Mackenzie KupferAdventures in winter gardening

I’ve been gardening since I was a little girl, and I’ve always seen it as the art of surrounding myself with beauty. Being in Idaho, we have pretty harsh winters. Nothing like the polar vortex in the Midwest, but it does get quite cold. And as most people know, snow is not a garden’s best friend.

Photo by L'eau Bleue

Photo by L’eau Bleue

But when I look outside and see frost on the trees, I have a reaction that most people find puzzling. I long to go outside, revel in the snow, and yes, sometimes even do some yard work. I can’t bear to let my garden die completely for the winter, especially since I still spend time in my yard. I can be found sitting on my porch with a mug of hot tea or cocoa, watching the trees. I love determining if the movement in the bushes is just snow shifting or if there are some little critters who are braving the cold.

December 2013 winter storm Photo Anthony Quintano

December 2013 winter storm Photo Anthony Quintano

Though I grow both edibles and non-edibles, my flower garden definitely has my heart more than my vegetable garden. It’s not just the beauty, but also the feeling. When I see my florals and other foliage, it gives me a certain peace of mind.

Early spring garden Photo Eli Duke

Early spring garden Photo Eli Duke

I manage my garden differently each year, but there are some things I like to keep consistent. In the fall I always clear the weeds and debris, making it easy to maintain throughout the cold weather season. I prune any trees and plants that have accumulated dead stems or are getting unruly. I do not want my garden to go through the winter looking neglected.

Waiting for spring. Photo Eli Duke

Waiting for spring. Photo Eli Duke

My friend and fellow Idahoan writer Ernie on the other hand, has the complete opposite approach. He wrote a piece last year about Winter Wildlife Gardening, where he talks about how he lets his garden run its natural course in the winter. While I appreciate his point that it allows for more wildlife interaction, I just like my garden to look intentional. I don’t want an unorganized mess.

Keeping my garden somewhat crisp and clean also allows for a better view when the snow comes. Because I’ve pruned, branches are distinct and become icicles when it freezes. My garden and flower beds are somewhat smooth, allowing for an undisturbed snowy landscape. Until the dog goes outside, that is.

It also keeps my level of work in the spring manageable. Because I don’t mind the frigid temperatures, I do some minimal maintenance throughout the winter, and then spring comes and I don’t have an insurmountable amount of clearing to do.

What are your winter garden strategies? Do you like to keep it neat and prim, or do you let the elements take their course?

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Mackenzie Kupfer

About Mackenzie Kupfer

Mackenzie Kupfer is an aspiring writer and gardener in Boise, Idaho, USA. She began gardening when she was seven years old with her Nana in the Shenandoah River Valley, Virginia. Having been raised on the lush east coast, it’s been challenging (but fun!) to transition into the dryer climates of the western US. She’s passionate about the active gardening lifestyle, conservation, design, and the delicious veggies she grows. She currently writes for fire pit supplier, Avant Garden Décor.

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