I spend all summer lamenting about all that is undone in my garden, but then winter comes and I jump on any excuse to work in my garden. I can hardly wait to garden, to the point that sometimes I cut back or prune too early just because I want to get outside now! Anything I can do in the garden is an absolute treat...pruning, weeding, mulching, it just feels great to be outside. What can you do on a sunny winter day to get out and get ahead?
MULCHING I am a believer in annual mulching. In the coastal Pacific Northwest, the soil is rain-leached at best and pure sand at worst and an annual application of a thick compost based mulch can do wonders. If you feel frustrated with your garden the best thing to do is spread a 2-4" feeding mulch of 75% compost and 25% shredded hemlock (assuming your garden is designed to accommodate acid-loving plants).
CUTTING BACK FERNS & ORNAMENTAL GRASSES One of the best things you can do to make your coastal garden lovely, is cut back the ferns before the fronds emerge. This can be easy or a serious effort worth hiring out. Sword ferns, deer fern, really all ferns can be cut back Jan-March to the ground. Don't worry, as it warms new fronds will emerge to replace the old! The bonus is no dead brown old leaves. The key for ease is to do this before the new frond emerge in late February-early March so you don't have to worry about cutting off the new growth. However if you forget, still do it, even if you remove the new fronds they will send up new ones and make a good summer show.
PRUNING DECIDUOUS TREES AND SHRUBS Get out your ladder and pole pruners, now is an excellent time to prune maples, alders, birches, most any deciduous trees. Wait on your fruit trees, however, as pruning them in wet weather can allow entry for a host of fungal diseases that plague our rainforest environment.