Steele: Planning for next year’s garden

With snow melted and warmer temperatures, I’m going outside for a gardener’s favourite winter pastime—making plans for next year.

At the unH2O Xeriscape Garden

What a shock to awaken last Friday morning and find my glorious fall garden flattened under a blanket of snow. My view went from uplifting fall colours to white.

Usually by this time we would have had a killing frost and I’d welcome the snow to cover the brown and dormant plants.

With snow melted, warmer temperatures and sunshine today, I’m going outside to make more notes so I’ll be ready for a gardener’s favourite winter pastime—making plans for next year.

Fortunately, I took lots of photos during the year so I can use them for planning. There are four main things I want to have notes about.

1) Plants that performed poorly will be noted. I’ll review what their cultural needs are for soil, water and light to see if I have them in the wrong place. As trees grow bigger, a sun-loving plant may end up in too much shade. If a plant needs different conditions to thrive I’ll try to relocate it. If I can’t, I’ll look for a new home for it.

If a plant attracted pests or diseases, I have likely already put it into the green bin. There are so many plants that thrive in our climate that I don’t waste time coddling sick plants. Healthy plants don’t tend to attract pests and diseases.

Two conditions that cause plants to grow too fast are overwatering and too much fertilizer. These cause weak juicy growth which attract pests and diseases and create extra pruning and staking work.

2) In grouping plants by water needs, I created an un-watered garden beside my willow. As its thirsty roots spread, some of my toughest dry garden plants are now failing to thrive. I’ve decided to stop struggling with these old favourites and will fill that garden with species that have done well in the challenging conditions.

In places where I water, but the sprinkler doesn’t deliver very well, I plan to change to plants that mange without water.

3) I love looking at my large perennial border from my kitchen table and want to add spots of colour—especially red. For this I will mostly rely on photos of the garden as it changed through the months.

4) I’ll look for overcrowding to decide what needs dividing and what needs moving out and make notes of what plants and babies to donate to OXA’s xeriscape plant sale.

Many plants at unH2O Xeriscape Garden will be divided for the sale to be held in that garden at the end of April.

If any of you have square plant pots and or trays for them, we would really appreciate having them for our potting up. You can contact me through the OXA website or at 250-762-6018.

For water-wise plants, check the searchable plant database at

Next week, I’ll give some pointers about garden planning and design.

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