Planning Makes Good Use of January’s Mighty Chill

Accepting January and the obnoxiously cold temperatures it brings is something that just must be done if living in Boise, Idaho (Zone 6). Earlier this month as the mercury dropped to 12, 5 and even 0 degrees there was no use in “layering up” or bundling in ‘down.’ The cold simply and smugly invaded any barrier set between it and the unconditioned bodies that were sure nothing lower than 32°, okay 25° would dare to invade them this winter.

Jan coldYes, this is Idaho…one would think there would be annual mental and physical preparation for frigid days and nights but I think few are equipped with that sort of discipline and long-term outlook. Instead, many cling to (with two hands) the refreshing temps of November and the pleasant-with-polar-fleece coolness of December convincing themselves it is going to be yet another mild winter which means snow in the mountains (for skiing on sunny days and summer water) but nothing extreme on the valley floor where most of us live.

Jan coldInevitably, January slaps this lot of us with an ice-cold whip causing us to literally run from place to place when doing errands and to even cut out some non-essentials that would take one out of the house and into the frosty air. OK, I’ll admit, I may be extreme in my avoidance of cold but I have a hunch that I have friends exhibiting these behaviors too.

January Day

Looking on the bright side of these freezy days… more time inside, at home, can be a wonderful thing for any gardener with a bug to create a ‘plan’ for next year’s garden. And for me in particular, it is just what I needed to complete the landscape plan assignment for the Master Gardener program in which I’m participating.

So with a cup of tea and some very low-tech and high-tech tools, I started on a real sketch for my backyard berm. The first task was to draw the selected area to scale (on graph paper) and then plot in the existing trees, fence and any other objects that are to remain permanent in the area. (also to scale)

Next, was to look at the site with a critical eye and develop a focal point. A spot that will grab the eye and make the overall area more pleasing to view. I chose one end of the berm to create a short path that will curve around an existing Spruce tree.  One of the reasons I chose this spot is because one of the primary windows from inside my house lines up perfectly with this spot so that it will be a focal point when viewing the garden from inside or outside.


ToolsNow it was time for figuring out plants for this berm (taking into account the soil and sun exposure) that would provide a variety of year-round texture, color and structure. After using my tech tools to research plant options, I used my hand tools to draw/color them on the plan.

This time spent was enjoyable. It gave me a mini dose of the feeling you get on the first warm Spring day when your mind starts racing about all the new plants you want to try. Productive too, I hope. Come planting time, I’ll be armed with a “roadmap” for this part of my garden meaning it won’t suffer from “I’ll-find-somewhere” syndrome—the result of too many impulse purchases.

Looking out to the cold, snow-covered site and visualizing what is to come was motivating and that’s a good thing because suddenly I realized it was time to put my plan aside and get busy navigating the cold again as I had commitments to get to… like we all do…

I did prove a gardener can make good use of a mighty chill and get a great start on planning, but seriously January, after two weeks plus, the temps need to get back to something reasonable…say 32?  Otherwise, a ‘plan’ to escape your chill entirely seems to make great sense. Hmmm…I bet Fiji would be delightful in January!


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