Garden Musings

Gardeners go dormant in winter, or do they?

Plants and gardeners have many things in common when it comes to winter dormancy. Read on. 

Plants: Two of the many things that affect the growth of plants are available light and the temperature. When temperatures begin to cool and days get shorter, plants are triggered to begin the process of dormancy. Photosynthesis declines, foliage color may change, and growth slows.

Gardeners: Two of the many things that affect a gardener are available light and the temperature. When temperatures begin to cool and days get shorter, gardeners are motivated to begin the process of dormancy. They turn their clocks back, put on sweatshirts, and begin putting their gardens to bed.

Plants: As photosynthesis declines, perennials prepare for their winter slumber or period of dormancy. They stop growing; their leaves drop; and their foliage dies back so they can conserve energy until improved growing conditions resume.

Gardeners: In fall, gardeners prepare for their winter slumber or period of dormancy. They stop planting; they tidy up their gardens; and they clean and store their tools so they can head inside until improved growing conditions resume.

Plants: Without flowers and foliage, perennials may appear lifeless, but their roots are quite alive beneath the surface. During winter dormancy, proteins in plants are broken down and re-made and cell membranes are preserved.

Gardeners: Even without gardens to plant, weed and harvest, gardeners are still quite alive in their homes. During winter dormancy, they review the past season, plan new garden areas, make plant wish lists and drool over the pages of garden magazines and seed catalogs.

Plants: Dormancy is important for plants in northern gardens because if they were actively growing in frigid temperatures, their stems and leaves would freeze, damaging or killing them. They would struggle to grow in the decreased sunlight of shorter days and their roots would find it nearly impossible to extract water from frozen soil.

Gardeners: Dormancy is important for northern gardeners because it give them a chance to regroup, review and renew. A little time for reflection and planning revitalizes their spirits and recharges their energy.

But gardeners, unlike plants, don’t let a little dormancy keep them inactive.

Plants: During winter, plants are literally frozen in place. They are alive but can’t grow larger. They must wait until the soil temperature begins to warm and daylight increases before they are released from their winter stasis.

Gardeners: During winter, gardeners are anything but frozen in place. They visit botanical gardens. They read books about gardening. They attend garden club meetings. They may even read garden blogs! Gardeners grow houseplants. They force bulbs indoors. They start seeds. They feed the birds.

Gardeners may be dormant but they never stop gardening. Garden with me!

2 thoughts on “Gardeners go dormant in winter, or do they?

  1. I sometimes envy the forced break many gardeners get but here in my Zone 9b garden I mostly enjoy being able to garden all year. Except when it rains…which I am hoping will happen right after Christmas.

    1. I know what you mean, Leslie. I sometimes envy gardeners who can garden all year round, but being forced inside for a few months means I get my house clean!

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