7 Ways to Prepare for the Garden Season in Winter

by Becky

As I write this we are in the middle of January. The days are dark and cold. It can be a bit depressing but luckily there is plenty to do. Even though I like to take a good long break from the garden in November and December, I find myself itching to start working on it again in January.

To fight off the cabin fever, here is a list of things that you can do to get ready for the next garden season even in the dead of winter.

#1 Do a Seed Inventory

Before I do any ordering or planning of the garden, I do a seed inventory. A seed inventory comes in all forms and fashions. You can make a spreadsheet or fill out a worksheet.

This year, my sister Amy gave me a seed inventory worksheet she made and I loved it. In years past I did everything on a spreadsheet, it worked well too. It just depends on your preference. You can print out Amy’s seed inventory chart by clicking HERE!

Usually you just want a few specific details accounted for. The first is a record of what seeds you have already. For this you’ll want to write what type of vegetable and what variety it is. 

The next thing you’ll want to account for is how many seeds you have of each vegetable and variety. I used to just buy the small packets of seeds and say “one pack” as a unit of measure or “half a pack of seeds”. It was easy and fast.

However, now that I grow a lot more food, I buy all different size packages so this doesn’t work as well for me. An alternative option is counting or weighing seeds to determine how many you have on hand and how many you will need.

Once everything is accounted for, I can determine what I need to purchase. Doing a seed inventory first helps curb the urge for a lot of unnecessary seed purchases! 

It’s already tempting enough to look through the seed magazines, the last thing I need to do is buy a bunch of things I’ll never actually have space or time to grow. And trust me, I’ve done that so much in the past!

#2 Research What you’d like to Grow

During the winter, I also do a lot of research to see if there are any additional things I want to grow. At this point you want to open your horizons and think about what you were missing last year that you really wished you had.

For example, now that we have conquered growing all our own vegetables and meat, I find myself really wishing that we had more of our own fruits. And not only that, I really wish we had more of a variety of fruits.

While all the fruits you find at a grocery store are well known, there are many lesser known fruits that are also delicious. 

I had a reader reach out to me and offer some great ideas for additional fruits and nuts since this person was more experienced in growing them! I really appreciated the ideas and ended up doing a lot of research and purchasing a less popular fruit, mulberries. 

I also purchased a few key lime plants to grow in pots. I already have a meyer lemon tree in a pot. I’m awful and growing things in containers but the meyer lemon is extremely easy to grow and I wanted to add some more citrus. 

Feel free to dream and push boundaries of what you can grow just like the citrus. Even though it doesn’t naturally grow in my area, I can grow it in a container because they are small and they can be brought in during winter.

Maybe you’ll add it this year, and maybe you won’t. I’ve been looking into growing grains for a long time but I’m still not ready to pull the trigger on it yet.

 I haven’t started yet mostly because I haven’t figured out how to harvest and hull them without it being incredibly time consuming. It’s fun to research nonetheless and will be valuable information and knowledge when it comes time to grow them.

#3 Make a Garden Plan

This is the most fun part of gardening in my opinion! You will need to draw out the layout of your garden and label where everything will go. I made my garden plan for 2022 on Photoshop, but graph paper works great too. I made a basic layout of where all my garden beds are printed it out, then filled it all in with pencil.

It takes me several tries to get things in the right place. Below is the rough draft, I’ll make a nice one to share here on the blog soon!

If it’s your first year gardening, you can put plants almost anywhere. On the other hand, if you have gardened in the area before, you will need to think about plant rotation. 

If you need some resources on why and how you rotate vegetables, I have a basic plant rotation guide HERE and a more in depth rotation guide about how to rotate tomatoes especially HERE.

Sometimes you’ll want to think about succession planting and what you’ll plant after you harvest another crop mid season. You can make notes of what you would like to succession plant after each crop on your garden plan too.

#4 Order or Purchase Seeds and Supplies

Once you’ve done your seed inventory, you can purchase seeds knowing exactly what you need. Nowadays, you need to purchase seeds as soon as you possibly can! I usually try to aim to have the majority of my seed shopping done by January 1st. Mine is mostly done for the year but the seeds are taking forever to ship from some sources I use. This is yet another reason to shop early.

Winter is also a great time to gather other supplies. I like to make sure we have gathered all the compost, mulch, and other amendments we’ll need for the year. The majority of these are local purchases that I buy in bulk. Buying early or in the “off season” ensures that you’ll actually get what you need.

#5 Learn about how to Garden Better Than Ever!

A wonderful thing about gardening is that there is always more to learn. Even though you may think you have everything mastered, nature will throw you a curveball and you’ll be humbled enough to rethink what you thought you knew.

You can find all my favorite gardening books HERE. Right now I’m revisiting THIS book, by Lee Reich about fruits. Since growing more fruits and caring for them better is one of my goals, it helped me narrow down what I want to study over winter.

#6 Start Seeds Indoors or Outdoors

When cabin fever hits, one thing you can do is start some seeds indoors! An alternative method is to start them outdoors. There are pros and cons to each method along with restrictions based on your climate.

Starting Seeds Indoors

First, if you want to start seeds indoors it takes a little more effort and equipment but is well worth it if you are in a very cold climate with a short growing season.

There are a few ways to start seeds indoors. You can use plastic trays or you can use soil blocks. I have always found much more success with soil blocks, personally. If you want to learn more about how to make soil blocks you can find my guide HERE

I also have a list of mistakes to avoid with indoor seed starting HERE (in a roundabout way it tells you what to do) and my homemade seed starting recipe can be found HERE.  

Starting Seeds Outdoors

There are a couple of methods to starting seeds outdoors in winter. If your climate allows, you can directly sow the seeds in the ground. My climate gets cold, with occasional ice and snow but it’s not consistently on the ground. 

I can do some outdoor sowing with select plants even in the middle of winter. For me it’s cold hardy greens like spinach, kale, mache, and winter greens that will sprout and be relatively unfazed by winter.

You can also do some outdoor sowing if you have some kind of a greenhouse, caterpillar tunnel, or high tunnel. What you can plant depends on the low temperatures of the growing area at any given time of year. 

There is also a thing called “winter sowing”. This is a very easy method of starting seeds for spring. It’s like seed starting in containers but outdoors.

It basically involves creating a mini greenhouse from a recycled container like a milk jug or plastic bottle that is cut in half. Poke holes in the bottom of the plastic, then put dirt or a growing medium is added to the bottom of the container, the soil is moistened, and seeds are planted. Then put the lid back on the top and leave it outside. 

The seeds will naturally sprout as the weather warms at just the right time. The freeze and thaw cycles help to trigger seed sprouting, especially with certain difficult to sprout perennials. 

#7 Build Structures and Make Repairs 

I’ll admit, building garden structures and making repairs in the dead of winter may not be feasible for every area because of snow. Unless it’s something you could build in a shop and move outdoors later!

We are in zone 6b and even though we get periodic snow and ice, as long as we bundle up we can work outside.

Are are a few ideas for winter garden building projects:

  • Add or expand garden fencing
  • Build trellises for vining crops or fruits
  • Build raised beds
  • Repair raised beds
  • Build or install a high tunnel or greenhouse
  • Build a shed for tools
  • Build a vegetable wash station


Aside from counting down the days until Spring, you can do so much in the dark days of winter to get a jump on the growing season. These seven ideas can get you ahead of the game!

  1. Do a Seed Inventory
  2. Research What You’d like to Grow
  3. Make a Garden Plan
  4. Order or Purchase Seeds and Supplies
  5. Learn about how to Garden better 
  6. Start Seeds Indoors or Outdoor
  7. Build Structures and Make Repairs

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The Weekly Digs #146 – The Seasonal Homestead January 16, 2022 - 3:11 am

[…] All Bug and Disease Help Fruit and Vegetable Guides Planning Seed Starting Starting a Year Round Garden […]

Heather January 29, 2022 - 10:24 pm

Would you share where you bought your citrus plants from? I am interested in buying some this year but unsure where to get them from!

theseasonalhomestead January 30, 2022 - 3:44 am

I get mine from Stark Bros https://www.starkbros.com/
I also recommend One Green World https://onegreenworld.com
I haven’t bought citrus from One Green World but I have bought other fruit trees from them with good results.


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