy flowers are available in nearly every shade of pink, purple, white, and even green!

Nature Hills Nursery has beautiful Frostkiss Moondance Lenten Roses!

3. Try Winter Sowing

You don’t need a full-scale greenhouse to create the perfect growing environment for some plants. Simply check your recycling bin to get started on this winter gardening idea. Using leftover milk jugs or soda bottles, you can sow your seeds outdoors during the winter!

A milk jug keeping a seedling protected.

Cut off the top of your plastic jug or bottle and fill the bottom with several inches of potting soil or seed-starting medium. Sow your seeds and fit the top back on to the container. Leave the bottle cap or lid off. You’ll want some moisture from rain or snow to get into the bottle. The shape of the container will keep most of the heat inside.

Over the winter, you can check on your winter sowing jugs and watch nature take its course! Once the ground is thawed, you should have plenty of seedlings ready to plant in the ground. Plus, since winter-sown plants have already been exposed to the elements, you won’t need to harden them off before transplanting.

4. Add Hardscaping

As long as your yard isn’t covered in ice or snow, winter is actually a great time to add hardscaping. When most of the foliage in your yard has died back, it’s much easier to add borders and pathways.

Person installing hardscape brick pavers.

We don’t recommend trying to add edging that needs to be staked into the ground. Pounding stakes into frozen soil isn’t our idea of a satisfying garden activity! However, if you’ve been thinking of adding a rock border or gravel path, now’s the time!

We love this winter gardening idea because it adds year-round beauty to your outdoor space. Whether you’re in the midst of the growing season or waiting for spring, hardscaping makes the most of your yard!

5. Plant Cover Crops

Don’t let your garden beds lay fallow during the winter months. Add nutrients to the soil by planting cover crops. These hardy off-season plants are often called “living mulch” or even “green manure” because of their impact on soil quality.

Purple flowering hairy vetch cover crop plants.

If you have mild winters, sow cool-weather crops like mustard or hairy vetch and tend as you would a warm-weather garden. This winter gardening idea works in more extreme weather, too. Simply add a cold frame or frost cover to your garden beds. Your cover crops will thrive through the cold season, leading to a thriving spring garden, too.

Hoss Tools offers a great selection of cool season cover crops!

Bringing the Outdoors In

6. Overwinter Tender Plants

Tropical plants that thrive outdoors in the summer, like elephant ears, may not survive frosty weather. You can save them for next year by bringing them inside.

A potted begonia on a indoor windowsill next to an aloe plant during the winter.
A begonia and an aloe plant overwintering together.

This winter gardening idea is a great way to shelter your favorite annuals. If you love the ferns and begonias on your front porch, prune them back and bring them in during the colder months. If you care for them like temporary house plants, they’ll be ready to go back outside in the spring.

Perennials that require a winter dormancy period can be stored in a cool, dark place in your home. You won’t need to add fertilizer or keep them in the sun, as you would an annual or house plant. Simply check on your dormant plant periodically and keep the soil moist.

7. Clean Out Tools and Supplies

Even if you keep your garden tools well-maintained, a deep clean is a good idea for winter gardening. Since your tools aren’t in constant use, you can spread out and take stock!

Man cleaning garden hand pruners.
Garden tool maintenance.

First, declutter your garden supplies. Plant food and fertilizer have expiration dates, so go through and toss what’s no longer usable. If you have duplicate tools, sell or give away the extras.

Empty ceramic pots should be cleaned and dried thoroughly. Ceramic is porous, so any moisture could freeze and expand over winter, causing cracks in the pot. Storing your clay pots upside down will help prevent cracking, too.

Finally, get your garden tools ready for spring by oiling wooden handles and sharpening blades. It should take less than a teaspoon of linseed oil to restore dry wooden handles. Rub the oil over the handle with a rag and let it soak in for ten minutes. Then, wipe off the excess oil and let your tools cure overnight.

Before sharpening your garden tools, be sure to secure them in a vise or hold them down with clamps. You don’t want the tool to slip and cut you! Use a farmer’s file to buff out nicks in the blade. Follow the angle of the blade and draw your file across in long, even strokes. Follow up with a sanding sponge for a perfectly sharp, smooth finish.

Find a complete success kit from Hoss Tools with a farmer’s file, wrench, sanding sponge, and linseed oil.

8. Plan Next Season’s Garden

The quiet winter months are a great time to plan for the next growing season. Think back over the last year. What grew well? What didn’t? Are there plants you’d like to try again, or do you want different varieties?

An open garden planner, seed packets, garden twine, and gloves.  Garden planning concept.

This winter gardening idea isn’t just about keeping busy during the cold months. Winter is the perfect time to start outdoor plants from seed.

Plus, thinking ahead gives you time to plan the layout of your garden. Crop rotation is important even in a small outdoor garden. Use graph paper to sketch out the placement you plan to use next spring. It pays to consider companion plantings and beneficial positioning before you plant!

9. Host a Seed Swap

Share your winter gardening ideas and supplies with friends! Invite fellow gardeners over for a seed swap. This is a great way to pass on saved seeds that you won’t be using this year.

Jars and packets of harvested seeds.

You can also split a new packet of seeds among several friends. Get ready for your swap with premium fruit and vegetable seeds from Hoss Tools! By planning ahead, you and your friends can pool your purchases and share the seeds.

A seed swap is also a great opportunity to give away tools or planters you no longer need. You might have just what a friend needs for their garden, and vice versa!

10. Build New Garden Boxes and Storage

If you’re craving more hands-on work to prepare for spring, try this winter gardening idea. Winter is a great time to build everything you’ll need for your garden.

Black liner fabric being hammered on the inside of a raised vegetable bed.

When the snowy season is keeping you cooped up indoors, you’ll have plenty of time for bigger building projects. Create shelves for your garden supplies or even build an outdoor shed!

Even if you have mild winters, the off-season is a great opportunity to build new garden beds. By the time the danger of frost has passed, you’ll have your garden ready to plant!

Favorite Winter Gardening Ideas

Closeup of red berries on a tree covered in winter frost.

With a little creativity, you can still have an active growing season throughout the cold winter months. Gardeners need to keep busy! Whether your winter gardening ideas keep you outside or bring the outdoors in, there’s plenty to do during frosty weather!

If you love gardening year-round, try your hand at indoor gardening, too!