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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Gardening: Winter provides time for planning gardens, outdoor areas

Happy New Year, everyone. So here we are looking at another year and as always lots of new ideas for gardening. Winter is a great time to check them out and lay plans to incorporate them into the garden in the spring.

As has been the case for several years now, one of the hottest garden trends has been to create low-maintenance gardens that don’t take a lot of time or resources to look good through the year.

To transition to a lower maintenance garden, remove plants that have no ecological value in the landscape or that have outgrown their space. This includes plants that are particularly messy and don’t provide support for pollinators, birds and other small wildlife. Got a shrub or tree that drops leaves and twigs into a water feature that you must repeatedly clean out? Get rid of it. The same for flowering plants that have to be deadheaded constantly. Instead, plant perennials and the newer varieties of dwarf deciduous and evergreen shrubs now on the market. Replace lawns with ground covers that don’t need to be trimmed.

Organize plant groupings by their water needs. Often referred to as the zone planting system, group plants that require more water close to a water source or on their own sprinkler system circuit. As you get farther from your water sources or sprinklers, continue grouping plants based on their water needs until you are grouping plants that only need water at the driest times of the year.

If watering is a chore in your garden, put in an automatic sprinkler system. This doesn’t always mean tearing up your yard to install an expensive sprinkler system. It can be as simple as installing a drip or microsprayer kit where you need them and running them off a battery-powered timer. This type of system is particularly effective for deck and pot plantings needing daily watering in the summer.

Extending indoor living spaces into the outdoors is hot right now and a great way to create a place for a minivacation. Consider building seating areas for just a couple of people in a corner of the garden. Surround it with screening shrubs and maybe a small fire pit to take the chill off the spring and fall air. Add some wireless, weatherproof speakers and LED lighting to create an even more appealing “vacation” space. Buy some quality outdoor furniture that you actually love to sit in and that will last for many years. If it’s comfy, you will be drawn to it. Build a simple roof over the space to provide a feeling of enclosure and to extend its use even when it rains or snows. Yes, winter is a good season to appreciate the garden from another vantage point.

Lastly, instead of trying to create color everywhere in the garden, plant strategically placed large planters that can carry the color for you. The containers will add structural interest to the garden and the plantings can be changed with the seasons.