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Winter gardening in the Midwest? Yes, even under snow cover and cold temperatures, you can do garden tasks during the winter. In fact, you should! These garden tasks will help you get your gardening fix during those long, cold winter days. And they will help you get a head start on the garden season. The winter gardening calendar below is designed for USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4-6.
Table of Contents
- Winter Gardening in the Midwest: Calendar for Winter Garden Tasks
- Printable Winter Gardening Calendar Tasks
- Books on winter gardening
Winter Gardening in the Midwest: Calendar for Winter Garden Tasks
Gardening is a year-round activity – even in zones that experience winter weather. Below are some of the gardening tasks to do each month of winter. Not only will you be ahead of the gardening game, but these tasks will help you have a healthier garden for less money!
Scroll to the bottom for our printable winter gardening calendar.
Gardening in December
If you haven’t already, and the weather still allows, now is the time to clean up your garden of any old plant material to keep disease and pests at bay.
Mulch your garden with fallen leaves, pine needles, wood chips or shreds, or grass clippings. You could also use your natural Christmas tree as mulch. You can cut the branches to lay over your garden.
- Clean up any old plant debris
- Mulch garden
- Use your Christmas tree as mulch or compost
- Rest before gardening gets underway!
Gardening in January
January is a fun month for garden planning! It’s when most seed catalogs arrive, and you can dream about warm temps and digging into the soil.
As you peruse the seed catalogs, you can research plants to see if they work for your garden and growing zones.
Now is also a great time to consider what plants would add interest during the winter. Consider plants and shrubs with color, unique bark, or other attractive features.
Once you figure out what you want to plant, take a notebook (graph paper works great) and draw out your garden dimensions. Once your garden is plotted out, you can decide which plants will be planted and where. Consider sunlight, watering needs, and the size of the full-grown plants when determining where they will thrive.
After you have your garden mapped out, you can order your plants and seeds. Or make a list of what you will need to buy at the garden center.
If you’re ordering online, it’s best to order early. The nice thing is that most seed companies typically ship seedlings, plants, and trees during the best planting times based on your zone.
In January, you can begin winter sowing seeds outdoors (as long as you don’t have extended thaws)! In fact, many native perennial seeds need cold stratification to get a good start. But you can also winter sow many vegetables. Winter sowing is pretty simple – it’s as easy as planting seeds in clear, covered containers and setting them outdoors. See our handy guide to get started.
Starting seeds indoors toward the end of the month is okay for the slower-growing seedlings. Peppers, eggplant, and celery are some plants that are okay to start this soon inside.
- Research plants
- Plan the layout of your garden, whether flower or vegetable garden
- Order seeds and plants, or make a list of what to buy at the garden center
- Winter sow seeds if you’d like
- Start some of the slower-growing seedlings toward the end of the month, like peppers
Gardening in February
February is still winter, but it feels like a bridge between winter and spring, making it an exciting time for many Midwest gardeners!
Now is the time to plan to start seeds indoors. But remember to start with clean pots – wash them in warm, soapy water, rinse, and air dry.
In February, you still have to hold back on starting some seed varieties indoors. Still, you can winter sow almost any seed.
Your best bet is to wait until the end of the month to start most seeds, but slower-growing seedlings are fair game all month (like peppers). You can start basil, broccoli, and cabbage at the end of February. See our guide on when to start seeds indoors for more.
In the warmer zones, you can start pruning some trees and shrubs on warmer days this month (but don’t trim roses!). Pruning while trees and bushes are still dormant is best for many varieties. But do your research before pruning any variety of trees – so you make the right cuts at the right time!
Now is also the time to clean, prep, and organize your gardening tools and equipment. Once planting season begins, you’ll thank yourself for taking on this task early.
If you plan to build a new cold frame or other garden structure, there’s no time like the present! Get started on cold frames now. You can also design and buy materials for other garden structures, like hoop houses, tunnels, trellises, fencing, and more.
- Order seeds and plants online if you haven’t already
- Start some seeds indoors (wait on others!)
- Continue to winter sow (if you’d like)
- Prune some trees
- Prep your garden tools
- Plan or start to build garden structures
Gardening in March
Spring is so close you can see, feel, and maybe even smell it! It’s going to get busy in the garden soon.
Prep your planting areas by removing mulch and cleaning up any debris. Harvest finished compost if you can, add leaves to your compost pile, and give it a good turn.
Now is the time to start remaining seeds indoors, like tomatoes, and toward the end of the month, sweet potatoes. (See our guide for suggested dates).
It’s still possible to winter sow any winter seeds that don’t require cold stratification. In fact, it’s a good option if you don’t have the indoor space to start many seedlings.
In most areas, you can even start planting some varieties of trees, plants, and flowers! Cool-weather flowers, like violas and pansies, can get planted, as well as bare-root plants and trees.
Now is the time to finish pruning any non-flowering trees, and you can prune those rose bushes, too. Also, cut back perennials that didn’t get cut back in the fall.
Spray fruit trees with a dormant or neem oil spray to control pests, and apply fungicide right before buds open (when temperatures are warmer).
- Finish cleaning up gardens and planting areas
- Pull mulch off gardens
- Stir winter compost
- Start the remaining seeds for the garden
- Plant cold-tolerant flowers (like violas and pansies)
- Plant some cooler weather seedlings
- Plant bare-root plants and trees
- Prune roses
- Cut back perennial plants that didn’t get cut back in the fall
- Spray fruit trees (when temperatures are right)
Printable Winter Gardening Calendar Tasks
More notes on winter and gardening
- It’s okay for fresh snow to get piled on your perennials as long as there’s no salt. It helps insulate plants during super cold temperatures that can cause damage.
- Throughout the winter, ensure any salt used on sidewalks or driveways doesn’t make its way to your plants. A good alternative to salt is cat litter.
Books on winter gardening
- Winter Sowing Seeds
- Composting in Winter? Keep Compost Going During Cold Weather
- Gardening on a Budget: 12 Tips to Save Money on Your Garden
- Midwest Winter Getaways: Top 10 Winter Road Trips