Winter is a good time for garden planning. Consult your notes on seed and plant purchases, past garden successes and failures as well as garden maps as you begin to plan garden improvements for the coming year.
Choosing the right plant for the conditions in your garden and to meet your design goals is very important. Do not let pretty catalog pictures entice you to buy plants that may not work in your garden.
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Color is a common design element in the home garden. Complementary colors such as orange and blue that are opposite each other on the color wheel can create bright, vibrant effects when combined in the garden. Harmonious or analogous colors such as yellow and orange are next to each other on the color wheel and create a visually harmonious effect.
Combinations of hot colors such as reds, yellow and oranges create vivid and exciting displays and tend to leap forward in the landscape. Cool colors in shades of blue, violet and green can create a soothing and tranquil effect. They seem to recede in the garden and can be used to create an illusion of depth.
It is a good idea to check on the seeds you have saved and stored from last year's garden. Discard any that are damp, diseased or moldy and then determine what you need to order for the coming year.
Order plants and seeds early to avoid missing out on the varieties you want. To minimize problems in the garden, consider varieties that are pest- and disease-resistant.
Inspect squash, potatoes, root crops, and other vegetables and fruits that you have in winter storage. Winter weather may have made the storage conditions too cold or damp. Vegetables stored in an unheated garage will likely freeze in cold winter weather and should be moved to a cool basement.
Throw away or compost anything that has spoiled or has soft spots. The same goes for summer flower bulbs such as dahlias and gladioli that you saved to plant next year.
Continue monitoring your garden for damage from animals and install barriers as needed to protect plants. It is easy to forget about the garden in the winter while animals nibble bark and evergreen foliage. Repellents can be applied when temperatures are above 40 degrees.
• Tim Johnson is director of horticulture at Chicago Botanic Garden, chicagobotanic.org.