Winter Gardening Outside with Children

By Marion Keogh

Go for Nature Walks when it’s chilly and dry outside.  Wrap up with lots of warm layers like gloves, scarves, hats, socks and a coat.  If you get too hot then you can peel them off.

Collect leaves fallen on the ground.

Scrunch the leaves in your hands.

Listen to the rustling sounds of the leaves under your feet.

Pick up a bunch of leaves and stick your nose in and smell the earthy goodness.

Look for tiny insects in the leaves but put the leaves back on the ground to keep the insects warm for winter.

Look up at the skeleton shapes of the trees and do a Tree ID – look for Beech, Oak, Larch, Birch, Cherry and more!

Look at the ground under the trees to see what leaves have fallen from above to identify which tree is which.

Find a Eucalyptus tree and put your ear right up to the trunk. Listen really carefully and you’ll hear the water gurgling up and down the trunk.

Take some paper and pencils and lay the paper on the tree trunks.  Rub the pencil over it to make a tree rub and capture the different barks of different trees.

Bring home twigs and look closely at the lichen and other organisms growing on the branches. They have the most beautiful colours and textures and are a sign of clean air.

And remember trees enable us humans to breathe and have clean air so give them a hug every now and then.


The ground is still warm and easy to plant into because of all the wet weather we’ve had over the past few months. You can plant big plants but don’t put any little baby plants or seedlings outside just yet as they will get washed away in the winter rain and cold. If you want to plant a shrub or a small tree you dig a hole in the ground which is a bit bigger than the root ball of your plant. Then you place in your plant and stand on it so it’s firm in the ground. Then you shovel back over the soil on top and stand on it once again for good measure. If it’s a tall tree it will need a tree stake in the ground beside it and attach them together with a tree tie. November until March is what’s called the “Bare Root Season” when the plants are dormant and sleeping so it is safe to plant or move plants in the ground. But if a plant has been in the ground for more than five years it will be too difficult to move its established root system so best to leave it where it is.

Spring Bulbs

Daffodils, Crocus, Tulips, Snowdrops, Wood Anemone, Fritillaria etc

There is still time to plant bulbs in the ground or in pots as the ground is still warm and there have been a few frosts.

  1. Buy some spring bulbs – Irish and organic is always best but tricky to find
  2. Take them out of the packaging and keep a note of which variety you’re planting
  3. Dig a hole in the soil about 3 times as deep as the size of your bulb
  4. Place the bulb in the bottom of the hole making sure the green shoots are pointing up and the hairy bits, the roots, are touching the soil at the bottom
  5. Put your pile of dug out soil back on top of the bulb and that’s it.
  6. Good to mark the name of the bulb you’ve planted but not essential as it’s always a nice surprise in March/April

You can plant a Lasagne style in a pot:

  1. Get a big pot
  2. Put about 20cm deep of soil or compost in the bottom
  3. Lay a layer of Tulips on the soil with the shoots pointing upwards
  4. Cover the bulbs with another 20cm deep of soil
  5. Lay some Allium bulbs on top
  6. Cover with 10cm of soil
  7. Lay a layer of Daffodils on top
  8. Cover with soil
  9. Finish with a layer of Crocus bulbs
  10. Cover with more soil bringing it to the top of the pot
  11. Firm the whole thing down so the top level of soil is below the top of the pot or is at the line inside the pot to ensure the water doesn’t spill out over the top of the pot
  12. Water the pot making sure water flows out the bottom hole for drainage
  13. You can leave this outside for the winter where it will get rain
  14. If you leave it indoors make sure it is watered weekly and doesn’t dry out
  15. You will have beautiful flowers from February (Crocus) into March (Daffodils and all through April (Tulips and Alliums).
  16. Makes an excellent Christmas present and everyone is amazed when you give them a pot of soil!
  17. Kids can draw pictures of each flowering bulb and make a card showing what the pot will look like in the future.

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