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Garden Ideas and Tips For Late Winter and Early Spring

Updated on June 19, 2013

Will winter ever end? Those are the words that are heard often as January turns to February, and thoughts of warm spring weather seem silly at best.

Yes, snow still covers the ground in many regions of the country, but that does not mean that we can’t begin to do some work in the garden. In fact, late winter is the perfect time to prepare for the months to come. Some gardening jobs, in fact, must be done now while shrubs and trees are still dormant.

So go get those gardening tools from your shed; change into your old gardening clothes; and follow me out into the garden and let’s see what we can do to get ready for spring.

Sketch out where you will be planting seeds and plants
Sketch out where you will be planting seeds and plants | Source

DRAW PLANS FOR YOUR GARDEN

Perhaps you have an established garden already. If so, then make a sketch of your garden and plan what you will plant and where you will plant it. You can use a rough sketch like the one we use to the right, or you can get fancy and generate one from your computer. Either way, sketching a garden plan will help you in deciding what seeds you need to plant and where you should plant them.

Remember to allow for where the sunny areas are and where the shady areas are, as this will greatly affect your decisions of what to plant and where to plant.

Raised beds are made as well as a lettuce table
Raised beds are made as well as a lettuce table | Source

MAKE RAISED BEDS NOW

This is the perfect time of year to build your raised flower and vegetable beds now. All you need is four pieces of lumber and some screws to make one raised bed. I prefer using 2x8’s as this gives me eight inches of prepared soil in which to plant my seeds. You can, of course, use treated wood for a longer life, but I have found untreated wood will give me from five to ten years of use, and I’m all about saving money. Finding scrap lumber for free is relatively easy, so I rarely if ever use expensive treated wood.

Anyway, now is the time to make those raised beds. While you are playing with your tools, you might want to inventory your tools and supplies. If you are lacking anything for the spring and summer months, head out and buy what you need now. There is nothing worse for a gardener than a beautiful spring day and not having the tools necessary to do those spring jobs.

It is definitely time to prune
It is definitely time to prune | Source

IT’S PRUNING TIME

Quick, before the buds appear, now is the perfect time to prune your fruit trees and your shrubs. You can also safely transplant both at this time of year.

Remember also that this is a great time of year to fertilize your shrubs and trees.

Be careful with flowering shrubs as they formed their buds in the late fall; pruning will result in losing flowers this spring, so prune wisely.

Begin all pruning by removing dead and broken branches. Prune for shape, opening up the center of the plant for good air circulation and sun exposure.

A mini greenhouse using PVC pipe
A mini greenhouse using PVC pipe | Source
Clever cold frame for strawberries
Clever cold frame for strawberries | Source

COLD FRAMES AND GREENHOUSES

This is the time to get those cold frames and greenhouses built and set up in the garden, unless of course you live in the northern regions where snow is three feet deep and refusing to leave.

Remember that you don’t have to get fancy with this stage. Using fiberglass tent poles or pvc pipe and some plastic will take care of your greenhouse or cold frame needs. Why pay more when you can take care of business on the cheap?

EARLY PLANTING OF BULBS, FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

Now is the time to plant strawberries once they become available, as well as fruit trees. Daylillies, Bleeding Hearts, and Hostas can be planted in February, as can Rhubarb, Horseradish, Asparagus and Artichokes.

If you have a cold frame or greenhouse, get an early start on many seeds. Peas, beans, and radishes should do well if protected from frost.

WEED NOW BEFORE THEY START SEEDING

The weeds are still dormant so do your weeding now before they warm up and start seeding. You can save yourself a lot of weeding headaches by digging those weeds up now.

PURCHASE SEEDS

If you did your garden planning then you know what you need. Seeds are on sale now so go out and buy what you will need. Read the directions for the climate area that you live in so you know when to plant according to last frost data. You might as well make your signs so you will know what you planted and where. Of course, that information is on your garden diagram, but it’s always nice to have little signs in your garden to tell you at a glance what is planted in a particular area.

Don't forget about birds
Don't forget about birds | Source

MIX COMPOST INTO SOIL

Turn over the soil now. If you have a tiller, now is the time to crank that baby up and dig up the garden soil. If you have a compost bin, it’s time to mix that compost into the soil and get those nutrients doing their job for the spring and summer months.

REMEMBER OUR FEATHERED FRIENDS

Birds will provide endless hours of enjoyment, but you have to be welcoming. Make sure that they have a bird bath available for a source of water, and get those bird feeders up and filled. The robins are back in our area and they look hungry; the finches always seem to be hungry. Who knows what else you will see if you provide a nice buffet for them.

SO MUCH MORE

I never get tired of my garden, and once I get started on the chores then I can’t seem to quit. Such is the enjoyment of growing your own food. Endless hours of enjoyment await you, but you have to pay your dues in the late winter/early spring. Do the early work now and you will be treated to a bounty of food and flowers that will feed your body and soul.

HAPPY GARDENING!

2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

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    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Phoenix, good for you. I'm glad you got outside and I think starting small is the smart thing to do. As for our garden....the lettuce is poking out of the ground, and all the other seeds are doing well. I will do a hub on our garden eventually....right now I need to finish the chicken coop. :)

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Bill. I spent most of yesterday planting carrots, onions, parsnips, tomatoes and mint. It was nice being out in the sunshine (except for the weird tan I now have) and getting a bit of exercise. (I'm sore today.)

      I'm doing the container thing too because 1) there's now way my husband will give up his lawn and 2) I'm clueless when it comes to gardening and figure it'll be easier to teach myself if I start off small. Oh, I do so love and adventure.

      You must let us know how your harvest turns out. Wishing you a good day.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Theresa, best of luck with those container plants. I started out that way and graduated upwards as my love of gardening grew. Now look at the mess I have. LOL We'll be feeding the neighborhood this summer. :)

      Thank you my friend.

      bill

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Hi Bill - I have always had a black thumb when it came to house plants. I am good at pruning and shaping bushes and small trees, but that is about the extent of my ability. However, this year I am experimenting with container gardening - tomatoes, bell peppers, cantaloupe. I really enjoyed this hub. Your love of the earth and growing things shines through. :) Take care. Theresa

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Rajan! One more month here and then we can begin working in the garden.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Some very useful tips to prepare now for the coming months. Very interesting read and I loved seeing the pictures, Bill. Voted up.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Glimmer, I'm sorry you have space problems. We have a large yard that screams garden, and we are using every inch of it to grow things. Now we just need some decent weather and I'll have the greenhouse up and ready. I'm still afraid we'll get some snow and collapse the greenhouse.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      It's freezing cold and incredibly windy today, but this hub has me dreaming of warmer temps. I have started getting all of my seed catalogs, we just need to figure out where to put our veggie plot. Our neighborhood and my plot layout is not the most conducive for a veggie garden, but I have dreams.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ouch, Lady! A foot of snow.....well, I hope your gardening calendar keeps you warm and happy. :) Thank you once again.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 4 years ago from West By God

      I agree billy! We won't be able to do that for a while here in the Mid-Atlantic though. They just said we are going to get 6-12-12 inches of snow tomorrow and Saturday. Oh and I just got my gardening calendar for this year at the local Farm Market.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Eddy! I think we all need warmer weather and some dirt under our fingernails. :)

      love,

      billy

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dianna, there is always something to do. I'm about a month from being able to get out there and get dirty and I can hardly wait. My soul aches for the smell of dirt. :) Thank you!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Very interesting Billy and so useful!!!

      Thank you for another gem which I vote up,across and share. Have a great day.

      Eddy.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      You are going to have those with cabin fever out in their yards this week. Great ideas for starting a lovely garden and beds. Always something to do when you have one, isn't there?

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lady, I think we are going to slide through this winter with barely a trace of snow. Last year was the exact opposite. There is no way to predict the weather of the Pacific Northwest; it definitely keeps us gardeners on our toes.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 4 years ago from West By God

      Tomorrow it is supposed to rain all day and the Friday we are back to real winter and some snow. Ughhh I hate winter.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lady, it sounds like you are getting ready. Now all you need is weather. We have to replace our raised beds about every five years, but I don't consider that a big deal. I enjoy building them and the lumber is free, so what the heck.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 4 years ago from West By God

      Oh I had gotten some of those metal corners that you put the 2 x whatever height that you want them to be from them. I am getting more because they last forever. They are a bit expensive but we learned our lesson, get the good stuff and you won't have to keep replacing the cheaper stuff. We have to replace the boards on two of our lang raised garden beds because the wood has finally rotted that it no longer holds screws or nails. I Love to Garden!! I have hubs of my gardens.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lady, too funny, but how cool that you now have a catalog to thumb through when the weather turns crummy again. :) Thanks for the visit and update.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 4 years ago from West By God

      My Gardener's Supply Company catalog came today!!! Spring is around the corner and I can't wait!!! We had warm temps today and it makes me itch to get my hands dirty! I need more patience when that happens. 2 more months....

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Linda, we have been stuck in a continual pattern of 42/35 and on and off rain for seemingly months. I know for a fact it's been doing this since early December when the torrential downpours ended. Sheez! I'd be happy with snow just to break the monotony of this crap. :)

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

      Bill, I had to come back after reading your comment. 73 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny here today. Stormy tomorrow with possible rotation in 60+ mph winds and torrential rains. This is just nuts for January. I took my Dad to the doctor today and saw two middle aged men in shorts. lol It will probably snow and drop into the teens by the weekend. Foolish weather for foolish folks.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good for you, Vicki! I wish for you sunshine and warmer temperatures soon. Let the winter be a thing of the past and let spring smile upon you....and me. :)

    • profile image

      Vickiw 4 years ago

      Hello Bill, everything is light outside now. Grey mountains, grey lake, gre sky, white everywhere else. Other than that, it is a beautiful day. My rescued plants from the garden, like rosemary and a few others are crouched on various windowsills, waiting. I am going to seed a few things today.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Phoenix, we might make it through this winter without snow. That does not please me, but it does mean an early start to gardening. I guess we take the positive and forget the negative as quickly as possible. :) Thank you, Phoenix, and have a great week in the UK.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks for the tips, Bill. The snow has been washed away and I want to take advantage of this 'heat wave' and get a head start on the garden.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Kindred, you are so loyal. Thank you! Maybe if thousands of us wish hard enough the weather will warm up. :) The power of positive thinking changes nature! Read all about it.

      Thank you my dear; wishing you calmer days ahead.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Alicia, perhaps we will have an early spring. Wouldn't that be nice? Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you girishpuri; I always appreciate you stopping by.

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

      I have never liked the winter months but thinking of Spring helps me survive. This hub has so many great ideas that one could almost forget it's winter if they got involved with all the preparation for Spring. You may not have liked it but I found it full of hope and promise of new life, green leaves, and warmer days. And I - loved it.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This hub has started me thinking of my spring garden plans! It is time to get ready. Thanks for the advice, Bill.

    • girishpuri profile image

      Girish puri 4 years ago from NCR , INDIA

      A good advice and ideas for a beautiful garden. Thank you so much bill.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Martin!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Vicki, that makes for a long, hard winter. We have it much better here for sure. As for the writing.....no lack of enthusiasm for writing; just frustration at not being able to accomplish what it is I want to do. I'm not showing much patience right now. LOL In fact, I don't think I'm showing any.

      Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Steph, there is no doubt we live in a great area of the country for gardening. It won't be long...another month...and we'll start working in the dirt. I can't wait!

      Thank you! I hope everyone in your home gets well soon.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      kohuether....good luck! :) You do live in a beautiful part of the country, one I want to return to some day.

    • profile image

      Vickiw 4 years ago

      Hello Bill, I am longing to start in the garden, but we still have a good 12" of packed snow in this area, and I can't even get out to my raised beds to see what has happened to the carrots and leeks. All my paths are covered in snow. As you know, I am stir crazy right now, but it is good to know that you are enjoying the more temperate climate in your area. I do detect some lack of enthusiasm about your writing though, and fully understand. Believe me, I have made several trips to my local garden centre recently, just to keep sane until the winter passes. Hang in there, friend, I think your garden will be operational much sooner than mine!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Bill - I cannot wait for spring, either. It is tough to garden in Central Oregon because we often get freezes late in the spring. A dream of mine is to build a greenhouse and raise tasty veggies.

      My grandmother (where we had the garage sale last summer) owns an entire additional city lot behind her home. She planted and we picked a wide variety of berries and vegetables. Many years canning in her kitchen. Great memories. Olympia is a super locale for gardening.

      Cheers, Steph

    • kohuether profile image

      Katherine Olga Tsoukalas 4 years ago from New Hampshire

      Lol. That's the truth. But we can start the seeds sooner than that indoors. ;-) It's really cold right now.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      kohuether, I lived in Vermont for two years; you'll be lucky to plant in April. :) I'm ready for sure; I've about had it with winter this year.

      Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm all ready, Deb; bring on the warmth of spring.

      Thank you my friend!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Donnah, I won't use treated lumber for that reason. It's too easy for me to find free lumber, and a raised bed takes ten minutes to make. It's not worth the risk for me.

      Community garden, huh? They are big here where we live; seems like every neighborhood has one. Good luck and I look forward to your future hub about it.

    • kohuether profile image

      Katherine Olga Tsoukalas 4 years ago from New Hampshire

      This is so exciting. Your hub has actually given me hope. We are cold here in New Hampshire and it snowed today. It is so much fun looking towards the spring to think about the planting to come. :-) It's time to start preparing and I can feel myself getting warmer as the days get sunnier.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      So much can be done in preparation now, as you say. Why wait? Do a little bit at a time, and when you really need to get planting, everything will be done. Awesome and up.

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      Bill, the cost aside, I would caution people from using treated lumber to build raised garden beds. The treated lumber is treated with chemicals which may leak into the garden bed and the veggies people are trying to grow. Although the chemicals used to treat lumber have changed over time, there is still some debate about the safety for building raised garden beds. I suggest people go with the cheaper alternative, as it may be safer to grow food in a bed made of untreated lumber.

      On a more positive note, I can't wait to get some seeds in soil! I am living in a new apartment, where I will have a bit more outdoor space to do some container gardening this year. I may even secure a community garden plot, but I am unsure if I want to drive fifteen minutes to get my tomatoes. There is a hub brewing later this growing season, I can feel it :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lady, me too! :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Pearl, we don't have it near as bad as you, but I'm getting mighty tired of 42/35 and rain. I really need some sunshine, and I need the dirt on my hands and sweat on my brow. Maybe tomorrow, right? :) Thank you Pearl!

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 4 years ago from West By God

      Oh I am so ready for Spring!!!

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Billy, Now I'm itching to work in my garden! Oh, wait, there's about 2" of snow and a crust of freezing rain. But, with your great suggestions I can at least plan out what I'm going to grow. And I really like your cold frame with the pvc pipe suggestion. Great ideas here. I have pinned and shared plus voted way up my friend. I'm glad you didn't forget the birds!

      Pearl

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Stephanie, I don't know where you live, and that will affect some of the tips. Thanks for the ideas about future hubs; I'll see what I can do.

    • stephanieb27 profile image

      stephanieb27 4 years ago from United States

      Pinning this hub and hoping you will be writing more as the year goes on (to guide me through gardening as a first-timer :)) If you need ideas for future hubs, I would love to hear what/how to store fruits/veggies for longer use and canning tips!!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lady Guinevere, I don't know about you but I am so ready for spring to get here. :)

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 4 years ago from West By God

      Great hub. I did write a hub on gardening in apartments and other places where the is little land. Check it out bizarrett!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Paula, it sounds like your husband and I am heading in the same direction. There is something very satisfying about seeing something you planted grow up....I can't explain it. :) Thank you Paula and have a great week.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thunder, there you go. Nothing says spring like those seeds catalogs. At least it is an enjoyable daydream, right?

      Thank you my friend!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Doc, I believe that it is. I know it is excellent for lessening stress. :) I hope you are well my friend; thank you!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      I'm happy to pass this on to the official gardener around here....and no doubt, he'll be glad to accept the advice and ideas.....Bless his heart, he's a novice farmer, having retired from being a total "white collar.".....gotta give him credit. LOL......Thanks for this bill. UP+++

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      Catherine Taylor 4 years ago from Canada

      Wonderful hub full of great tips. It filled me with hope for the spring. I live in Canada so there is still a ton of snow everywhere, but this hub has inspired me to get out my garden planning book and get my seeds in order. Might even try a few raised beds this year.

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      lovedoctor926 4 years ago

      These are very good tips. A beautiful garden makes a big difference. My neighbors have told me that it's good for mental energy.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Carol, if I lived in Arizona all I would have is stones, too. I hope, if you enjoy gardening, that you'll find a way to make it happen.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mary, I felt silly writing this now knowing some of you were snowed under, but we just aren't that far away from sunshine and warmth and I am so ready for it.

      Thank you my friend; find yourself ten feet and build that greenhouse.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      bizarrett, that was the fastest response I have ever seen on HP. A secret garden? Everyone should have one, don't you think? :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good morning Doc! I hope you have a great day my friend.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      well we have only stones in our backyard..We promised ourselves this year to do some raised beds. We rarely go in the back except to barbecue. Lots of really good ideas here and worth saving for that chance we will do all this.

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      lovedoctor926 4 years ago

      cheer up billy. good morning:)

    • bizarrett81 profile image

      bizarrett81 4 years ago from Maine

      If I can ever make it out of apartment life, you betcha, I will have a huge garden, and maybe a secret one too ; )

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Great job Bill. I especially like your idea about using pvc pipe and plastic for your own greenhouse...what a brilliant idea. I've always wanted a green house but a "greenhouse area" is just splendid. No need to be fancy, just practical, and as always we can count on you to be practical. As I look out the window at the snow coming down its hard to think of Spring, but I know its coming, especially when I read hubs like this.

      Voted up, useful, interesting and shared so others can get started too!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Bizarrett, it is a source of peace for me. Maybe some day for you, yes? Thank you for the visit.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Janine! I'm not happy with this hub or any other right now. Not feeling good enough as a writer, and everything seems like a regurgitation of older stuff. :)

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Loved this and just gave me hope that Spring is indeed on its way. It is still freezing here and even snowing a bit here today. So looking forward to the spring now. I truly don't do much gardening though. My dad does, so I always usually pass your gardening articles onto him, because you usually have awesome tips and advice!! Thanks as always and Happy Monday. Have of course voted up and shared all over!!

    • bizarrett81 profile image

      bizarrett81 4 years ago from Maine

      Oh I wish I could have a garden!!!