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6 winter gardening tips to stay green and happy all year round

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GArdennes is a classic hobby for a fairly simple reason: people feel good about it. Whether you learned this during the pandemic (along with a slew of other people) or are a lifelong gardener, it’s clear that the benefits of working with plants are huge. Data also supports this claim; According to a recent survey of 1,000 gardeners by Home Advisor, four out of five people say gardening gives them a daily mood boost, and nearly three-quarters believe the activity supports their physical health. In addition, research published in the journal Landscape and urban planning found that gardening can have similar happiness effects as exercising.

Of course, as the weather turns cooler, green thumb ambitions can be harder to fulfill. But that’s no reason to hold back your happiness-boosting ambitions until the warmer weather. Experts say winter gardening doesn’t have to stop and have tips for making it happen. “During the winter, you can extend your gardening season outdoors or grow things indoors,” says William James Lamont Jr., PhD, professor emeritus in the Department of Plant Science at Pennsylvania State University. “In colonial times, people harvested root crops and survived into winter,” he explains. You can grow these ‘surviving vegetables’ outdoors and garden inside.”

That said, winter gardening can during the warmer months can be more difficult to finish successfully than in, especially if you are still a newbie to horticulture. Fortunately, gardening experts have tips to help you be successful in your winter gardening.

Horticultural experts share 6 winter gardening tips to help keep things growing and happy all year round.

1. Choose the right plants

Technically, you can plant anything you want in the winter, but if you don’t live in a place with the right conditions, it probably won’t survive long. If you’re interested in maintaining an outdoor garden through the winter, the right plants to focus on “depend on where you live,” says Pamela J. Bennett, an associate professor and program director of state gardening at Ohio State University. If you live in a warmer Southern state, you can probably grow plants like winter violets and kale without any problems, she says. You can even grow those plants in the middle of the country, as long as the temperature doesn’t get too low, she says. “But the further north you go, the harder it can be to grow certain crops.” dr. Lamont suggests planting hardy crops like kale, spinach, cabbage, carrots, and onions with the right tools (more on that later).

Indoor gardens are a little more flexible to the elements, as long as you have the right conditions again, says S. Cory Tanner, team director of horticultural programs at Clemson Extension. “There are a few plants that are proven winners,” he says. That includes snake plants and ZZ plants that, he says, are “strong” and “great for indoor gardening.”

Still, Bennett says, “You can grow all kinds of plants indoors with the right setup.” She says succulents, orchids, begonias, terrarium plants, and bromeliads are great options. “You can also start vegetable seeds, grow herbs and sprouts, and even extend the life of some annuals, such as geraniums,” she says.

2. Try to protect outdoor plants

This is not a requirement, but it can certainly help. dr. Lamont suggests making plastic tunnels or row covers to cover your crops. (You can find them online or at many gardening supply stores.) These tunnels “protect your crops and allow you to harvest them all winter long,” he adds, even when the weather outside isn’t optimal.

3. Provide enough light

Tanner says lack of light is “one of the biggest mistakes I see in indoor gardening.” Houseplants, like other plants, need a lot of light, he stresses, noting that some homes have better lighting situations than others. A pro tip, per Tanner: “South-facing windows provide more light than north-facing windows.” If your home is lacking in natural light, you can invest in a plant-specific light to shine on your plants, says Bennett.

4. Don’t forget to water your plants

It’s easy to assume that plants would absorb too much water when it’s cold outside, but Bennett says it’s still crucial. “If the soil stays dry, the roots aren’t established,” she says. Her advice if you’re concerned about frostbite: Mulch your plants when it starts to cool. This will help push the roots out of the soil and prevent them from freezing.

5. But beware of overwatering

So… how often? should do you water your plants? Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule here. “To the dismay of novice gardeners, there is no set schedule,” said Mira Talabac, a horticultural consultant at the University of Maryland Extension. “The answer is simply, ‘when it’s dry enough to water.'” That can depend on a whole host of factors, such as the type of potting soil you use, how warm and moist it is, how much light there is, the type of the pot you’re using and the airflow around your plant, she says.

One hack many gardeners use is simply to feel the soil at least an inch below the surface of the pot, Talabac says. “If it’s dry, the plant may need water; if it’s damp, it probably won’t,” she advises. It’s best to “soak the soil” so excess water drains from the pot’s bottom holes, Talabac says. But if you’re using a saucer underneath, it’s recommended to empty it right away so the plant doesn’t get left in the water, otherwise, she says, “it will reabsorb to the point where it drowns the roots.”

6. Keep an eye on the humidity

Homes tend to have low humidity in the winter when people use heat indoors, Tanner says. “For certain houseplants, that can be stressful,” he adds. You can increase the humidity around your plant by misting it daily or placing your plant on a saucer with stones and filling the saucer with water to provide the plant with instant moisture. Still, Talabac says, “the most effective way to increase humidity is to use a room humidifier.” You can place it near your plant to maximize the humidity around it.

If you’re ready to start gardening for the winter, but still unsure about getting it done, don’t hesitate to ask your local gardening supply store questions. They are usually staffed by experts who can provide personalized guidance.

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