In general, the majority of people consider that "winter" and "activities in the garden" do not rhyme. It is true that the bare trees, the hard and cold ground, the dead nature that the season imposes would tend to support this point of view. But it doesn't.
In the garden
Observe the earth
In the morning
This little poem of my own composition opens this article where I will try to show you that the possibilities of activities are numerous. And this, whether you already have a vegetable garden or fruit trees or whether you decide to launch into the permacultural adventure. And there's no need to wait for the warm weather to return before rushing to the garden centre. On the contrary. A certain number of steps must be taken before starting the first shovels and hoeing. And February is an ideal month to undertake the activity that could be considered as the mother house of permaculture. Observation.
Bundle up warmly, then bring a comforting cup of tea or coffee. Pull up a chair, sit in your garden and watch. Observe what, you might ask? Everything, I would answer. Indeed, in permaculture, it is a question of trying to imitate nature when we leave it alone. As in a forest for example, in which a dense and varied ecosystem develops, interacts, matures without fertilizer or pesticide, without pruning or ploughing.
The first thing to look at, of course, is the climate. However, there is a tendency to want to put off this task, arguing that we live in a temperate climate. Thus, mountains are mountains, plains are plains, and to see the Mediterranean, it would be enough to raze the Alps. It is true that, globally, in our country, seeds germinate in spring, and plants that are already established give new shoots and leaves. When the temperature rises, the plants start to flower. In summer, the fruits develop, the plants flower and go to seed. The fruit trees form buds for the following spring. And in the autumn, the trees lose their leaves, in the wind the seeds go on a journey. Then, in winter, almost everything that is vegetal sleeps.
Unfortunately (or rather, fortunately) things are not so simple. Between Rolle, Gimel, the Aubonne Valley or Yens, the conditions are not exactly the same. What's more, each garden is a microclimate in itself, due to its orientation, whether it is located in a rural, peri-urban or urban environment, surrounded by trees, bordered by hedges or shaded by a building.
It is in particular this microclimate that you will have to apprehend in order to make the most of the potential of your garden. Whether you adapt to the existing one or influence it (for example by installing plant windbreaks or pruning a shrub), it will have a determining influence on the locations chosen for your crops or the installation of a greenhouse. When the weather is warm, some parts of my garden thaw out less quickly, during hot periods some areas dry out more quickly. Some areas only get morning sun, others only get sunset, some are constantly facing south. And what can grow here will not grow there.
The earth is not flat
In Trélex or in Ecublens and whatever the size of your garden, its topography differs, slope, flatness, slight difference of level which influences the circulation of the winds, the flow of water, the creation of pockets of cold which can bring bad surprises during late frosts.
Whether you plant annuals (lettuce, beans, onions, radishes, ...) or perennials (asparagus, rhubarb, artichokes, ...), trees or flowers (the best being, as we will see later, to plant everything), the observation of microclimates and your topography will have a determining influence on the abundance, resilience, durability and aesthetics of your garden. A thaw, a rainy day, a squall, a sunny Sunday, each of these situations carries a phenomenal amount of information.
It is a question of establishing a dialogue between you and your ecosystem. It, through its branches, leaves and roots, is in constant communication with the evolution of its environment and generally succeeds in adapting to it as well as possible. And transforming the observation of your garden into a playful activity offers everyone, and especially children, a directly accessible and available opportunity to enrich their knowledge. Tracking the windiest areas, tracking the coldest pockets, marking the warmest areas, following the rain where it runs off and where it stagnates, all this turns your garden into a gigantic treasure hunt(s), whatever the weather!